Healthy Super Bowl Recipe! Roasted Veggie Chili

 

Just in time for the Super Bowl, a healthy chili recipe! I have made this a few times lately because our CSA keeps sending us lots of tomatoes and peppers, and I thought it would be a perfect way to sneak in a bunch of veggies to your Super Bowl party. I served it at a recent gathering of all of my in-laws, who each have decidedly different tastes, and it was enjoyed by all. My kids even ate the leftovers! You could definitely freeze it and enjoy on a busy day.

Roasted Veggie Chili

1/2 cup tomato paste or 2 cups pureed tomatoes

2 cups fresh chopped tomatoes

3 bell peppers chopped (one green, one red, one orange or yellow)

2 ears of fresh corn cut off the cob or 1 cup frozen corn

1 chopped onion

6 cloves of garlic minced

4 to 5 cups black beans cooked

1 package grass fed ground beef (optional)

1 tbsp chile powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tbsp cumin

1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 450. Chop peppers, tomatoes, onions, and garlic and toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and half the chile powder and cumin in an oven safe casserole dish (I use my big Pyrex baking dish). Taste them to see if they are salty enough. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops of the vegetables are slightly browned and they have released their juices.

While they are roasting, toast the rest of the cumin, chile, and garlic powder in the bottom of a big soup pot. This really just means putting the spices into the empty pot over medium heat for about 20 seconds, just until you can smell them. This step really brings out the flavor of the dried spices, but stay close, if you walk away they will burn! If you are using meat add the ground beef and sauté until browned. Add the beans, tomato paste or pureed tomatoes, and 4 cups of water or broth.

Once the vegetables are roasted stir them in, then add the corn. Depending how thick or thin you like your chili you can add more water and adjust the seasoning. Cook on low, simmering for about 1 hour, or until it looks and tastes good to you! Top with chopped cilantro and serve. You could also make this with less liquid and use it as a dip or a topping for nachos! Mmmm.

Enjoy and have fun this Sunday! I’m always only at the Super Bowl parties for the food 😉

love,

c

 

Cauliflower “Mac ‘n’ Cheese”

photo (33)

When I started this blog I thought it would be at least partly a food blog, but I have mostly been slacking in that department! I do a lot of cooking for my family but since I stopped cooking for clients I haven’t been keeping track of recipes or taking many photos. I do feel inspired to take a photo of the finished product when I make something that I consider special, like this cauliflower “mac n cheese.” I shared the photo on Instagram and Facebook and a few people requested the recipe which is why I am taking to the blog to share!

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

{Mix, then roast on a baking sheet.}

Cream sauce:

All the random dairy products in your fridge that you want to use up, total 1 1/2 cups

3 tbsp butter

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp cream cheese or sour cream

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 cup shredded cheddar (or whatever you like/have on hand)

salt and pepper to taste

Topping:

Almond flour or breadcrumbs

Shredded parmesan (or any kind of cheese)

While cauliflower is roasting melt butter in a saucepan over medium low heat, then add cream and/or half & half and/or milk to make 1 1/2 cups. Once it is hot, stir in dijon mustard and cream cheese or sour cream (the point really is to use up the random dairy in my fridge, and it all tastes great mixed up together!). Once that is fully combined, turn off heat and stir in yogurt and shredded cheese until just melted. Taste and add salt and pepper (or hot sauce if you don’t have little ones who mind!).

Transfer roasted cauliflower to a casserole dish, pour on the glorious cheese sauce and stir to combine. Top with a few handfuls of almond flour or breadcrumbs and a generous handful of shredded cheese. Bake at 350 until bubbling around the edges and toasty on top.

Serve with a green salad and a fresh, tart dressing like lemon and olive oil to balance the richness of the creamy casserole.

Enjoy the decadent grain-free dinner, and the accolades from anyone you share it with!

Love,

c

What’s New?

Mo’s winter break from school is coming to an end, and even though it hasn’t been too wintery so far here in Miami, it feels like a new season is beginning. Ben’s new semester of homeschool classes is beginning on Monday and we are all looking forward to a new routine. I’m hoping to do much more planning, shopping, and cooking ahead so I’m not scrambling to get dinner together at 5pm while everyone melts down around me. Mo and I are hoping to have a routine of going out for a long walk together around the exercise path across from our house once a week. This may seem simple, but it is kind of a big deal for us to set that time aside, have the babysitter come, and get out together. We are both hoping to exercise more so I feel like this is a good move in that direction as well. I feel like I’m writing New Year’s resolutions, which wasn’t my intention, but somehow it seems appropriate to share what we’ve been up to, and what we’re working on.

