Friday, June 29, 2007

I don't freaking believe it!! (plus something I forgot)

I forgot to say that anyone who wants to play along with the alphabet meme please let me know in the comments and I'll send a letter your way :). Come on, you know you wanna...

Now back to your regularly scheduled rant.

I can NOT freaking believe this. I just found another one of these! What in hell's name are these @#@#!@#! manufacturers THINKING?!?!?!? I don't care if you don't speak enough English to know what "Teenage Fashion"* means. Anyone with half a brain can tell you that LIPS do NOT belong on the crotch of little girls' size 6 underwear! Another pair for the incinerator. This is getting old I tell you. I was halfway tempted to try and peel the decal off, but couldn't get past the ick factor.

Freaking perverts.

* Just to clarify, "Teenage Fashion" is what was printed on the underwear (for a little girl for cripes sake), right above the lips.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

L is for...

It's my turn to do the alphabet meme, and the oh so lovely Nancy (who's just delurked here after lurking for ages and who's blog I just discovered and am really enjoying - go check it out) has given me the letter "L". I now have to come up with 10 of my favorite things that start with the letter L.

Let's see...

The first one's easy, #1 has to be Love of course. What better L word could there be?

So far so good.

#2 is Lasagna - my wonderful husband makes a fabulous lasagna - complete with homemade pasta. Yum! (And no, that's not his in the picture, it's a stock photo from StockFood.

#3 is Lucky. I'm so lucky to have the world's best husband and two incredible kids.

Hmmm... Getting tougher. How about Lampang for #4. Jay and I had INCREDIBLE 2 hour (yes, two HOUR) Thai mass*ges there in a setting one could only describe as "authentic" for a ridiculously low price.

Ooh, ooh, I know! #5 is Laptop! Where would I be without my laptop!

#6 Lizards - not exactly a favorite thing per se, but the ones we get on our roof (patio) are pretty little and cute, and they do eat mosquitos.

#7 Lemonade - fresh lemonade is a favorite drink here in Israel all year long. You can't get iced tea (can't call it sweet tea, I'm not from the south) anywhere, but you can bank on the lemonade being fresh. I looooove fresh lemonade.

#8 would have to be Lists. I can't function without them. Especially packing lists.

Two more. I think I can, I think I can...

Ok. #9 is Lisa - my mom's name, and she's certainly one of my favorite people.

And last but not least, #10 is Life. Absolutely one of my favorite things. I wouldn't be having any fun without it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thursday Thirteen # 19 - Shades of Blue

Since the colors of green post I did in honor of spring's arrival was such a hit (and continues to be responsible for bringing the most people to my blog, strangely enough), here's one in honor of summertime. As before, most of the definitions are from wikipedia.

Shades of blue:

1. Sky - strangely enough this one wasn't listed in the Wikipedia entry. I think it's a safe bet that we can all recognize sky blue without an official definition though.

2. Denim - a shade of blue that resembles the shade of blue used in Denim (and what could be better than a favorite, perfectly broken in pair of jeans?). This color is an official Crayola color.

3. Azure - a color about halfway between blue and cyan, which resembles the sky on a bright, clear day. It is a pure chroma on the color wheel between blue and cyan, with a hue of 210° in HSV color space. The complementary color of azure is orange.

The term azure derives from the Persian lazhward, which was the name of a place known for its deposits of the deep blue stone now called lapis lazuli (stone of lazhward). The word was adopted into Old French by the twelfth century. From the French it was adopted into the English. The first recorded use of azure as a color name in English was in 1374.

In Russian, goluboj (azure or cyan) and sinij (blue or navy blue) are distinct colors the way red and pink are distinct colors in English. The same distinction exists between "azzurro" (azure, but used to indicate various shades of light blue) and "blu" (blue) in Italian.

United Nations azure is also called United Nations blue. This is the color of the flag of the United Nations and of the helmets worn by the United Nations peacekeeping forces.

4. Royal - a darker shade of blue. In religion, royal blue is the color of royalty to welcome the coming of a king. In Christian art, royal blue can also symbolize the night sky in which the star appeared to the wise men to announce the birth of Jesus. In the film Liar, Liar, Jim Carey, playing the main protagonist, unsuccessfully attempts to lie that a Royal Blue pen is in fact red.

