Friday, March 30, 2007

I need a laundry fairy

Between the rain and the dust storms of last weekend and the general craziness that is my life mid-week we managed to get seriously behind on laundry. I now have a truly obscene amount of laundry to do, not to mention the 3 loads piled in a heap stacked neatly on the couch waiting to be folded and put away.

I am serious need of a laundry fairy, or at the very least a fairy godmother or a laundry service.

What fairy do you need?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #9 - Colors of Green

In honor of springtime, my TT this week is 13 different shades of green. Descriptions are taken from Wikipedia, with a few side comments from me. I've chosen 13 of my favorites (in random order other than spring green, which had to come first for obvious reasons). There are many others to choose from. Which ones are your favorites?

Spring green: This one had to be first of course. Spring green is a color that is the color on the color wheel that is halfway between cyan and green. It is an official web color name. It corresponds to a visual stimulus of 505 nanometers on the visible spectrum.

The complementary color of spring green is Rose.

Emerald: An emerald color is a shade of green that is particularly light and bright, with a faint bluish cast. The name derives from the typical appearance of the gemstone emerald. Ireland is sometimes referred to as the Emerald Isle due to its lush greenery.

Emerald City, from the fictional story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, is a city where everything from food to people are emerald green. However, it is revealed at the end of the story that everything in the city is normal colored, but the glasses everyone wears are emerald tinted.

3. Celadon: Celadon is a pale, sea-green pigment. From the French 'Céladon,' a character in L'Astrée (a romance by Honoré d'Urfé), celadon also refers to a type of pottery having the same pale green glaze, originally produced in China. Chemically, celadon is formed by combining chromium oxide, cadmium yellow, and titanium-zinc white. It was most commonly used in Korean art.

I had an incredible meal at the
Celadon Restaurant at the Sukhothai Hotel on my first night in Bangkok. I still salivate at the thought of their freshly made Thai iced tea, and the food was out of this world good.

Forest green: Forest green refers to a green color said to resemble the color of the trees and other plants in a forest. Forest green is one of the school colors of the University of the Philippines amd Cass Technical High School. It is also one of the team colors of the Forest Green Rovers F.C., an English football club.

Kelly green: Kelly green, also known as grass green or pigment green, is achieved by mixing cyan and yellow in equal proportions. This is the color green that is shown in the diagram located at the bottom of the following website offering tintbooks for CMYK printing.

This color is also called grass green. Colored pencils of the 1950s colored this were sometimes called grass green. Psychedelic art made people used to brighter colors of green, and pigment colors or colored pencils called "bright green" or "true green" are produced which approximate (with much less brightness that is possible on a computer screen) the electric green shown above.

Sea green: Sea green is a shade of green that resembles the sea floor as seen from the surface. Sea Green is notable for being the emblematic colour of the Levellers party in the politics of 1640s England. Leveller supporters would wear a sea-green ribbon, in a similar manner to the present-day red AIDS awareness ribbon.

Not every language distinguishes blue and green like English.

Pine green: Pine green is a greenish shade of cyan that resembles the color of pine trees. It is an official Crayola color.

Tea green: Tea Green is a light shade of green. And of course the color of the very delicious green tea.

Asparagus: Asparagus is a brownish shade of green that resembles the plant asparagus. It is an official Crayola color. I'm actually not crazy about this color, but I love to eat asparagus so I left it in. 10. Fern green: Fern green is a color that resembles ferns. A Crayola crayon with a similar color named Fern was created in 1998.

Jade: Jade is a saturated, slightly bluish green. The name comes from the stone called jade, although the stone varies widely in hue. A magnificent color to be sure.

Persian green: Persian green is a color used in pottery and Persian carpets in Iran. Other colours associated with Persia include Persian red and Persian blue. The color persian green is named from the green color of some Persian pottery and is a representation of the color of the mineral malachite. It is a popular color in Iran because the color green symbolizes Islam. The first recorded use of Persian green as a color name in English was in 1892.

The source of this color is the ISCC-NBS Dictionary of Color Names (1955), a color dictionary used by stamp collectors to identify the colors of stamps.

And last and possibly least:

Olive: Olive is a dulled, darker yellowish-green color typically seen on green olives. It can be formed by adding a little black to yellow dye or paint. As a color word in the English language, it is unexpectedly old, appearing in late Middle English. Shaded green, it becomes olive drab.