During the break we mostly spent family time snuggled up at home on lazy mornings with omelettes and and lots of reading books with the kids. We went to the park many times, wandered around our favorite part of the city, Mo did a lot of cooking, and other than that I have no idea what happened the past two weeks. We did have an awesome meal with friends who more than catered to our dietary requirements and made an array of gorgeous Israeli style mezze salads. The kids all played in their yard until it got dark, running with plastic pirate swords through the bushes. It made me so happy to see Ben with his homeschool friends of all ages, off in their own world. I remember so much time spent running around my quiet neighborhood as a kid, engaged in imaginary worlds. It seems like kids nowadays, or at least my apartment-dwelling-semi-city kids, don’t get to run out in their own headspace as much as I’d like, so it made me really happy to see them feeling free.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the two halves of the tiny actions all day and all night that add up to a parent’s life, and to a childhood. The experience for me, for them, and how we see and relate to each other throughout the long days and short years. The buckling and unbuckling, wiping, stacking, folding, carrying, lifting, hugging, eating, sitting, head-in-handsing, smiling, talking, explaining, listening, explaining, listening, explaining, listening, following, leading, wishing, wondering, worrying, whying, cooking, cleaning, collapsing, celebrating, seeing the fleeting, then waiting for time to pass. It’s such a conundrum of life in general, but I see it most clearly in parenting, the meaning behind all this time spent doing mundane things. The tiny peaks, pitfalls, and glows suddenly turn into an ocean of time. I am sometimes left wondering what I have learned, how I have changed, how my children experience the life we share. I try to see what I like and what I want to be more aware of.

My blessing for 2014 for myself and for you too is illumination to reveal new sides of ourselves, and new ways of seeing our loved ones.

In the spirit of seeing different sides of things, here are some assorted photos from our phones lately:

Ben when we were camping in the Keys a while back. I love this photo.
Ben when we were camping in the Keys a while back. I love this photo.
Me and Ella camping, with the north star shining bright in the background.
Me and Ella camping, with the north star shining bright in the background.
Roasting marshmallows with my big kid.
Roasting marshmallows on the beach with my big kid.
Photographer.
Photographer.

 

Dude selfie.
Dude selfie.
Ella in the laundry room. Oh hey giant girl, you can reach the door knob and open it yourself now! All of a sudden they grow!
Ella in the laundry room. Oh hey giant girl, you can reach the door knob and open it yourself now! All of a sudden they grow!
What's up from the DJ at an event in Wynwood during Art Basel.
What’s up from the DJ at an event in Wynwood during Art Basel.
These characters, so tough, so sweet. Visiting a sculpture in a park that a friend helped make.
These characters, so tough, so sweet. Visiting a sculpture in a park that a friend helped make.

Happy New Year!

love,

c

Christmas for Converts

Mo recently brought up that I am often filled with melancholy during the Christmas season. At first I denied it, but then I tried to gain some perspective. I could see what he meant and resolved to give it more thought. Which I then avoided, along with all stores and radio stations playing Christmas music (although I’m really soaking up the Christmas tree shots on Instagram). Mo thought that maybe my sadness around Christmas time has to do with nostalgia for family memories and a happier time that he suggested maybe never was. I disagreed, because I think it isn’t about remembering a happier time with family I miss, but about individual moments frozen in my memory from childhood. Nostalgia is a complicated mix, evoked by triggers like the scent of pine, the sight of the kind of little white Christmas lights we had on my childhood tree, or the big gaudy colorful ones my Grandpa used to put on the tree he left out on his snowy porch in Vermont, usually through the spring thaw, which meant I could still see it if I returned for a visit in April.

I remember being in the Christmas pageant as a little girl, wearing choir robes with ribbons in my hair. I remember going to midnight mass and loving the candles and sweet yet solemn songs, the cold air, the excitement of being up late, thinking maybe Santa would be arriving when I got home. I remember the year my mom surprised me on Christmas Eve with the shiny pink dress she had originally said no to because it was too short, but it was the only size they had left and I felt so beautiful and happy. I remember rearranging the characters of our simple wooden nativity scene over and over. I remember listening to Christmas music and sitting in the glow of the tree every evening for weeks before and after Christmas.

When I was a teenager and my parents were divorced and I felt a bit adrift in my own family, I remember driving seven hours in the snow to spend Christmas with my Grandpa and his girlfriend. We had dinner with a motley crew of single and distant-from-family neighbors, everyone was over seventy and I felt that my awkward self fit right in somehow. Even though I didn’t think I was a kid anymore, Grandpa still filled a stocking with my name written on it in silver glitter with small silly gifts from the dollar store, every single one individually wrapped.

The truth is, by the time I met Mo when I was twenty, I was disenchanted with the holidays and I had spent the previous two Christmases waiting tables. I didn’t really have a family place that I wanted to be, and I didn’t want to go with friends, so work was a better alternative. The first year Mo and I were dating we threw a joint holiday party that we called both “Martlin’s Marvelous Holiday Extravaganza” and “Caitmo’s Chrismukah” because who could decide between two awesome names like that? I made baked ziti and my mom brought her mini fake tree and Christmas candles over to my apartment. Mo lit Chanukah candles and my friend Julie sang the blessings with him. That was the only time I’ve ever felt truly jealous, that this random friend of mine had access to a part of Mo’s life I felt drawn to and had been longing to be part of. That was my last Christmas.