5. Navy - an especially dark shade of the color blue. Some people mistake navy blue for black, especially when concerning clothing, most notably the navy blue pinstripes of the New York Yankees home uniform. Navy blue got its name from the dark blue (contrasted with white) worn by officers in the Royal Navy since 1748 and subsequently adopted by other navies around the world. In the US Navy and the Canadian Navy, many uniforms which are called "blue" (e.g. Working Blues and Service Dress Blues) Canada (uniforms 1, 1A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B (winter), 3C) are such a dark shade that they appear black (see Uniforms of the United States Navy), especially under artificial lighting.

In contemporary Western clothing fashion, navy blue is considered a conservative color appropriate for men's business dress. Navy blue is the nearly universal color of blazers and is also a favored color for suits. The complimentary colour of navy blue is peach.

6. Dark - The name comes from the word "Dark" (which originated from Old English dark, derk, deork; Anglo-Saxon dearc, and Gaelic and Irish dorch, dorcha) and "Blue" (taken from French and originated from the Indo-European root bhlewos). Dark blue represents knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness. In Western civilization, those in high places of political or economic power often wear dark blue suits.

Light blue - a web color on the official list of web colors. Sometimes the color light blue is erroneously confused with Baby blue. The first recorded use of "light blue" as a color term in English is in the year 1915. The color light blue is used to represent boys as opposed to the color pink which is used to represent girls. In historical atlases published in Germany, light blue is commonly used as a color to represent Germany, as opposed to pink for England, violet for France, and light green for Russia.

The color light blue is commonly regarded as calming and relaxing. Because of this, sometimes it is used to paint hospital rooms. Since the color light blue reminds many people of water (although the actual color of water is cyan), light blue is a popular color for painting bathrooms or for porcelain bathroom fixtures.

Light blue is sometimes used as a synonym for the University of Cambridge, in contrast with the University of Oxford which has adopted a dark blue color. In Christianity light blue represents the deadly sin of sloth.

Midnight - a dark shade of blue, close to black, that was named for its darkness. Midnight blue is an official Crayola color, which was originally called Prussian blue. It is close to the color of Indigo dye. As it is a web-safe color, Midnight blue is an extremely popular color choice, showing up on various websites, including the latest version of Google's blog service, Blogger.

Historically, the traditional uniform colour of French Army officers is midnight blue. Officers (who purchased their own uniforms) normally chose midnight blue uniforms, or chose black uniforms which they called midnight blue, because they considered them smarter than the lighter shade, dark blue, used by other ranks.

The Carlton Blues, an Australian Rules Football Team, wear midnight blue colored Jerseys. The University of Toledo (Ohio) Rockets football and basketball teams wear midnight blue and gold jerseys. The New York Yankees Major League Baseball team have midnight blue as one of their official colors.

"Midnight blue" is the title of several songs, including ones by Lou Gramm, Melissa Manchester, Megumi Hayashibara, jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell and the Electric Light Orchestra.

9. Turquoise - the color of the stone in the very first piece of jewelry I ever bought for myself - a turquoise and silver ring purchsed on a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico the summer I was seven. I wore it until it literally had to be cut off my finger. This picture even looks a lot like my old ring.


10. Aquamarine - a member of the beryl family, like emeralds. Aquamarine is transparent blue or sea-green (obviously we're going for blue here. Work with me folks.). The name comes from a Latin phrase meaning "water of the sea." Aquamarine is found all over the world, including Brazil, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Madagascar. It was thought to bring its wearers knowledge, foresight and inspiration. This variety of Beryl is transparent and comes in shades of blue and blue-green. However, the most admired aquamarine color, which is sky-blue, is produced by applying heat treatment to a greenish or yellow-brown beryl. Heat will enhance its blue color permanently.

The USS Aquamarine (PYc-7) was a patrol boat in the United States Navy during World War II.

11. Cobalt - a cool, slightly desaturated blue colour, historically made using cobalt salts. It was discovered by Louis-Jacques Thenard in 1802. The world leading manufacturer of cobalt blue in the 19th century was Blaafarveværket in Norway, led by Benjamin Wegner. It is extraordinarily stable. Chemically it is a cobalt(II) oxide-aluminium oxide, or cobalt(II) aluminate, Co(AlO2)2. Commercial production began in France in 1807. It is made by sintering the stoichiometric mixture of finely ground CoO and Al2O3 at 1200°C. (No, I don't know what this means either. - R)

The blue seen on many glassware pieces is cobalt blue, and it is used widely by artists in many other fields. John Varley suggested it as a good substitution for ultramarine blue for painting skies. Maxfield Parrish, famous partly for the intensity of his skyscapes, used cobalt blue, and cobalt blue is sometimes called Parrish blue as a result. Because of its chemical stability in the presence of alkali, it is used as a pigment in blue concrete.