Olive is a direct color name. Sometimes persons are said to be "olive-skinned", to denote shades of medium toned white skin with small hints of yellow and green. In religion, Olive is sometimes used as a Church color during Ordinary Time. (Question from Robin - what is Ordinary Time?). Shades of olive, such as Olive Drab, are frequently used for camouflage, or by the military in general.
I like olive because craggy old olive trees are particularly lovely in their own way, and because olive branches are a symbol of peace, but at the same time I dislike it because it brings with it thoughts of army uniforms, and the necessity of wearing them.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

WFMW - Water Wow Books

My tip for this week is Water Wow paint with water books. These books are great for restaurants, car or plane trips, or wherever else you want to keep a small child occupied and quiet, and because the child "paints" with regular water there's no mess either. My 3.5 year old is crazy about these books, and even my 6 year old still enjoys them on occasion. Each book comes with a brush or marker which has a receptacle for a little bit of water - just fill from a nearby sink or cup and you're good to go (or if that gets lost a simple paintbrush and cup of water would work, but there is spill-risk that way). Best of all, these books can be used over and over. As soon as the page dries out the picture disappears, ready to be painted again. We've got two of them and by the time my daughter is done with the second one the first is dry and ready. They're sold all over the internet (and in stores too I assume, but I live overseas so I'm not sure where). Each book retails for $10-15, but can be used over and over again. And no, this is not a paid post. I just love these books.

That's what works for me. For more WFMW tips check out Shannon's Rocks in My Dryer.

My husband just made a liar out of me

After answering a poll on Tertia's blog saying that my husband never snores, he's now upstairs sawing Paul Bunyan sized logs! I actually had to go back and change my answer to "sometimes". Not happy about this. Not at all. Not to mention it's pretty damn loud.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Shades of Gray

Or more precisely, shades of dusty brown.

We had several days of hot and very dusty winds blow in from North Africa on Thursday and Friday (very typical in the spring), and then during the night Friday it apparently drizzled for a minute or two, leaving the entire country coated with a dusty, smudgy mess. Everything looks gray, muted, depressing. There's a uniform sameness of the landscape. Differences are hidden. Everything is the same shade of brown. On a more practical note, getting to the car wash is top priority today, I can barely see out my windows!

On the one hand, these sharavs are sort of nice because they're a chance to break out all the summer clothes and enjoy a taste of summertime without the humidity, but on the other hand during a severe one the dryness and the dust can get very oppressive. At its worst, a sharav is like being inside a clothes dryer while it's running. Thankfully they usually only last a few days and then normal spring weather returns, and then before we know it spring is over and we're well into the long hot humid summer. Bring it on!

Edited to say that wow, I apparently really really need a cup of coffee. I just glanced over this entry and found at least 7 truly stupendous typos and grammatical idiocies (corrected now). Off to go brew some java ASAP.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A slice of life

I've spent a lot of time lately worrying over how Maya is doing. I thought I'd take this chance to share the fun side of life too. School worries aside, she is an awfully funny and fun to be with kid.

The first clip is me reading Sandra Boynton's Blue Hat, Green Hat to Maya. She loves this book. The "oops" at the end of each page sends her off into cataclysms of laughter. Better yet, play it and see for yourselves. (Excuse my "oh wow do I need to get back to the hairdresser" dark roots and old sweatshirt, not to mention Maya's lack of attire - we weren't planning to make our big blog debut that night.)

The next clip is Maya performing a Bugs Bunny vaudeville routine. (You're not crazy, half the words are in fact nonsense, but the little soft shoe routine kills me every time.)

(Itai did his own very cute street performance, but that was a Passover song in Hebrew so I haven't posted it here. I'll have to get him to do something in English for me some time soon.)
Last but not least are a few pictures of the kids enjoying a street performance by a group calling themselves Puppet Folk Revival. We saw these guys at a real gig the other night and enjoyed them so much that we brought the kids to see them this afternoon. Click here and here to see them perform. Unique isn't the word, these guys are fabulous!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #8 - Working in Turkey

13 Curiositities about working in Turkey
Before I had kids I spent a lot of time in Turkey working on several jobs, including bidding on (and winning!) the largest one of my career. Spending many months in Ankara, Turkey's capitol city but not it's cultural epicenter by any stretch of the imagination, gave me the opportunity to get an insider's look at everyday life there that the average tourist misses. Of course, I also missed all of the tourist stuff, something I will have to rectify eventually. These are 13 things about living and working in Turkey which stick out in my mind:

1. 6 day week - all offices are open half-days on Saturday. They generally close up shop at about 1pm, leaving you with a weekend that is only 1.5 days long (not enough time to leave town and go touring if you're a business traveler like me!)
2. All movie theaters I went to had point and shoot toilets (squatty potties) only. Other venues didn't, but for some reason movie theaters did. This was about 7 years though, so maybe they've updated the plumbing since then.

3. Pide for lunch on Saturdays. Monday to Friday we'd get a hot catered lunch (soup, meat and starch dish, and some kind of dessert) that would arrive in giant 3-tiered metal lunchbox. On Saturdays though there was no catered meal. Instead, the boss would bring in pide, which are sort of like long, skinny, greasy foccaccia with either meat or cheese inside.