Our Chrismukah party!
Our Chrismukah party!

By the following year Mo and I were living together in Israel, I had begun studying for conversion, and I was swept away in the enchantment of everything new around me. I was drawn into the deep, rich holidays I was soaking up one by one. I didn’t even have a chance to miss my old holidays, especially since I’d grown so distant from the celebrations that had created my happy memories. I remember that first winter in Israel thinking about walking down to the Christian quarter of the Old City, to see what went on at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure if I felt like it would be a betrayal of my newfound commitment to Judaism, or if I just didn’t want to walk forty five minutes in the cold, but I decided not to. I considered going there the other two winters we spent in Israel, but something held me back and I never went.

I think that same feeling of holding back is what leads to my holiday melancholy now. I am satisfied and happy in my Jewish life, as it is, and as the years pass I grow more and more nostalgic in my memories of each of the beautiful holidays. I have sweet associations with smells and tastes and experiences of the Jewish holidays that in a certain way take the place of my old experiences with Christian holidays. However, the old memories are still there and it can be a strange feeling to have them come up without enacting them.

As the Christmas season bustles around me, I find I have that sensation in the back of my mind like I’ve forgotten something. I’m trying to be aware of the feelings that come up for me, thankful for the happy memories, and sometimes sad that I don’t get to participate in them anymore. I have spent the past eight years pushing away those feelings without realizing it, in an attempt to be faithful to my chosen life. Now, I realize that I don’t need to be afraid of my own feelings, I can experience them, acknowledge their source, and let them pass.

Here are some photos from Chanukah our second year in Jerusalem, winter 2007

The city candle lighting ceremony in the main square.
The city candle lighting ceremony in the main square.
The biggest menorah I've ever seen, on the main government building in Jerusalem.
The biggest menorah I’ve ever seen, on the main government building in Jerusalem.
Children lighting candles in the old city, just across from the Kotel.
Children lighting candles in the old city, just across from the Kotel.
Our downstairs neighbor's menorah made out of glass bottles. They were artists and actually sawed the bottles in half to make it.
Our downstairs neighbor’s menorah made out of glass bottles. They were artists and actually sawed the bottles in half to make it.

 

Love conquers all.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season, and blessings for the new year ahead.

love,

c

Art Basel and Homeschool Diary

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about language, not in a grand conceptual way, mostly in a direct observational way with my daughter who is just learning to speak. She is learning Hebrew and English at the same time, something that took a bit of convincing to get my husband on board with as the Hebrew half of our parenting partnership. I consider him fluent but he has certain gaps and finds that he talks “around” words that he doesn’t know. I am grateful that he has made the commitment to speak only in Hebrew to Ella because having a second language from birth is such a gift. Thankfully as Mo is speaking Hebrew to Ella, he is looking things up and Ben and I are learning along with her. I have heard that the addition of a second language can cause speech to be somewhat delayed, which we have found to be true. Ben spoke clearly very early and I didn’t know how much easier it was to navigate the toddler stage when I knew what exactly he wanted or was trying to communicate. When I gave it some thought I realized that the absence of much speech with Ella has been keeping her more of a baby in my mind, and I wasn’t always considering how much she understands everything that is being said and what is going on; she just can’t always respond.

Ella has recently started using many new words (in English and Hebrew) which is super exciting! She has been saying la’alot for a long time, meaning “to go up” or in Ella’s world, “Help me up on the bed” or “Pick me up and never put me down!” She also says, “lolo” for loredet which means “to go down” or for Ella, “Take me out of this car seat immediately!” “Help me off the table I’ve climbed onto!” In English she says hi, hello, bye bye, baby, and a recent addition of “Hey buddy!” which I love. A few weeks ago she started saying more, which sounds like, “moh” and was basically her way of asking for whatever she wanted. Then shortly thereafter she added mine, the sound and meaning of which were very clear. This week, she combined the two words into “mone” which seems to mean “I own everything, return it to me now.” I’m joking around a bit, but really it is so fascinating to me to observe the progression of both languages and how things shift and grow.