"Cobalt Blue" is also a filter used in ophthalmoscopes, and is used to illuminate the cornea of the eye following application of fluorescein dye which is used to detect corneal ulcers and scratches.

Periwinkle - a desaturated colour in the blue/indigo/violet family. Its name is derived from the lesser periwinkle or myrtle herb (Vinca minor) which bears flowers of the same colour. Periwinkle is also called lavender blue. It may be considered a pastel indigo. The first recorded use of periwinkle as a colour name in English was in 1922.

Baby - a lighter shade of cyan. It is known as a pastel color. Baby blue is identical to the X11 web color light cyan. The first recorded use of baby blue as a color name in English was in 1892. Baby blue is used extensively in products for baby boys.

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!

WFMW - Ordering Flowers

My tip for this week is about ordering flower deliveries. Whenever I need to send a bouquet to someone out of town (and since I live in Israel the entire US certainly constitutes "out of town") I look online to find the name and number of a local florist in that community and just call them directly. That way I don't have to pay the exhorbitant rates charged by companies like Interflora and can spend that extra money on a nicer bouquet. I even get to support a local business to boot. Much nicer than lining the pockets of a big multi-national corporation yet again.

That's what works for me this week. Check out Shannon's Rocks in My Dryer for more great tips.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Three Things I Want My Children To...

It must be serendipity. For the past few days I've been mulling over a post about a favorite meme question of mine, "what three qualities do you most want to instill in your children?", so when I saw that MamaBlogga's new Group Writing Project is about just that, or nearly so, I jumped on it. She asks bloggers to write on the theme of "3 things I want my children to..."

I could say that I want my children to start eating vegetables, or begin to clean up after themselves without being asked, or simply to get up and dressed on time in the morning with a smile on their face. (Ha! Fat chance. I'd sooner ask for the sun to stop circling the earth. Oh wait. It's the earth that spins while the sun stands still. Nevermind. Bygones.) I could have answered in many different ways, but I couldn't pass up the chance to get all introspective and serious for a few minutes, so here it is.

The three qualities I most hope to instill in my children are open-mindedness, a love of diversity, and a strong sense of self.

Open-mindedness: the ability to recognize and appreciate that there are many different and varied paths to walk, the ability to see the positive in a new approach, a new way of thinking, a new solution. To take new information or ways of thinking and judge them openly and honestly, on their merits, and to not be afraid to adopt those that are judged worthy, whether they are the popular choice or just the right one.

Diversity: To be accepting and gentle with those whose lives are on a different path, and to strive to see the beauty in the differences among us. To see that what unites us is so much stronger than that which divides us. To cherish and promote tolerance.

A strong sense of self: To believe in themselves enough, to have a strong enough sense of their own identity, that they are able to be open-minded and value diversity, to see the beauty in the ways of others without feeling threatened or diminished, but rather strengthened and confident in their own convictions. To grow up knowing who they are, and to find joy in the lifelong discovery of what they are.

And so, my children, my wish for you. Be true to yourselves, be tolerant and open-minded in your dealings with all others, and the rest will follow along.

Monday, June 25, 2007

It's that time of year again

End of the year party time that is. Do your children's schedules get this crazy at the end of the year too or is this an Israeli thing?

Last Thursday and Saturday we had birthday parties. Yesterday Itai had his English lesson (no change there for now), today is blissfully free so we'll head for the pool with a picnic supper this afternoon, tomorrow is Itai's kindergarten graduation (a two-hour event in the evening with no brothers and sisters, so we've got a sitter for Maya, and Jay has to bake two pizzas to bring). Wednesday is his grand finale show for rollerblading (another evening party, and this time he wants to invite a friend to come along), Thursday is his afternoon program's end of year party (and Maya's developmental intake exam for several hours in the morning, just to keep things interesting). Friday is yet another birthday party (got to fit in all those summer birthdays before the end of the year), next Wednesday starts 2x a week swimming lessons, and then next Thursday morning Jay and Itai leave for Eilat (a family trip for Jay's company) while Maya and I remain behind for her end of year party/graduation that evening and then fly down to meet up with them the following morning. By then camp will be in full swing too. Sheesh. I think I'd better schedule "eat and breathe" in there somewhere or we're going to run out of time for that too! And I just know that at some point, someone in this family is going to show up on the wrong day or at the wrong event. It's practically inevitable...