4. CHEAP massages at the hotel spa. Turkey is the land of cheap massages. For $7 I used to get an awesome deep muscle massage, and at that price I could afford to go regularly! Almost made up for all those hours spent hunched over a keyboard.

5. Tea boys and drivers. Labor costs are low in Turkey, particularly for unskilled labor. Every office had a "tea boy" (often old enough to be my father, it was very disconcerting to hear them called "boys") and a driver (also always a man).

6. Horrific drivers. I've done a fair amount of traveling and have seen some pretty awful driving (heck, even in Israel drivers are terrible), but Turkey takes the cake. I met up with my husband in Istanbul one weekend, where we took the most frightening taxi ride of our lives. This driver was in such a hurry that he passed a bus as it was letting passengers on by driving between the bus and the bustop! He just cut right through, swerving around all the passengers trying to get on and off! Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

7. Abundance of (cheap!) internet cafes. When I first started going to Turkey the hotels didn't offer any way to connect in the room (neither did my laptop for that matter). Luckily there were internet cafes on just about every corner to get me my fix.

8. Freezing my ass off in the Hotel Metropol. During my first project in Turkey they'd always put me in this little fleabag hotel near the project office. Winter in Ankara is COLD and this hotel didn't have proper heating. I used to literally boil myself in the tub to get warm enough to go to sleep (thank heavens the next project I was put in a normal modern hotel). Actually, there was poor climate control in pretty much every building - it was always too hot or too cold. Spring was beautiful, but winter and summer were sometimes rough.
9. Pervasive odor of cigarette smoke. It was EVERYWHERE. So much so that it even stunk up clothes I hadn't even worn!

10. Many homes displayed silver mirrors on the wall - with the mirror side turned to the wall. Muslim tradition dictates that you can't pray where there are graven images, so to avoid this people would turn their mirrors to the wall. Over time, they began to decorate the reverse side, and then that developed into a tradition all its own. I even bought one to display in my own home. This one is typical:

11. Secular Christmas celebrations. Turkey (or at least Ankara) has adopted the secular trappings of Christmas - just decorations and sales, no religion involved (pretty fun for a Jew actually).
12. Ataturk's cult of personality. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk single-handedly turned Turkey from a third-world backwater into a modern Western republic, and ensured that it embraced the values of modern secularism instead of becoming another Iran. That said, the Turks take their hero worship VERY seriously. They've even got his pajamas on display at his mausoleum. And every office in the country displays his portrait.
13. Belief that Greeks rigged the voting for Time Magazine's Man of the Century to make sure Attaturk didn't win (yes, really, there were even letters to the editor about this when I was there).

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wanna Win A Template?

Splat Designs is running a contest for a free custom-designed template. All you have to do is go here to sign up, and then post a link from your blog.

I would so love to win one of these! Thanks Gene for the heads-up.

WFMW - Storing Ginger

Lots of recipes call for freshly grated ginger, but it's a hassle to keep it in the house since an average sized piece is much more than you'd need for any one recipe.
My solution is to keep it in the freezer. Just throw it in, it doesn't need to be wrapped, it will hold it's flavor beautifully. Then when you need fresh ginger just grab it and grate it on a hand grater. The frozen ginger grates easily and there's no need to peel it first. When you've got what you need, just throw the rest back in the freezer until next time.
Works for me.
Check out Shannon's Rocks In My Dryer for loads more tips.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Quick update about Maya

This is a really busy week (made more so by all of these playdates!), but I wanted to quickly say that this morning's meeting with the psychologist was a good one. I think that together we gained some excellent insights into what is going on with Maya (more on that later when I have time to do it justice), and more importantly, we now know that L is optimistic about her situation. She admitted that prior to seeing her with us she was extremely worried, but now feels that with my spending a little time in the classroom and with her teachers getting some concrete suggestions for how to connect with her we should start seeing improvement over the next few weeks to a month. She doesn't see a need for any kind of formal therapy right now. We'll revisit that later if Maya doesn't seem to improve despite our interventions, but for now she's optimistic that everything that's going on is surmountable. There is a pretty serious gap between Maya in school and Maya in the rest of her life, but the "rest of her life" Maya is exactly where she should be, and even advanced in some areas. With some loving care and directed help the "schoolday" Maya should be able to catch up sooner rather than later.

Thank god.

I'm now going to go wash the supper dishes (that my husband was supposed to do before falling asleep on Itai's floor!) and listen to my not sleeping daughter singing and reading to herself.

PS For those keeping track of the details, Maya and I spent a long time playing Magnetix tonight. Not only did she not simply line things up, she was making numbers, letters (including some I'd never shown her how to do), trees, mountains, a car for Dora's friend Tico... After that we sang a few duets and I read her a few books before she went to go dance and sing to her Gymboree dvd. This is not a withdrawn, introverted, unresponsive child. This child is a delight. A ray of golden sunshine. Now we just have to help nurture that sunshine and help it to shine out at school.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I guess perplexed is as good a way as any to explain it, though it's a hopeful perplexed, and a confused one, and a slightly angry one.

