Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Approaching Shabbat Calmly

I have discovered an incredible blog written by a mother of a large family who shares her fantastic ideas complete with pictures (many of them mouthwatering-yum!). As a "mom in training," I'm enjoying myself as I take a look, try to take in some of her wisdom, and find ideas that I could adopt as my own.

In this post, "Adventures of a Supermom," Juggling Frogs writes a little story about dealing with the frustration and chaos before Shabbat by taking getting a bit of fresh air and refocusing.

The adrenaline rush before Shabbat plays out differently in every family. Just as some athletes perform well under pressure, I am convinced that families use the adrenaline rush before Shabbat to their benefit. They experience a "high" and keep fighting. And when the game is over they feel satisfied and exhilarated.

But other athletes crumble under the pressure. They get a lump in their throat and start to choke up. They feel frustrated and can't seem to find their pace. Despite their talents, they just can't find their groove amidst the adrenaline rush. I've been in some homes where the looming deadline causes tempers to heat and the kids suffer the consequences. I can't imagine that the pressure is good chinuch.

This athlete who falls into the second category must take a different approach to the competition. He or she must learn to control the adrenaline because anything else is disastrous.

Not too far into our marriage, I discovered that our "team" fell into the second category. I think I was a bit surprised because when I was single and I hosted others for Shabbat I worked well under pressure. Not so married. And certainly not so with children.

Since this discovery, I started to play with different ideas to find the right pace so that stepping into Shabbat/Yom Tov is a pleasant experience, and one that leaves me with enough left to actually enjoy the day.

Here is what works for me and help me keep my sanity:

1. My dishwasher: As I cook, I throw in the things that need washed. As soon as I have a full or almost full load, I get the dishwasher started. I tend to take out things and stick in other things as needed. But an almost empty sink helps me feel less overwhelmed.

2. Keeping with a schedule: I try to do my inviting on Monday, my menu planning on Tuesday, my shopping on Wednesday, and the bulk of my preparations on Thursday, and my baking on Friday. Whatever I do on Friday, I try to include my kids since they relate to Shabbat when they help with anticipation. Adrenaline hasn't got the best of them yet.

3. My freezer: I keep a supply of frozen soups in the freezer and frozen challot. If I'm feeling crunched for time, I raid my supply and replenish another time.

4. Cleaning and Delegation: I try to keep up with my cleaning during the week and avoid getting into a major cleaning project on Friday. I can't take dirty messes, but have learned to put up with unfinished, but neat, piles of work like laundry, papers waiting to be filed, etc.

I try not to involve myself in a major cleaning project on Friday even if I have the time with the exception of cleaning up unexpected dirty messes. For me, cleaning is contagious. So, it is better to bite off cleaning is spurts during the week than try to pile it on before Shabbat.

I've also learned to delegate the last minute toy cleanup to my husband and kids, as well as bathtime. He also helps the kids get dressed and I stopped putting them in Shabbat clothing on Friday night. Pajamas it is.

5. Shabbat Seudot: Over the years, I've tried to do away with the fear that we will not have enough food and make what we will need and enjoy. My basic Shabbat dinner is usually made up of three courses: soup, the main course, and dessert. For Yom Tov I usually add in a fish course. Otherwise we eat our fish on Shabbat at seudah shlishit.

What I like about soup is that it is easy to make in bulk and it freezes well (with some minor exceptions). I enjoy all types of soups and this adds the variety that I seek. The chopping can be time consuming, but I can usually get 2 meals worth in one batch.

My main course normally includes three main entrees: a meat or chicken dish, a starch, and a vegetable dish. I try to limit my efforts to two of three of the dishes. If I am spending time making meatballs and the vegetable dish, I will just make steamed rice or couscous If I am spending time making a fancier rice, I might just steam vegetables for a side dish.

Dessert is normally just fresh fruit or a mix of frozen fruits. If I'm having a bigger crowd I might make a dessert. If it is just us, I usually avoid it because I don't really want the leftovers around.
Lunch I approach with flexibility. Many of the foods I serve on Friday night can also be served at room temperature again on Saturday. So we often eat smaller portions of the dinner menu on Saturday. If I'm having guests I might add a cholent or soup from the crock pot, or a nice salad or two. But, we tend to host on Friday night, so more often than not, we just see a repeat of everything that can be heated on a blech or served cold or at room temperature.