Whatever happened to the lazy days of summer? All we're getting here are the hazy crazy ones. And then Jay wonders why by the time the weekends roll around all I want to do is veg!
Please tell me I'm not the only one facing this level of insanity.

PS Someone just found my blog by doing a search for "my boyfriend wet the bed diaper". Ewww! I don't even want to know what that's all about, but I strongly suspect that this post they found isn't it!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Another great summer/picnic dish - Cold Rice Salad with Spinach and Herbs

This time it's a side dish. I was looking for a new cold rice dish to bring to a barbecue the other night and found this one from Delia Smith. I wasn't that excited by her choice of herbs though, so I tweaked it a bit to make better use of some the best of what my greengrocer had to offer this week. If people's coming back to take second and third helpings means anything it was a hit.

Here's my version. (This is where I would have inserted a photo of the dish, but my husband went and finished it when I wasn't looking. You're just going to have to take my word for it that it looked lovely and summery with all those little flecks of green against the white rice.)

Robin's Cold Rice Salad with Spinach and Herbs

12oz (350ml) white or brown rice
24 fl oz (700 ml) boiling water or vegetable stock - double the volume of rice (I used water)
2-2.5 Tbls oil
1 tsp salt
2-3 handfuls of spinach leaves
3-4 spring onions, including the green tops
1-2 heaped tsp EACH of fresh sage, mint and dill
grated rind of 1/2 lemon

For the dressing:
1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 clove garlic
1 tsp dry mustard powder
1 Tbls cider vinegar
5 Tbls olive oil

Heat the oil in a pan, stir in the rice, then pour in the boiling water or stock. Add the salt, stir once and allow it to come back to the boil. Cover, then reduce the heat to give a bare simmer. Cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just tender (15-20 minutes).

Throw all the green ingredients (spinach leaves, green onions and herbs) into the food processor and pulse a few times until they're finely chopped. (Don't overprocess or you'll wind up with a puree.)

Mix the green ingedients and the lemon zest (the grated rind) gently into the rice. Cover the pan with a folded cloth and leave aside for 10 minutes.

Make the dressing by crushing the salt, peppercorns and garlic together with a pestle and mortar. (You could probably do this in the mini bowl of a food processor, but it was very easy to do in a mortar and pestle. Alternatively, just mince the garlic beforehand and then use regular salt and ground pepper). Pour into a screw-top jar. Add the mustard, vinegar and olive oil, and shake the whole thing until well-mixed.

Put the rice into a serving bowl, pour the dressing all over and mix gently.

Serve warm or cold.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #18 - Why I'm Late

What a day, I'm beat. It's now after 8:30pm here and I'm just getting a chance to sit down at the computer. Why you ask?


1. I went out to breakfast with my husband this morning

2. We went straight from there to an intake meeting at the Child Development Center to discuss some issues my daughter is having. (We have to bring her back with us next week for the next round.)

3. From there we went to Ace to look at the Weber grill Jay wants to bring back from the States in August (to see what we'd need to get it compatible with Israeli gas balloons).

4. Then Jay went back to work and I went next door to do a major grocery shopping.

5. From there I walked across the street to a new gourmet/housewares store that's just opened up and spent way too much money on cold cuts, cheeses, and other tidbits. Not more than they'd necessarily be at any other comparable store, but more than i needed to considering I'd just been to the supermarket 5 minutes earlier. (But what a store! And just a mile from my house. This is going to be very dangerous...)

6. I then took a cab home (it was way too hot to walk) and came home to find that my groceries had been delivered, so instead of relaxing for the 15 minutes I had before it was time to go get the kids from school I raced around putting all the groceries away.

7. Then I tried to check my e-mail and discovered something had gone screwy and I had no internet connection at all.

8. At that point it was time to walk over to Maya's preschool and get her.

9. From there we took a cab over to Itai, picked him up and headed home.

10. As soon as the kids got out of the cab they both announced they wanted to go to the playground.

11. We spent about 45 minutes at the playground.

12. Then it was time to race home and grab the present for a birthday party Itai was invited to in a different park across the street. Maya decided she wanted to stay at the party too (very acceptable, not a problem), so we spent the rest of the evening there and just got home at about 8pm.