L and I have agreed that it would be an excellent idea for me to spend about 30 minutes in Maya's classroom most days. We'll be varying the time and circumstances to try and keep this from ending up as another one of Maya's rigid "compartments".

This morning, on my own initiative and before speaking with L, I decided to stay in the classroom for a bit to try and draw Maya out. The teachers all greeted her and then she made a beeline for the blocks. She started lining them up as always. When I sat down and suggested she make a 7 instead, she took two blocks and made a 7. Then an upside-down 7, then a sideways one, then she made a T. When I suggested a car, she made that too. At that point another little girl came over to play and wanted to make a bridge. They spent the next few minutes playing sort of together, sort of in parallel. At one point I mentioned to another girl (Maya's good friend) that she needed to wipe her nose, so Maya promptly got up, went to go get a tissue, and walked over to the girl to wipe her nose. This doesn't sound to me like a child who is uninterested in social contact, more like a girl needs to feel comfortable first, and perhaps needs a bit of a push to initiate it.

At the end of the day I made sure to come a few minutes early and try again. This time, Maya was very huggy kissy with her teachers, and then went to play. When I suggested that she hug another girl who'd come over, she did. Then they kissed and hugged some more. I then suggested that they both jump together. They did. When I suggested that they hold hands while jumping, Maya happily did that too.

One of the aides, who speaks English extremely well, also agrees with my thinking that the language is a major issue, and seems less stressed about the whole situation (since she sees it more as a temporary language issue). She said that the teacher doesn't speak much English and isn't very experienced with bilingual children, and may be underestimating the impact of this because she doesn't realize how much more fluent Maya still is in English.

There are certainly issues here, and they need to be fixed, but seeing how easily I was able to elicit an appropriate social response I can't help but wonder why her teachers can't. They are educated, warm, loving, involved and extremely capable. Why has this progressed to the level that it has?

I'll be meeting with L again on Tuesday morning for a more in-depth conversation. I hope these things I'm seeing in the school help to illuminate a clearer path towards helping Maya. In the meantime, she's encouraged us to have a lot of playdates for Maya so we're going to be very busy this week. Tomorrow her good friend is coming over (the one with the runny nose LOL). Tuesday a friend is coming over with her two kids - a boy Itai's age and a girl just a bit younger than Maya, they also play well together. Then Thursday her classroom aide (who she adores) is coming over with her daughter. She's Maya's age and they know each other enough to be friendly. I think it will be particularly helpful for Maya to see the aide out of school, and just as much so for the aide to see what Maya is actually capable of.

Never a dull moment. I do feel slightly more optimistic at the moment though.

Thank you to everyone for your support. It really does help.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Maya's developmental evaluation

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were having some concerns about my daughter Maya. We decided to have an initial evaluation done by a child psychologist. The psychologist (I'll call her L to keep things simple) observed Maya at school one morning this week, and then again in her office yesterday morning (together with us).

This is what came of that. So far anyway.

Where to begin...

For starters, the results of the initial evaluation at her school were quite worrisome to L. She said Maya exhibited quite a lot of problematic patterns - sinking into herself, spending ages just lining up blocks (no imaginative component), staring at herself in a mirror, not responding to the efforts of those few children who still try to engage her, not using speech to communicate with her teachers... She did beautifully during circle time, participated, spoke appropriately, etc. L also noted that her cognitive abilities were quite advanced, that she was doing very well in that and was quite bright. She was however very worried by the difficulty and even lack of interest in interacting with others that she displayed during free play.

On the plus side, L was able to engage her within about 5 minutes, something her teachers have not been very successful in doing. They were actually very surprised that within 3 or 4 minutes Maya was talking and playing with her.

I've been saying since this all started that the behaviors they describe are not my Maya, not today's Maya, but I don't think that was all that credible coming from me, her mother. Her teacher is a neighbor and her dd is in school with Itai, so she does see Maya out of school at times and knows there's a difference in her behavior, but I'm not sure she realized how distinct that difference is. Maya did show more problematic behavior last year, but in the past six months she's really made huge developmental strides, at least here at home. She went from being a difficult two year old who often seemed unhappy with life in general to a truly delightful three year old, someone it's honestly FUN to parent.

I was really worried about what L would see when we went on Friday, whether Maya would show her the "real" Maya, the one that I know and see daily. Thank god she did. Maya talked, she played, she danced, she made up stories with the toys, demonstrated imaginative play, cuddled, went freely to both Jay and I and to L, had great eye contact... All those normal things that "normal" children do. I did agree that we see a few of the more problematic patterns, but that they were to a MUCH lesser degree than what is apparently going on in school. L said that a lot of that was probably because of the positive way we react to and parent her and that we instinctively and automatically pull her up as she starts to slip down into herself, without even really realizing it.