On a somewhat related note, as I continue to work on allowing Ben to learn at his own pace I am really enjoying watching him discover his interests and the technical skills they entail. The idea is that as he becomes interested in cars or art or building or beaches or whatever, learning opportunities across every discipline arise (reading, math, etc.). For now he is only five, so I don’t feel overly concerned about how much or what exactly he is learning, but so far it is going really well. I consider the past five months of official homeschooling evidence enough that kids truly do want to learn and will pick up every necessary skill when they are ready. Ben has learned to sight read certain words just because he loves books and we read together often. He has learned basic addition out of nowhere, telling me from the backseat, “Three plus one equals four. Four plus one equals five.” He can build Lego sets from the instructions, which no one taught him, he just really likes Legos so he has practiced building them. As he gets older we will have to pursue different ways for him to learn the “basics” and build upon his skills. I’m sure it will include outsourcing with certain classes, as well as more research and study on my part!

I am so thankful for the opportunity to observe my kids as they learn and I am enjoying milestones in a new way because we are together so much. There are moments and sometimes days that are so difficult and moments and days that are so sweet. Here are photos of one of our sweetest days lately, exploring Art Basel in Wynwood on Thursday.

 

I’m working on a post about our camping trip to the Keys, so stay tuned. Happy Sunday!

Love,

c

Grain-Free Maple Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles!

Since Thanksgivingukah (the best joint holiday of all time) is quickly approaching I have been thinking about food non stop and dreaming of new desserts. The first one I have tested and enjoyed is for our homeschooling group’s end of semester party tomorrow, and I like to call them snickerdoodles because it sounds funny and the cookies are dipped in cinnamon sugar, but you can just call them deeeelicious! They will be enjoyed by gluten/grain free folks as well as everyone else, who won’t miss the grains at all. Plus, it’s a one bowl recipe! WIN.

I double this recipe every time because they get eaten up so fast, but I will post the regular size batch in case not everyone wants to make four dozen cookies at once. The math is easy to double, thank goodness, because fractions are not my friends.

Cookies: (makes 24)

1 cup peanut butter (if salted omit salt from the recipe)

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut sugar ((or other unrefined sugar)

1 egg

2 cups almond flour (aka almond meal)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

 

Topping:

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

 

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment or baking paper. First put the peanut butter in a bowl, then mix in the maple syrup, then mix in the coconut oil, then mix in the egg. On top of the wet ingredients, pile on the almond flour, coconut sugar, baking soda and salt and mix well. Scoop spoonfuls of whatever size you like and dip one side (or the whole thing if you like it sweet) of the cookies into the cinnamon sugar, and place sugar side up on the baking sheet. These cookies will spread slightly, so I recommend putting them about 1 inch apart.

Have a beautiful holiday everyone! I am thankful that I started this blogging journey just over one year ago, and I can’t wait to see what the next year holds! Feel free to share what you are thankful for in the comments 🙂

love,

c

Why Community, Why Now?

As I wrote in my previous post, my family attended the Jewish Intentional Communities Conference last weekend in Maryland. We were thrilled to connect with many other young Jewish families who have the same yearning for value centered community as we do. One person who I felt a special kesher (connection) with is Rachael Cohen, a mother of two awesome daughters the same age as my children, who lives at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut. She gave a speech at the conference and I am so excited to share it here (you can also find the speech and many other inspiring posts on our friend Tovah’s blog The Good List). I want to share Rachael’s story with you to explain her journey, as well as to shed light on why we and so many others are interested in something like intentional community building. Check out her Facebook group New Jewish Communities and stay tuned for a piece on the Huffington Post about Rachael and others at the conference!

Rachael and her daughters
Rachael and her delightful daughters, photo by Mia Desmedt

The Jewish Agency for Israel, Hazon (America’s largest Jewish environmental group), Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, and Pearlstone Retreat Center joined together this weekend to convene the inaugural conference for a growing national Jewish movement of intentional community building. This speech was given at the first plenary.

My passion for intentional Jewish community building is likely a result of the social isolation I felt in my early years. I was a child of suburbia. My mother went back to her job when I was six weeks old and I went off to a babysitter each day. My father spent most of his waking hours at work. Both sets of grandparents lived out of town. My sister was five years younger and, in my opinion, an unacceptable playmate. We were minimally affiliated Jews. I went to Hebrew school, but we had no connection with synagogue life. We rarely, if ever, had guests. What if the house wasn’t clean enough? The food tasty enough? We gave cursory waves to the neighbors, offered quick smiles to people we passed in the supermarket, made perfunctory exchanges with gas station attendants and bank clerks. I observed: be pleasant but detached.

I felt a loneliness and lack of connection that I could not adequately voice to my parents. As I matured, I had windows into other people’s lives. Friends whose families took vacations together, my large pack of cousins who all lived in the same distant town, kids that went to one summer camp year after year, families with many children. These groups were building a shared sense of belonging and I felt envious.

When I was fifteen I worked at a small, rural, Jewish day camp. For the first time I felt held and supported through a sense of deeper meaning and connection to community. That fall I joined my synagogue’s youth group, and again, felt the tenderness of intimate communal belonging I had never known but so instinctively craved. As I gently allowed myself to feel relevant and purposeful in these chosen communities, I saw myself defined not just by my own individual qualities, but by who I was in relation to the community. It was a revelation. Who I am is directly linked and impacted by who I am to you and who you are to me.