If I am feeling sick during the week, or I just have too much to do, I pull out a one dish meal. My favorite is a Moroccan Chicken stew with a side of couscous. It can be served hot or cold. I call this a wonder food! I once saw a letter decrying households that do not prepare a proper Shabbat meal. The writer theorized that parents who do this are hurting their children's religious development by not treating Shabbat with the proper kavod. I can guarantee you that my family would be far worse off if I tried to pull out all the stops every week.

I learn so much from my readers. So please share your tips for entering Shabbat calmly. I love to hear them. Chances are I will find something I can adopt now or later.


the apple said...

Ah, so that's how you do it!

Our house is usually a hectic rush. (Actually, last week we cooked five dishes in the space of two hours - no joke.) We're so used to it at this point that we don't shout too much though :).

I guess a reason why our system works is that my parents split the food shopping - my father goes to the bakery early Friday morning and then buys any other ingredients that we'll need. Meat and chicken he'll buy Thursday night or Friday morning. As long as we have all the ingredients for things that we're cooking, we're good to go.

Also, we have certain dishes that we make week after week (after week after week after week . . .), so at this point we can make them extremely quickly. If someone wants to make a more "patchky" recipe (something that has many steps and ingredients and is painstaking), it's that person's responsibility to acquire the ingredients (or make sure that a parent buys them) before Friday, and to allot the proper amount of time needed to make the dish on Friday afternoon.

Summer Fridays are of course easier. And it helps that during the year I don't have school on Fridays - can you say "built-in cook"?

I sometimes wish that we got more done on Thursday night, but it never seems to happen. The food is always amazingly fresh on Shabbat, though - that's the upside of the mad Friday scramble!

Question for SL and others: can you freeze puff pastry once it's cooked?

Anonymous said...

I almost never do anything on Thursdays except make a grocery list and plan what to make. Grocery shopping is generally Adam's job (picture me piling the twins into my car with the car seats and the stroller--- where would the groceries go? :)

Although the sight of me pushing a double stroller with one hand and pulling a cart with another gets me lots of "God BLESS YOU, woman!" s from the non Jewish neighbors. So occasionally I pick up a few things, but in general, we schedule a grocery trip for hubby in between work and dinner/workout/chevrusah.

When I make challah, I make enough to freeze for a few weeks so I tend to make it once a month or so. The dough I do make on Thursday nights (it's thursday night--- I'm making it now!). Friday I do everything else, but that generally means we don't leave the house on Fridays because every moment I'm not feeding, reading to, playing with, or diapering the babies, I'm taking something out of the oven or putting something in (which is hard-- my kids are young and NEED to get out daily).

I prefer Shabbos starting earlier rather than later---- I'm having a VERY difficult time keeping the kids awake enough to spend Shabbos dinner with us---- they're not good nappers during the day so they tend to conk out before 8:00 at night. Makes taking Friday invites hard this time of year. Besides I like to have them bright eyed and bushy tailed while I'm davening and waiting for Abba to come home. So I'm looking forward to Shabbos starting earlier again.

Basically, you've got it way more under control than I do--- I start on Thursday. hmmm now I'm craving that chocolate pecan pie I'll be baking tomorrow.....

Good Shabbos!

mother in israel said...

Moroccan chicken stew is not a proper Shabbat meal? Is that what the letter meant? Yerushalmim typically make a one=dish main course of a very rich soup. But I guess the writer thinks one needs three kugels, two types of meat, fish and a fancy dessert, even if you are a family of three.

RaggedyMom said...

The Apple - I have been successful with freezing things cooked with puff pastry (eg deli roll). Usually for freezing, I wrap in silver foil and then place it into a plastic bag.

TwinsMommy - I, too, find myself looking forward to those "early" Shabbosim - it makes the weekend start sooner for my husband, and the kids can join us at the meal rather than having a "mock" seudah in the late afternoon or staying up and getting super-kvetchy.