13. I never had a chance for lunch (other than a few (albeit very yummy) sample cold cuts at the gourmet store. I didn't have a chance to eat when I was home putting the groceries away, and then I tried to avoid eating a lot of crap at the party, so by the time I finally got home tonight I was ravenous and went straight to the kitchen to make and devour a roast beef sandwich.
All of which is a very roundabout way of saying "That's why my TT is late this week."
Phew. No wonder I'm tired.

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, June 20, 2007

Summer picnic fare

Shelly over at This Eclectic Life asked for suggestions for picnic food, particularly for things she could bring to a blankets on the grass outdoor theater performance. I'm a huge fan of picnics and outdoor eating, so I couldn't help but jump in and offer up a few of my favorites.

What are some of your family's favorite summer picnic foods? Leave me a note in the comments and I'll post the links below.

Here are some of mine:

Cold Sesame Noodles (always a real crowd-pleaser)
Note: this can be made vegetarian by leaving out the meat, but since we all know how much Shelly loves her bacon I suspect that won't be needed in her house)

Serves 2-3 on its own or 4-6 as a side dish

2oz/50g lean back bacon (hard to find here so I use Chinese-style roast pork - I roast up a big hunk every now and again and freeze it in smaller portions for throwing into things like this, stir-fries, etc.)
1 Tbl peanut (or other light) oil
1/2 inch/1cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped (no need to peel)
1 clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
4oz/100g fresh bean sprouts
2 tsp Mirin or sherry (or other light white cooking wine)
7 inch/18cm cucumber, diced (no need to peel or seed unless it's one of those big waxy, seedy ones. If it's au naturel just dice that sucker up)
8oz/225g dried egg noodles (skinny ones like soba noodles, i.e. the ones that look like spaghetti)
2 spring onions (scallions), very thinly sliced
3 Tbl sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbl light soy sauce
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Grill or broil the bacon until the edges crisp up, then cut it up into very small pieces. Heat the peanut oil in a wok (or deep frying pan if you don't have a wok) until very hot, then add the ginger, garlic and bean sprouts. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, splash in the wine and toss 30 seconds longer. Scoop into a small bowl and leave to cool.

If you've got a big seedy waxed cucumber: cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out and discard the seedy center and finely dice the flesh. Set aside. (Thankfully, they sell the little ones here, no need for all this nonsense. I want wax on my candles, not on my food!)

Boil the noodles until al dente or as directed on the package, separating the strands with a wooden spoon, then rinse them under cold water and drain thoroughly. Combine all the ingredients in a serving bowl, mixing very thoroughly. May be served straight away or refrigerated up to 6 hours.

Shelly also asked for some savory tart recipes. Here are a few I like because they're actually light and reasonably healthy. Ok, the truth is I absolutely adore the traditional, heavy, laden with fat and cholesterol versions (I can't help it, it's the Hungarian in me, a love of heavy creamy dishes is in my blood), but since I might just as well go ahead and glue those directly to my already quite a bit larger than I'd like it to be derriere I've made it a project to find decent lower calorie substitutes. (If anyone really really wants the fattening versions I'll post them, as long as you sign this handy little waiver I've got in case your favorite jeans no longer fit after eating it...)

Spinach Pie
1700 calories (for the whole pie)

1 bunch fresh spinach (washed and chopped) OR 1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup water
3 fist-sized potatos, peeled and grated and with the water squeezed out
4 zucchinis, grated and squeezed
3 Tbl bread crumbs (homemade if you got 'em)
2+2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl mayonnaise (lowfat ok)
2 eggs
2 Tbl chicken soup powder (ubiquitious in Israeli recipes)
1 Tbl dried dill
1/4 tsp black pepper
salt to taste

9x13 inch (20x30cm) or so rectangular pan

Steam the spinach in water for about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and steam for another 3 minutes while stirring. Drain and return to pot.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Transfer to a greased dish and bake in a medium oven (say about 350F/170C) for about 45 minutes (keep an eye on it).

Green Tart
750 calories (for the whole pie)

5 medium leeks, cut into thin rings
2 heads of celery, roughly grated (i.e. give it a quick whizz around the food processor)
1 cup (yes, cup) of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 eggs
1/4 tsp ground caroway seeds
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 Tbl good quality olive oil

Pour enough boiling water on the leeks to cover them and leave to sit for 15 minutes.