L was very happy (and relieved I think) to see this other side of Maya, but the school side is a problem. It may be (is probably) developmental, possibly due to the discrepancy between her English language skills and her Hebrew skills. She apparently has a lot of "compartments" in her life - different behavior patterns for different places or situations (much like the way she was perfectly potty trained at school and would come home and pee and poop all over the house, thankfully nearly a thing of the past). The challenge is now to figure out how to help her out of her compartments, to move past the need for them. It may correct itself even if left alone, but she spends about 7 hours a day in school, and it's not helping her to have those 7 hours be so limited (and limiting) developmentally. The problem is how to do that. L said that if she were exhibiting only one of these two aspects of her personality then the answer would be simple, she'd know what to recommend. The fact that she's for all practical purposes a Jekyll and Hyde makes things more difficult to figure out. I've been saying all along that the behaviors they were describing didn't make any sense to me, because that is not the Maya I ever see, at least now that's been validated and will hopefully provide a more positive place to start from.

For now, L will meet again with the school staff and try to give them concrete tools to pull Maya up from within herself. Jay and I will also be meeting with her again this week to discuss her history in more detail. In parallel, L is consulting with some other specialists to try and find the best treatment path for Maya. We'll also request a developmental evaluation from the health fund now just to get that on the books in case we need their services later (socialized medicine - it will take ages to come through).

I met up with Maya's teacher when she picked her dd up from kindergarten and we had a chance to talk as the kids all played on the playground, and she got a chance to watch as Maya ran and played in a perfectly normal, social manner, but whenever Maya started to run to me and saw her teacher she stopped short and pulled back instead. It's not a problem with the school. Both we and L agree that the staff is wonderful and that they are making a serious effort to help Maya. It's apparently more that Maya has placed them in an "I'm not responding to this" lower-functioning compartment for herself.

Her teacher is convinced that language isn't the problem, because Maya can communicate reasonably well in Hebrew. After seeing the level at which Maya communicates with us in English though L isn't sure she agrees, and I think I'm with her. Yes, Maya's Hebrew is reasonable compared to some average Israeli child. However, her English is far above that, and I worry that on some level her innate perfectionist tendencies have made her feel that it's better to withdraw than to fail to communicate at the level she wants to. Hopefully we'll be able to find a way through this together that will get Maya whatever kind of help she needs, whether developmental, speech therapy or otherwise, to help her school persona get back on track with the rest of her life.


Friday, March 16, 2007

By request - savory crepe recipes

Savory crepes can really include anything that strikes your fancy. Good combinations are steamed vegetables with cream sauce, the same with mushrooms, with some yellow cheese (emmental, etc.) thrown in, julienned ham, whatever you like. Some of the quantities are inexact - I do this by eye, the ratios aren't critical, you just need enough cheese and/or sauce to keep the crepes from drying out when you heat them.

Here are a few easy combinations to get you started:

Basic crepe recipe
(can be doubled or reduced by one-third - since you can't easily cut 3 eggs in half):

1.5 C (375ml) milk (can be skim)
2 T vegetable oil (something light, not olive)
3 eggs
1.5 C (375ml) flour

Put the ingredients into a food processor or blender in the order listed. Blend until smooth. Pour 1/3-1/2 C of batter into a non-stick frying or crepe pan and swirl around to make a big circle. Cook on medium heat. Cook the first side until you see small bubbles and the crepe moves freely around the pan. Flip and slightly brown the other side. Repeat until all batter is gone. Stack on a plate until ready to fill.

Note, crepes are best used right away, or at least a bit later that evening. They don't store well.

Filling 1: Ham and Cheese Basic Recipe (sorry to anyone out there who's kosher, just substitute mushrooms if you are)

Ingredients (enough to stuff however many crepes you've made. Don't overstuff.):

ham/smoked turkey cut into small julienned strips
Shredded cheese - any kind that goes well with the meat
Binder - can be a soft white cheese (i.e. a mild bulgarian, feta, or goat cheese) or a thick cream sauce seasoned however you like (ask me for a recipe if you need one)

To assemble crepes:

Lay a crepe dark side down on a plate. Spoon a few tablespoons of the meat in a line down the middle, staying away from the edge. Spoon sauce on top of meat to mostly cover. Sprinkle grated cheese on the top. Roll up crepe (parallel to the filling). Seal with a bit of soft cheese if necessary. Place in oven-safe baking dish.

Once all the crepes are lined up in the pan, I like to spoon a bit of sauce over the top to keep them from drying out.

Heat through in a medium oven (15-25 minutes or so, depending on whether your filling started out hot or cold. Serve immediately.

