It was really wonderful to have a normal Shabbat again.  There hasn’t been a normal weekend for far too long.  And while several of the changes were very good, there have been too many major changes or events in my life too close together, and my brain has been kind of going “rar!  must hibernate until normal returns!”  But today I got to hang out with nifty familiar community and have singing and prayer and the last meeting of the learner’s minyan (which miraculously got rescheduled until after we got back from vacation) with our rather adorably bouncy rabbinic intern.  We went through the Amidah (rather long central prayer done standing), which was really the bit that I was most looking forward to discussing.  It’s done mostly silently, so while it’s very nice that we’re usually encouraged to use the time however we feel most drawn to, it also meant that I don’t really have a handle on the actual traditional words and choreography (it involves an unusual amount of shuffling around and bowing and such), and I’d like that to be a feasible option to use in that space.

I also made a really excellent dinner last night.  We’d decided to use up the piece of farmer’s market beef in the freezer, and by some lucky chance there was a cookbook on the returns shelf for our recreational reading collection that I flipped through and found a marvelous beef stew recipe.  It called for butternut squash, but while we have six of them, they’re keeping quite well and we really need to use up the sweet potatoes so I used them instead.  Beef, sweet potatoes, Marsala wine, rosemary, thyme, garlic, onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, a little flour…simmer for an hour and it was *amazing*.  That sort of recipe really needed a nice crusty multigrain bread, which I didn’t really have time to make, so I bought a loaf.  For dessert was this interesting cornmeal-based cake with a balsamic syrup drizzled over it.  It was delicious, but the coarser cornmeal I used obviously didn’t absorb enough of the liquid so the texture was weird.  I’ll have to experiment and see if I can get it to work.  One thing that I really liked about this recipe is that without the syrup, it’s a nice slightly unusual vanilla tea cake.  With the syrup it becomes instantly gourmet and exotic.  Ben had the brilliant idea of baking carrots in some of the leftover syrup.  I think sweet potatoes or squash would also be good…really, any sweet vegetable.  It could make excellent barbecued chicken in summer.  1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 sprig of rosemary, boiled until the sugar is dissolved.  

I think this was the first time I’ve actually bought alcohol in this country…one of those privileges that seemed exciting at 21 except that I don’t actually really drink (I have no tolerance for alcohol and am a very boring drunk — you get about 15 minutes of amusingly giggly out of me and then I just become inconveniently groggy).  I was tempted to actually have wine with dinner, since we were running low on grape juice, but Marsala is particularly alcoholic so this would have been a bad idea.  The liquor store employees were really friendly and helpful, making me wish I had more reason to go there.  They have several wines from New England :-)  Maybe I’ll get some at some point just to cook with.  But most of the recipes with alcohol I know of involve meat, which I don’t eat often enough to experiment with fully.  Or they’re desserts in which the alcohol is still present in the finished object, meaning Ben probably won’t like it.  And those are usually random brandies and things rather than wine.  Obviously, more research is needed.

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