It took me fifteen years to find that sense of belonging again. I attended five colleges, nine programs in Israel, made Aliya, left Israel, and was a resident of more municipalities in America than I have fingers to count. I dragged first my husband Yishai, and then our kids, around with me to numerous conventional communities, gauging the social climate, measuring, calculating, computing, and assessing all aspects of the prevailing social systems and interpersonal patterns. And over, and over, and over again I was disappointed – sometimes despondent – over the inherent lack of intention and substance. Yet I could not give up my search. I was compelled to address the insistent demand I felt within – to belong to something bigger than myself; to define who I was in the context of something greater than my individual experience alone.

Despite finding a handful of secular intentional communities that seemed absolutely perfect for our family, when I seriously considered our ultimate life in one of them, I realized a non-Jewish community could not serve our purpose of social sustainability. We would not be able to participate fully or authentically in community life without the aspects that define a Jewish community and resonate so profoundly for us. Regular communal prayer, shared holidays and life cycle events, acknowledgment of Shabbat, awareness and consideration of kashrut, and the collective consciousness of almost four thousand years of shared history are all imperative to me.

Finally, last year, when a seasonal job was advertised with Teva, the Jewish environmental education program, at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, I knew we had to seize the opportunity.

Isabella Freedman is first and foremost a retreat center, hosting transformative theme-based Jewish retreats and rentals. But for those lucky enough to find themselves a position there, as staff of the retreat center or Teva, or as participants in the Adamah farming fellowship, it also serves as a Jewish intentional community. It is a short-term, cyclical community in that most people stay seasonally, for three to four months at a time. There are approximately fifty people living and participating on-site at any given time, most of whom are single and between the ages of twenty to thirty. Communal meals provide the setting for powerful relationship-building opportunities.

Yishai interviewed for the position and was offered the job. We were met with some raised eyebrows and questioning expressions from family and friends. Were we crazy?  How would we survive on so little?  Where would we live? There was no on-site housing available for families. No Jewish day school for our five year old. No regular synagogue services. Only three other families with children.

By moving to Isabella Freedman, we have chosen a lifestyle based on ideals. Despite some very real obstacles, we are more content and fulfilled than we ever have been as a family. Our children are growing up in a social environment much larger than we alone can provide. They have many aunts and uncles who love them, teach them, discipline them, and watch over them. The depth and meaning in the relationships that they are creating is palpable, and the single most important reason we live in community. Authentic access to other human beings is sorely lacking in society today.

We have had to use savings and live frugally, but the rewards have been life-changing. We have opportunities to develop deep, authentic relationships based on shared values such as environmental stewardship, a progressive stance on Judaism regardless of affiliation, Jewish farming, mindfulness and personal improvement, and commitment to communal living. The friendships we grow and nurture with members of our community serve to strengthen and enhance our own identities, interests, and independence as individuals, and ultimately, improve our relationships with each other as family members.

This type of community experience must become available to any Jew that desires it. In order to proliferate the creation of Jewish intentional communities, my husband and I created New Jewish Communities, an internet forum where ideas and views on Jewish intentional community building can be exchanged for the purpose of 1) connecting people with existing, forming, and conceptualized projects of intentional Jewish community; and 2) establishing the first Jewish Ecovillage in America: an intergenerational community of people who are consciously committed to living Jewishly, in the same geographic location, with the intention of becoming more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable.

There has been much support for the agenda of New Jewish Communities. As a part of a growing global movement for a more sustainable world, these communities will integrate a supportive social environment with a low impact way of life. They will connect Jews through active and deliberate social participation in a vibrant Jewish context. They will strengthen and repair the individual, the family, Judaism and society by developing a system of mutual support that is becoming more difficult to achieve in conventional social systems. In this way, New Jewish Communities will change the face of contemporary Jewish life, and I look forward to being a part of that transformation.

Rachael, Yishai and their daughters
Rachael, Yishai and their daughters

Rachael Cohen is a big-picture thinker, captivated by social systems and social change. She believes in the process of community building as a means to remedy social disintegration and repair individual well-being. Rachael has a masters degree in macro social work and community practice, as well as a certificate in nonprofit management. She is currently working on relationship-based social change through the internet forum New Jewish Communities, and in Falls Village, CT, both at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center and within the local community. Rachael’s full time job is raising two marvelous daughters.

Jewish Intentional Communities Conference

Love.

If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you already know that this past weekend we traveled to Baltimore to attend the Jewish Intentional Communities Conference at the Pearlstone Retreat Center. The purpose of the retreat was to connect the individuals from across the country who are currently creating new types of communities, or hoping to become part of them. We went with open minds, totally unsure what we would find, who we would connect with, what we might learn. We knew we weren’t interested in moving anywhere right now, but that we have a deep longing for community which is not yet fulfilled.