Filling 2: Basic Mushroom Filling (nothing very exotic, just a good starting point. Get creative from there.)

Ingredients for 8 crepes:

1/2 pound (230g) mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 T (30ml) butter
2 T (30ml) dry white wine
1/2 tsp (2ml) chicken bouillon
1/4 tsp seasoned salt (or you can substitute mustard powder, tarragon, etc.)
dash pepper
1/2 C (125ml) sour cream
1 T (15ml) minced chives (optional)

Saute mushrooms in butter. Add wine, bouillon, seasoned salt (or other herbs/spices) and pepper. Cook over medium heat until bubbly. Stir in sour cream and chives. Heat through, but do not boil.

Fill crepes and heat through before serving.

Filling 3: Steamed vegetables with cashew ginger sauce (my favorite)
From Molly Katzen's oh so wonderful Moosewood Cookbook

Steamed veggie of choice - I love this with julienned carrots, but it goes well with broccoli too)

2 C toasted cashews
1 C water
2 T minced fresh ginger (NOT powder)
1 T soy sauce
1 T honey or sugar (white or brown)
2 T plus 1 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
cayenne pepper, to taste

Puree everything together in a food processor or blender until smooth. If you've made the sauce in advance heat it through before assembling the crepes. This saves a bit of heating time once the crepes are in the oven and will help keep them from drying out.

To assemble crepes:

Place a few tablespoons of the steamed vegetable in your crepe. Top with a tablespoon or two of sauce. Roll and seal with a drop of sauce. Arrange in baking dish. Once all the crepes are arranged, spoon some sauce of the top of all of them. Heat through and serve.

I hope this helps you get started. Bon appetit, or as we say in Israel, B'teavon.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #7 - Favorite Foods

I was apparently hungry when I was trying to come up with a good list for this week. Here are my favorite foods, in no particular order:

1. Pasta in cream sauce - any way, shape or form, preferably homemade

2. Chocolate - need I say more?

3. Fresh pineapple - I could live on this. I'm eating some right this minute as a matter of fact. And, it's just about the only truly "healthy" thing on this list!

4. Coffee - yes, to me this is a food group. How could something that wonderful and life-affirming not be ;-)?
5. Really good pizza, homemade or not

6. Crepes - any kind, but I particularly love savory ones

7. Chicken (or tofu) in green curry paste

8. Red curry stir-fry, Thai-style. Oh heck, really just about anything with curry and coconut milk in it

9. Pralines and Cream ice cream, or any other flavor with loads of chocolate fudge and other goodies inside

10. Homemade stuffing

11. Artisanal cheeses - even the stinky ones, but all kinds of "blue" cheeses are way up at the top of the list

12. Fresh homemade bread - Jay's specialty!

13. Enchiladas

Graphics courtesy of Stock Food

Hmm... I'm noticing a distinct lack of salad on this list. As much as I might wish it, I'm just not the kind of person who can get all excited about a salad. Or pretty much anything else that might actually be considered healthy. My leanings are definitely way towards the high-fat, rich, creamy side. What can I say, I blame my Hungarian roots. I couldn't believe my eyes when I got to Hungary - entire menus filled with things like cream sauce and dumplings, with goulash and fruit soup (made with full fat sour cream of course) thrown in to round things out. Nary a vegetable in sight. I'm swooning just thinking about it. It was then that I understood - my often unstoppable cravings for all of this stuff are not my fault, they're in my genes LOL!

So, what would make your list?

Edited to add that I've put the auto-link thingie in now. I was in a rush this morning and completely forgot. And the header too. Sheesh, that'll teach me to post in a hurry!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday - Game Storage

If your house is anything like mine, your kids have accumulated a ridiculous number of boxed games - lotto games, memory games, card games, you name it. And if you have a destructo-baby like my younger daughter was (who am I kidding, is), then some of those big bulky boxes might not be in exactly pristine condition.

My tip is ziploc bags. Put each game in its own bag and throw out those bulky boxes. The games will take up a fraction of the space, the kids can easily see what's inside, and cleanup is a snap.

Works for me :).

Check out Rocks In My Dryer for more great WFMW tips.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Real Mothers Are...

I've been tagged by Fairly Odd Mother for a great meme. You're given the phrase "real mothers are..." and have to complete it. I love this idea. I actually saw the tag last night, but wanted to sleep on it first before deciding what one thing I think mothers are that trumps all the rest for me. And here it is:

Real Mothers are Imperfect.

Real mothers sometimes lose their temper. Real mothers don't always serve their children perfectly healthy, well-balanced meals (made from scratch of course). Real mothers still need some "me" time to stay sane. Real mothers have parts of parenting that they don't like. Real mothers can get mind-numbingly bored reading the same book over and over and over and over again. Real mothers don't always look like they've stepped out of the pages of a 1950's edition of Good Housekeeping. Real mothers lose their car keys. Or forget to start dinner. Or sometimes choose to blog instead of playing pokemon cards (otherwise known as the card game from hell). Real mothers can rationalize stealing (and then eating) their children's holiday candy. Real mothers sometimes breathe an audible sigh of relief when bedtime rolls around.

