This is the final stretch before the major fast of Tisha B'Av (the Ninth of Av. You think that naming dates after dates started with the 4th of July?) It's not a good day in Jewish history - it's the date that both the First *and* Second Temples were destroyed. It's the day that Jews were expelled from Spain (and that was not a coincidence.) It's just not a happy day.
We've already begun the season of mourning 14 days ago on the 17th of Tammuz, which was a minor fast day, and the day that the wall around Jerusalem was breached for the First Destruction, and so the Three Weeks began - a time period when we do not hold weddings or other parties and we do not cut our hair. Many men do not shave.
But the Nine Days is far stricter. We do not eat meat. We do not drink wine. We do not swim. We do not purchase new clothing (unless it would be a financial loss) and we do not wear new clothing. Or clean clothing. Many do not listen to music - none listen to live music. Technically, we should not bathe, unless not bathing is painful. For a 21st C person in August - it's painful, so we bathe. We do not do laundry.
This will culminate next Sunday with Tisha B'Av, where, for 25 hours, we do not eat, drink, bathe (no excuses), have marital relations, anoint ourselves, greet friends or study Torah. Nothing that brings joy. From nightfall until noon, we sit as mourners do, on low benches. We also do not wear leather shoes. (There are exceptions to these rules, but this is the general case.)
The logistics can be complicated. For example, meat eating is permitted (some say required) on Shabbat. Wine drinking is certainly required. I had to make sure that all possible laundry was done on Friday so that we'd have enough (there are ways of wearing laundered clothing so as not to violate the "no clean" rule. Many people wear all the clothes they're going to wear before the sun sets, for example - on and off, on and off.) And I had to plan our meals so that we had our fill of fleish but did not have leftovers. We had turkey stew, chef's salad, and finished off those cold cuts late Saturday afternoon in sandwiches.
My plans for the week are omelettes, ratatouille (two nights), a stir-fry, fish, and then meat for Shabbat, ending with a fish and pasta salad that I always serve pre-fast. Fast begins Saturday night.
Monday morning, we rent a car and drive upstate to visit my inlaws. Packing will be simple - we'll haul the full laundry bag and an empty suitcase to the country.