SL, A dishwasher sounds great! Our kitchen is quite small, so I opted to put a small washing machine in the dishwasher slot. Definitely more useful to me!

My schedule also generally entails invitations by Monday, planning Tuesday, shopping Tuesday and/or Wednesday. I try to be done with any baking by Wednesday since I find it messier than cooking (flour sprays, anyone?) and I freeze a lot of what I bake, which also helps to limit our seemingly endless cake-eating potential, especially that of my 20-month-old ;)

Thursday is for cooking and Friday ideally is solely for cleaning. Being on bedrest for a few more weeks has *definitely* put a crimp in my style and necessitated relying on RaggedyDad or kind neighbors to fill in groceries, and rotating out some of my freezer's inventory of soups, kigels, and cake. An extra freezer would be great, although there's nowhere I could keep it, but I just try to rearrange things as carefully as I can.

I realize as I go that as much fun and adrenaline as I used to get from a last-minute, hectic approach, it will just lead to too much stress these days! My mother has always been a very organized, planned-out and calm person, though a little unflexible, so I try to incorporate the positive side of that with my own greater degree of openness for some experimental cooking and more flexibility regarding guests and last-minute changes. It is certainly a work in progress!

One-dish meals sound great to me! When we first got married, I was working late hours and RaggedyDad was still in school, so Shabbos prep was mostly his domain. Nowadays, his work hours are quite demanding, and he's back in school part-time, so most of the prep needs to be done sans him. But I am fortunate that not only does he help a great deal when he's around, he also taught me a good deal of what I know!

I'd totally be open to starting a mutual blog with some of you covering home organization tips. Unless everyone would rather keep these posts to their own blogs!

SaraK said...

Lots of good ideas, SL! And thanks for the link to Juggling Frogs. I can't wait to check it out.

I once saw a letter decrying households that do not prepare a proper Shabbat meal. The writer theorized that parents who do this are hurting their children's religious development by not treating Shabbat with the proper kavod.

By serving food other than gefilte fish, roasted chicken & artery clogging kugels, that is not treating Shabbat with kavod? Huh?

Orthonomics said...

MominIsrael-If I recall correctly the letter writer decried not serving proper Shabbat food and decried families that have opted for spagetti and meatballs instead.

Moroccan Chicken Stew is my new one dish food. But I've also served spagetti and meat sauce (not even meatballs) as well as tacos.

Creating a pleasant Shabbat is at the top of my priority list. But some weeks are better than others. . . . . .and I don't think kugel or gefilte fish is ever a necessity. :)

Orthonomics said...

Sara K-LOL. These foods really wear me down. I can enjoy a traditional meal like that on occassion, but if I had to make it ever week, I don't think I would enjoy my Shabbat nearly as much. My creative side comes out in the kitchen, and only with cooking. I'm not much of a baker.

Raggedy Mom-Great Idea. Please shoot me an email at Orthonomics at Gmail dot com. I'd love to chat about the idea.

Ariella's blog said...

Technically, if your children enjoy eating spaghetti and meatball more than pot roast and pilaf, then the former would be better for them for Shabbos. When I venture into something a bit different, I ususally will also make some extra noodles for pasta salad or such, as children may not like the other dish. I only add extra choices within a course in honor of guests or a Yom Tov. I generally do not go in for complicated recipes, though I bake a cake nearly every week for Shabbos and make my own challah 50% of the time or so.

Ezzie said...

Hmm... once again I think I commented and it's gone. Methinks I'm having trouble with the word verifications...

Anyway! :)

1) I think this is the single most important thing in our new apartment. In our old place, we'd look at the pile from Shabbos (and when you have 8-10 ppl a meal, it a BIG pile) and get overwhelmed and leave it for Sunday... at least. Now, we're all cleaned up within a couple of hours after Shabbos. It's a HUGE difference.

2) That's not really possible here. We work with an "invite yourself" mentality, which actually saves a lot of other headaches, but that means we have a vague idea of who is coming in a given week by Thursday; do the shopping then, assuming +2 or so each meal (depending on time of year, likelihood of more guests, etc.), and the cooking Thu. night/Friday.