Real mothers love their children more than life itself, and are loved just as much in return, despite, or even because of, all their flaws. Real mothers are you and I.

And now as part of the meme I need to tag 5 more people. Eeny meeny miny moe...

Terri, Janice, Dorit, Darcy and Kim - you're up.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy Feet

Nope, not the singing penguins. I'm talking about my very own tootsies. (I sure hope this post doesn't attract all those foot f*tishing googlers.) Ever since getting pregnant with Itai I've had a major propensity towards seriously ingrown toenails (aren't you glad I told you that?). The only way to avoid them is to be sure that I get a proper pedicure at least every four weeks (3 in summer). This time something went wrong though, and after just 3.5 weeks my feet were in BAD shape. Like unable to wear anything but my Crocs shape. Ouch ouch ouch!

Thank heavens I was finally able to get my very much needed pedicure, and am again the proud possessor of happy, polished and reasonably cute feet. See?

Friday, March 9, 2007

Shoutout to Michelle from Scribbit

Have you all noticed the nifty new gadget I've got in my sidebar? Michelle has developed a search engine just for momblogs - so cool! Go give it a whirl.

Thanks Michelle!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

TT #6 - 13 Israeli (English Language) Singer-Songwriters and Musicians

Since it's already after midnight here in Israel and so in fact Thursday already, and since I just got back from hearing my good friend Shelly Ellen play in Tel Aviv...

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

All of the folks listed below are well known on the local music scene. Some are native-born Israelis, many others are immigrants from English-speaking countries, most are personal friends. They all live in Israel, performing original and other material in English to a variety of audiences. Since I'm a long-time folkie with my own musical roots in folk, classic rock and The Grateful Dead, I've chosen 13 performers from the folk/blues/traditional end of the scale. All are extremely talented, and all have music that can be purchased in the US as well. So come on, check out the links and have a listen for yourselves and see what we get up to musically over here in Israel.

1. Ray Scudero - a true shining star that we were privileged to have among us for much too short a time

2. Joanna Katzen - Ray's wife, a collaborator on this album, and an excellent singer-songwriter herself

3. Jill Rogoff - originals and traditional Celtic, stunning voice

4. Sandy Cash - amazing voice, original songs ranging from hysterically funny (think Christine Lavin) to incredibly poignant

5. Shelly Ellen - folk rolk with forays into blues and country

6. Dov Hammer - blues and more blues

7. Diane & Ada - Folk and world music with lovely harmonies

8. Black Velvet - homegrown Irish, with Celtic, Israeli and Central European influences

9. Lynn and Judy Lewis - bluegrass, and hosts of a popular local folk club

10. Marc Miller - humorous originals

11. The Goldoolins - English folk and "Renaissance Pop", with some 60's thrown in, great acoustic vocals

12. Ofer Golani - eclectic, peace-oriented

13. The Taverners - bawdy fun, definitely not for kids

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday - Easy Birthday Cake

I decided to participate in Shannon's (Rocks In My Dryer) Works For Me Wednesday post this week. Check it out - there are loads of great ideas there.

Here's a foolproof super-easy idea for a birthday cake - great for when you don't have time to fuss.

Photo Frame Cake

(This one stayed in the pan so that it would be easier for me to bring to my son's school. It looks better if you take it out.)

You need:

Photograph of the birthday kid
1 square cake
loads of colored candies, whatever kind the child likes

Take a photo (preferably cropped square) of the birthday kid. (Laminate or seal in a ziploc bag if you want to keep the picture safe.

Bake your favorite cake in a square pan. Frost. Lay the photo in the middle. Cover the rest of the cake (sides too if you wish, but that's optional) with the candy to form a picture frame. Presto, a fun cake sure to impress all your young party guests.

Note: I've found that M&M type candies work really well to cover the cake. Unfortunately, they were off limits this time since they aren't dairy-free (cake had to be kosher pareve) and I was stuck with whatever dairy-free candies I could find. A full face brightly colored photo also works best, but Itai really wanted the picture of him blowing out the candles on his wizard's hat cake (scroll down for pic) from his "friends" party. I did like the juxtaposition of a cake with a kid blowing out candles while he blows out his candles though. Sort of a Hall of Mirrors type thing LOL.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

When you look at it this way...

... I have an awful lot of traveling still to do.