Mo and I have lived in many major cities with huge Jewish communities, without ever actually feeling fully at home in or part of those communities. The closest we’ve ever been was in Jerusalem, where we had a beautiful group of friends who spent Shabbat, holidays, and happy events together, and felt like family. In Miami we are sort of alone in a crowd, not going to synagogue often and sharing meals occasionally with a few scattered family members or friends. We have always talked about how and where we would really love to live some day. My wish for being part of a community is not to live in an actual commune with shared housing or on a farm in a rural area. My hope is to live in direct proximity to people I care about, to share the demands and joys of daily life. I love to cook and care for kids, why not do it for other families as well? Then we can share those responsibilities, and ideally end up with enriched lives for ourselves and our children. We all work hard, but doing the daily grind alone can make it feel like a hamster wheel where we never get anywhere. I believe that sharing the work and the ups and downs of our lives in whatever way is comfortable for each of us can only be for the better.

I think that most people long to be part of a caring community where we are supported and needed. Perhaps in the past this need was met with family groups and whatever community we were born into. Now that we are more likely to live far away from family and leave our hometowns, we often find ourselves isolated. We live independently which is nice in certain ways, getting to do what we want, when we want, how we want. However, I find it unsustainable, especially for young families, to do all the things that are necessary to create a life, especially if both parents are working. I don’t think the standard way of doing things works so well, especially since I (and many others) have made the choice not to outsource to packaged food or take out, or don’t have available babysitting or funds for help with childcare, cleaning, etc. Can two adults really handle all the tasks related to food, shelter, and relationships?

Thankfully Mo and I have always found ourselves with friends we love who are part of our lives in varying degrees of intimacy. We would love to live closer to people who share many of our values without direct pressure to practice religion in a certain way. We have no idea when, where, or how that might happen, but at the conference we met many people who are “crazy like us” and who have the same hopes we do.

Coming home from an event where we were focused on dreams and hopes for the future is inevitably a let down. We still have about six loads of laundry to do, and cooking to prepare for the week, and a day job to go to, and, and, and… However, I hope that our desire for community informs our actions each day, even in our somewhat isolated apartment living lifestyle. As the people we met at the conference return home and write about their experiences I plan to share a set of links with more information here. I also recorded my very first podcast, so I will share the link as soon as it is up!

Here are some photos from the weekend:

We have some great friends who have recently moved from Iceland to Baltimore and we were able to have a quick visit with them on our way to the conference. We enjoyed walking through the hip part of town, drinking coffee and watching our kids experience the chilly fall weather.
We have some great friends who have recently moved from Iceland to Baltimore and we were able to have a quick visit with them on our way to the conference. We enjoyed walking through the hip part of town, drinking coffee and watching our kids experience the chilly fall weather.
We have some great friends who have recently moved from Iceland to Baltimore and we were able to have a quick visit with them on our way to the conference. We enjoyed walking through the hip part of town, drinking coffee and watching our kids experience the chilly fall weather.
Cold cuties.
Curiosity shop.
Curiosity shop. Ben is super fascinated by morbid things like this!
Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you.
The morning before the conference started we had a few hours in downtown Baltimore so we went to Port Discovery, an awesome children's museum. We have reciprocity with our Young at Art memberships so for a total of $20 we all had a great time exploring!
The morning before the conference started we had a few hours in downtown Baltimore so we went to Port Discovery, an awesome children’s museum. We have reciprocity with our Young at Art memberships so for a total of $20 we all had a great time exploring!
Ancient Egypt.
Shoe refusal in ancient Egypt.
Indiana Ben.
Indiana Ben.
Following in my table waiting footsteps!
Following in my table waiting footsteps!
Lunch is served! Ella couldn't believe it was plastic.
Lunch is served! Ella couldn’t believe it was plastic.
Pearlstone is adjacent to Kayam Farm, where there are goats, chickens, and many vegetables. We loved exploring the grounds!
Pearlstone is adjacent to Kayam Farm, where there are goats, chickens, and many vegetables. We loved exploring the grounds!
We were so busy meeting people and chasing the kids and attending sessions that we really didn't take many photos at the conference! Here is one of Ella and I enjoying breakfast on our last morning.
We were so busy meeting people and chasing the kids and attending sessions that we really didn’t take many photos at the conference! Here is one of Ella and I enjoying breakfast on our last morning.
On our way to the airport, oh my!
On our way to the airport, oh my!
A little light reading on the plane.
A little light reading on the plane.

 

Thanks for reading, have a great week!

love,

c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Blues

Cracking up at a friend’s party.