3) Serach has a freezer addiction. :) (V'hamayvin yavin...)

4) We've found it worth the money to have a person come and clean on Fridays when we need it. She's amazing, fast, and worth it... and does everything, including the dishes we just used. When we have extra time, we save the money and do it ourselves; when it's 'not too bad', we do the same. It ends up being about 2x a month but well worth it.

5) Oh man. SO much to say... by us, suffice it to say that it depends who is doing the cooking! :P

The big differences between me and Serach is the one written well by AskShifra last year on Jameel's blog. (If you need a link, let me know - it's one of the best J-blog posts IMHO.) I'm the typical (or worse) guy who waits until the last second... but is totally fine and always manages to get it done. My favorite is the time when Shabbos was at 4:30, it was 3:00, we were having 10 people both meals, and I hadn't started cooking yet. Serach's best friend was over for Shabbos and had to convince her to stay out of the kitchen; I was done by about 4:10, IIRC. :D Meanwhile, Serach functions much better when things are done earlier and more planned out. This week, she was done with everything about 8 hours before Shabbos [if anything, a drawback, because we forgot to put up the chicken before Shabbos because we'd put it in the fridge!], and was much happier for it. Of course, we still made late, and we still managed to go up to the last minute. Ah, well... :)

Scraps said...

My mother is definitely a type #2 personality; everything gets done last minute, and it was known in my house from a very young age that you do NOT cross Mother erev Shabbos or erev Yom Tov or you will live to regret it. She's very touchy and will fly off the handle at the littlest thing.

Unfortunately, she is also extremely disorganized and will never stick to a schedule (although she can [mostly] stick to a shopping list). This makes it very difficult for her to be on top of things ahead of time. Fortunately, I don't live at home anymore, so I don't have to deal with it very often. :)

cool yiddishe mama said...

hey Sephardi Lady...

I'm still alive, but haven't been blogging. Here's what I do to stay sane getting ready for Shabbat:

1) Have a "standard" meal plan for those weeks that life's been crazy (enough of dinner to keep on blekh for lunch and pita from local deli if no time to make challah)

2) In the summer, dinner is basically soup and bread with lunch being salads (no need to keep house hot with blekh). Winter lunch is a full crockpot of soup or stew (cyp hates cholent).

Stay well.

mother in israel said...

Please send this post to me for the Kosher Cooking Carnival! And write another one with the recipe for the Moroccan chicken.

That goes for all bloggers on this thread!

The post is due to go up on the 16th, but please try to get it to me by the end of the week.

Anonymous said...

Could you please post the recipe for the Moroccan chicken stew?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Here's the link Ezzie was talking about:

by Ask Shifra.

Mars and Venus on Erev Shabbat (or why my husband can't shower before the 18 minutes)

Enjoy :)

Orthonomics said...

GilaB-I will link to it when it appears on the Kosher Cooking Carnival that Mom in Israel is hosting. It is a great one pot receipe.

Anonymous said...


Wow! Thank you for your kind and generous compliments.

I think of myself as a mom-in-training, too. I've just been an intern for over 15 years.

(I think, once you know everything, you get promoted to Grandma! [grin])

I'm just catching up with all the different threads that were spun from Mother in Israel's initial SuperMom post.

It's amazing how far and wide the resulting wisdom reaches.

I love how you compared your family to a team, with Shabbat preparation as a sport.

Your family is very lucky to have you as their captain and coach.

Anonymous said...

I also LOVE jugglingfrogs!

I've found a rotating 4 week Shabbos menu plan really works well- I write it in the beginning of the month and then glance at it each week to coordinate my grocery list. I know what to cook each Shabbos in advance, with some flexibility if I am not in the mood for what's on the menu that week.
Here's a link to the plan I wrote for our family- simple and I repeat Friday night and Shabbos-http://www.jewish-life-organized.com/4-week-Shabbos-menu.html

Also- do you have a master list of EVERYTHING that needs to get done and by who for Shabbos week in and week out?

If you want to get a copy of my own master list- email me at cluborganized AT yahoo.com