And I can't wait. There's a whole big world out there and I want to see all of it.

create your own visited countries map

Monday, March 5, 2007

Purim 2007 Wrapup

Another Purim has now come and gone. For those who don't know, Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrating the Jews' escape from destruction at the hands of the evil Haman, advisor to King Ahaseurus of Persia. It is a joyous holiday, whose main duty is to eat, drink, be merry and wear silly costumes. The children look forward to it for months, it's like the Israeli child's version of Halloween. They dress up in costumes and exchange Mishloach Manot - gift packages containing traditional hamentaschen cookies, various candies, and of course noisemakers (to blot out the sound of Haman's name). It's all a bit of a three-ring circus at times.

We managed to keep our holiday fairly low-key this year. Both children had class parties on Friday, which they attended with great glee (Itai as the High King Peter from the Narnia Chronicles and Maya as "something cute that Maya will be willing to wear", and yes, she does always wear her crown backwards on her head) and from which they returned loaded higher than a kite on sugar. We then spent a glorious spring Saturday walking (us), rollerblading (Itai) and tricycle riding (Maya) on the Tel Aviv boardwalk, followed by lunch in a favorite seaside pub and a quick stint at playing in the sand until it got too cold. Sunday both children were off for the holiday. I avoided the huge "happenings" (chasing Maya around them is still no fun) and we opted to meet up with all our playgroup buddies instead, a rarity these days with all the children's ridiculously complicated schedules. Today Itai had a big party at "camp". Maya was off so she and I enjoyed a rare Mom and Maya day. I took her to the kiddie salon for a haircut and then out to lunch, which we followed with an oh so glamorous trip to the supermarket. The supermarket was actually fairly painless, thanks to the Milkie (chocolate pudding) that she clutched in her hand the entire time, just waiting for the moment she could get home and dive into it's chocolately whipped creamy goodness. (It's amazing what a small bribe incentive can do...)

Oh, and Itai left the house this morning dressed in an Indian costume (no pictures unfortunately, Jay forgot to take any). This is how he came home. I'd say he had fun...

Friday, March 2, 2007

Wow did I nearly f*ck up!

Jay and I had a fabulous little getaway here - good for the body and definitely good for the soul. So good in fact that we're already plotting our return and wondering whether it would be worth it to join their membership program. We came back in time to get the kids from school and were gratifed to hear how well they'd done. I'm not entirely sure they noticed we were gone, and if they did they were having too much fun to care. In fact, 20 minutes after we got home Maya was asking for a video and Itai informed us that he had a friend coming over shortly, that it had all been arranged. So much for zen-like afterglow...

Anyway, to explain the "how I nearly really truly and utterly f*cked up" part...

Tonight we're celebrating Jay's birthday at a really wonderful Tel Aviv restaurant with a whole host of our nearest and dearest. Everyone's invited (and nearly all are coming), the restaurant is booked, the table for 15 has been confirmed... Then Jay looks at me and asks, just out of curiosity, who's watching the kids tonight? Oh shit!!! Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit. Completely forgot to get a sitter. Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Friday nights are TOUGH around here for sitters - most of our sitters are high school seniors and they're all friends, so one good party and they're all out of commission, which is exactly what happened last night. Thank god I finally tracked down our one older sitter who is both out of high school and available tonight and we're set, otherwise I'd be stuck home missing my own husband's birthday party and feeling VERY angry with myself! It would have taken me YEARS to live that one down!

Now if I only had something decent to wear...

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #5 - Back Again

Thanks to the efforts of Beth and Carol, the TT is back, without missing even a beat.

I've been away the past few days with no computer access *gasp*, so here's an easy one for me this week. On the plus side though, I've finally figured out how to do the Mr. Linky thingie to make life easier for all of you. And, I'll update you all on where I was soon.

Happy TT!

This is a list of 13 European countries I've been to so far, with an observation or two from each. Still on my "someday" list are Ireland, Spain, Croatia and several others. The list is in no particular order. (Oh, and remember, I live in Israel, so it isn't that far for me to get to Europe, especially as a stopover between Israel and a trip back to the States.)

1. Portugal - NO ONE (other than 2 young girls visiting their grandparents) goes to the Algarve in the winter!

2. Czech Republic - beautiful architecture, great beer

3. Greece - gorgeous, but a difficult place to do business

4. England - The Pub on the Puddle, my former home away from home when working in Surrey, and home to assorted friends and a relative or two

5. France - bliss, what more needs to be said

6. Italy - oh, the food, and beautiful Cinque Terre

7. Holland - Space Cakes are not worth the hype

8. Sweden - Gamla Stan, Scandinavian design

9. Denmark - The Little Mermaid statue

10. Norway - simply breathtaking, home to a very dear friend in the computer that I desperately hope to meet someday, and the home of Hell (from which yes, you can send postcards)

11. Malta - looks a lot like some parts of Israel

12. The Vatican - Swiss Guards in funky striped tights

13. Scotland - castles and more castles, and a few wee drinks

So what's on your list? What did you love? What did you not? Where would you go if someone dropped the tickets in your lap?