Yesterday was my twenty-ninth birthday. When Mo and I were talking with Ben at lunch he told us something about when he is a grown-up, which brought up the topic of when exactly one becomes a grown-up. We asked Ben when he thought he would be a grown-up, and he asked Mo how old he was. Mo said, “How old do you think I am?” Ben looked on the spot. He must have picked up that adults can be sensitive about age related comments, so he seemed unsure of what to say. He gave a long, “Ummm….” then said, “Sixty?” We started laughing, and he sort of joined in on the laugh, but also seemed a bit concerned that he had given the wrong answer. Mo swiftly asked, “So how old do you think Ima is?” Ben said, “Forty?” I asked him about how old he thinks his grandparents are and he said, “Eighty?” He seems to understand the idea that some people are older than others, but it was pretty funny. Not insulting in the way that kids’ honest comments can be sometimes (“Ima, why are your boobies so low?”) but sort of leveling the mental playing field that I was getting caught up in about age.

Twenty nine is that age women pretend to be forever, right? I didn’t think I would care that much but in the end I have had to do a lot of introspection and acknowledgement of some uncomfortable feelings. I think it is in part because of our culture’s obsession with youth and the general sense that our worth decreases as we get older and supposedly become inevitably less beautiful. If you know me at all or have read this blog before, you know that I am not usually preoccupied with surface concerns. I never wear makeup, to the point that the last time I did Ben said, “What’s that black stuff on your eyes!?” (Right up there with the time I wore pale pink nail polish and he said, “What’s on your toes!? Sunscreen?”)

However, I am not immune to wondering about my looks and my place in the world. I have a husband who loves me and always tells me I’m beautiful and two amazing children who give me countless gifts of insight and love every single day. I have accomplished many things I have hoped to and overcome many difficulties I wasn’t sure if I could. I don’t think my feelings about my birthday have to do with the state of my life or what I feel like I “have to show” for my age, because I genuinely believe that life is a journey and there are always opportunities to learn, grow, celebrate, enjoy, and cherish. My birthday does feel like an occasion to look around my life and ask myself if I am making the choices I truly believe in and want to make. If I am doing the things that I want to do and showing up every day to do my best. My birthday is a great opportunity to revisit the goals I have pushed to the back burner and focus on whatever seems pertinent right now.

For now, I’m in the continuing process of learning to find joy in the moment, taking time for myself, honoring my creative side with time and space, and most immediately, finding a babysitter and getting the heck out of this apartment with Mo! Thankfully we spend a lot of time together in the evenings, just talking, or watching a cooking show and trading back massages. Is that too personal and corny? Sorry. We rarely ever leave the house alone together though, and we need to have that feeling of “just us” so we can remember that we really are young, and in love, and so very lucky to have each other.

Back to the birthday blues, I realized that a big part of why I feel a bit mixed up this year is the way I have defined myself in my own mind. Before I was married I didn’t have many expectations of myself or the way people saw me. I was very self-conscious but on a moment to moment basis, not related to my place in the world. When I became a mother, I felt a bit adrift. I was twenty-three, living in New York City, and I didn’t know many other women my age who were married, let alone with kids. I felt out of my element (as all new moms do!) and I had to redefine the way I saw myself. I went with “young mom” and that served me pretty well for a few years. Now that I have two beautiful children (B”H) and have been a mom for five and a half years, I don’t feel like such a new, young mom, and I have redefined myself in so many ways. I wear many hats; writer, homeschooler, etc. and I am less attached to any one of them defining who I really am on the inside.

I spent my birthday quietly reflecting, feeling the ups and downs, and having some great conversations with Mo who helped me work out what what was on my mind. I woke up feeling much better and today I got together with some great friends at one of my favorite places to enjoy the celebration of my life moving, growing, and changing. In a certain way I feel like this year I am starting a new chapter, and I am excited to create and discover what’s ahead. Here’s to a great year, defying definition, and continuing to become who I already am!

Here are some photos from this week:

My cuties on their way out of the apartment building. I decided to take it slow on our way into the car and let Ella slowly drag her little wagon. An exercise in patience :)
My cuties on their way out of the apartment building. I decided to take it slow on our way into the car and let Ella slowly drag her little wagon. An exercise in patience 🙂 Also, she pretty much refuses to wear shoes most of the time.
Taking a moment after our shopping errand to check out the animals at Petco. We saw fish, lizards, and even got to hold a rat! I think I was the only one excited about the last one, they are pretty cool though!
Taking a moment after our shopping errand to check out the animals at Petco. We saw fish, lizards, and even got to hold a rat! I think I was the only one excited about the last one, they are pretty cool though!
Ghost crab! We finally found one on our visit with Uncle Yoni at his lab this week! Very exciting stuff.
Ghost crab! We finally found one on our visit with Uncle Yoni at his lab this week! Very exciting stuff.
Uncle Joe came to visit! The kids were a liiittle happy to see him.
Uncle Joe came to visit! The kids were a liiittle happy to see him.
This girl.
This girl.

 

Halloween with SuperBen.
Halloween at the science museum with SuperBen and his “dinosaur spike” mohawk.
Dudes.
Dudes.
Flying high!
Learning about levers, pulleys, and flying high!

 

I haven’t committed to blogging every day for November, but maybe December! In the meantime, I will try to keep up the blog at least once a week, hopefully more. Thanks for reading, and have a great week everyone!

love,

c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Measure

Teamwork!
Teamwork!

 

Mo and I have been on what I would call an adventure of personal growth since we met eight years ago. I had always been involved with holistic healing and spirituality, and Mo had been interested in Eastern religions for years. Like most couples, we went through ups and downs, learned how to live together, learned how to be married, and learned how to be parents. The parenting part really brought up a lot of difficult feelings and experiences for both of us, and at a certain point we didn’t like the direction our relationship was heading. There were too many treacherous pitfalls to tread around in every conversation, too many arguments, too much misunderstanding and resentment.

We began to really consciously make an effort to be more self-aware and try to grow into our best selves about three years ago when we started seeing a therapist in New York. A year later when we lived in Jerusalem I found myself part of a beautiful women’s group therapy circle in my neighborhood, and that was the beginning of another level of a journey inward for me. I began to learn to look inside my feelings, my fears, and my uncomfortable places, discover their stories, and have the courage to talk about them.

Talking about my inner life was a difficult leap for me. I spend a lot of time in my own head and I don’t always know how or even think to say what’s on my mind. I do things like start a story in the middle, think I said something when I really didn’t, and expect Mo to understand where I’m coming from when he has no idea because I haven’t told him. Healthy communication is really hard for me, and it is something that I have been working on for what feels like a really long time! I try to dig deep and have the courage to not only look at my true feelings, but say them out loud, to Mo or our therapist.

The other night Mo and I were talking about growth and change, wondering out loud how long it takes to make progress, what progress looks like, when to step back and acknowledge how far we’ve come, when to let something go and come back to it later if it’s too hard, when to accept that certain things will always be hard, what is the status quo, and when do we need to push ourselves further? So many questions!

The main theme for me was based in my noticing that there are things that I’m aware of that I want to change, in theory, but that I somehow find myself continuing to do in a way that doesn’t really work so well. Do I give myself credit for the awareness at all? Do I accept that it’s hard for me and let it go? Do I really push myself to change? To a certain extent I think that personal growth is like peeling away layers. If you take it step by step and work on what is “up” at any given time, things will move forward and get closer to the core. I do notice that it loops back on itself though, with issues that I struggle with popping up, being addressed to a certain extent, then taking a backseat for a while. How do you feel this works in your life?

My birthday is approaching (next Saturday) so I feel like I’m sort of taking stock of where I am now and what I hope and wish for in the year ahead. I’ll try to keep sharing my thoughts with you throughout the week, and I’m planning on doing the month long daily posts for November, so I hope to really dig into the blog in the coming weeks.

Here are some photos of our recent adventures, Shavua Tov, have a great week!

love,

c

Big helper!
Big helper!
Little helper!
Little helper!
Ben loves to read and sets the best example.
Ben loves to read and sets the best example.
Ben's toy friend having an adventure on one of our neighborhood "nature walks".
Ben’s toy friend having an adventure on one of our neighborhood “nature walks”.
Visiting Uncle Yoni at the lab where he works in Key Biscayne, looking for ghost crabs. We didn't find any, but we did come home with a new pet, a sea snail named Speed.
Visiting Uncle Yoni at the lab where he works in Key Biscayne, looking for ghost crabs. We didn’t find any, but we did come home with a new pet, a sea snail named Speed. Yoni has generously signed on to do a little marine class every Thursday!
Playing around at Marando Farms, our new source for grass fed raw milk and organic veggies.
Playing around at Marando Farms, our new source for grass fed raw milk and organic veggies.
Ben is finally back at the beach after months of protest! He spent hours in the water and didn't have a meltdown about being sandy after! This was a real triumph.
Ben is finally back at the beach after months of protest! He spent hours in the water and didn’t have a meltdown about being sandy after! This was a real triumph.
"All About Halloween" My super Jewish kid is obsessed with Halloween! He decided to make a book about it, constructed the book himself, wrote the title and drew about twelve different pictures. I included two of my favorites below.
“All About Halloween” My super Jewish kid is obsessed with Halloween! He decided to make a book about it, constructed the book himself, wrote the title and drew about twelve different pictures. I included two of my favorites below.
Vampire, seemingly with rabbit ears and a plunger...
Vampire, seemingly with rabbit ears and a plunger…Ben informs me that they are actually horns and a cup full of blood. Oy.
Ghosty! (or sea creature?)
Ghosty! (or sea creature?)
The best part of my day.
The best part of my day.