Drain the leeks and squeeze out the excess water. Add the celery, cilantro, dill and sesame seeds and mix thoroughly.

Beat the eggs with the spices and the oil, add to the leek mixture and mix thoroughly.

Pour into a greased 9-10" (26cm) pie plate and make in a medium oven (say about 350F/170C) for about 45 minutes (keep an eye on it).

Butternut Squash and Eggplant Tart

2 large eggplants
2 large butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and cleaned of seeds
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup lowfat soft white cheese (i.e. farmer cheese or other)
1 cup lowfat garlic flavor soft cheese spread
2 Tbl mayonnaise (lowfat ok)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Grill the eggplant and squash on a medium-high heat until soft. Remove seeds. Put in large mixing bowl and mix together well (they should each be falling apart a bit). You can mix them in a food processor if you like, but I prefer to leave them a little bit chunkier. Add the beaten eggs and mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add to the eggplant-squash mixture and combine thoroughly.

Pour into a greased pie plate and bake for 45 minutes in a medium oven (say about 350F/170C) for about 45 minutes (keep an eye on it).

Optional: throw in some sauteed mushrooms in addition, or even instead of the eggplant. Steamed carrots and/or sweet potatoes would also work. It's a flexible style of cooking. Get creative.

WFMW - Bring Bubbles

Bottles of bubbles are a great icebreaker. They seem to attract smiling children wherever you go. If your travel plans this summer involve taking your young children to places where they won't know anyone, throw in a few bottles of bubbles and they'll be making fast friends in no time at all. They're also great for burning off some energy during long road trips - my 6 year old invented bubble baseball (with a nerf bat) on our recent trip to the States and it became an instant family favorite.

Bubbles - they work for me.

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for more great tips from the parenting trenches.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

8 (More) Things About Me

The lovely LadyG tagged me for another round of the 8 things about me meme a while back and now that I'm home and back in the swing of things I figured it was time to stop forcing you to look at my vacation pictures and tackle it. Let's see...

1. I'm PMS'ing and in dire need of chocolate

2. which I'm trying desperately not to go find

3. since I'm on a diet

4. and trying to relose the 2 pounds I gained on vacation

5. plus the significantly more than 2 pounds I still needed to lose before leaving on vacation.

6. I deserve a pat on the back for going along with the healthy dessert choice of watermelon for tomorrow night's GNI instead of offering to bake something really decadent.

7. Instead I'm making a mediterranean-style cold rice salad to go along with the "healthy grilling" menu we've planned.

8. I just had my hair colored yesterday, and it's a lot more brown and less red this time. I liked the red better, but I'm trying to cover up the older blond highlights that kept showing through the red, so I decided to try this. It's basically my original color, but it's been a while since it's been this dark so it takes a bit of getting used to. I'm waiting to see what happens as it lightens up.

There, that's 8. Now I'm tagging any of you who want to play. Here are the rules:
  • Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
  • People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
  • At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
  • Don't forget to leave them a comment and tell them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Monday, June 18, 2007

And you thought I'd forgotten (Vancouver pics)

Thought you'd gotten off easy, huh? Not a chance. I still have one more batch of pictures to share before you're off the hook.

Last but certainly not least... *drumroll please*


Capilano Suspension Bridge - If you look closely, you can see a footbridge strung way up in the trees. VERY cool place. Visit their website to see pictures showing how amazing this place really is.

. .
Playing "Bubble Baseball" by the camper
Hot Tub Volleyball at the campground with Grandma (who says camping is roughing it?)


Kayaking on Indian Arm, near Vancouver (Itai, Jay and I. Maya was in the canoe with my parents)


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Now it really feels like summer

We just got back from our first actual summer trip to the beach (i.e. we've been before but I hadn't gone in and by now the water is delightfully warm).

We had a great day. Itai conquered his fear of jumping the waves, and as usual Maya was Little Miss Fish (scarily so, she'd try to go to Cyprus on her own if I'd just agree to let go of her arm). We also dug a hole which reached nearly to China (with a bit of help from Daddy) which kept everyone busy for a good hour at least!

After another swim the kids also flew Itai's new kite which went beautifully until Maya accidentally let go. She burst into tears and felt absolutely awful about it, quickly followed by the tears of an enraged Itai. Thankfully it snagged on some grass on it's way to the parking lot and Jay was able to get it back before we had WWIII, so all's well that ends well. They've since kissed and made up. (Well Maya apologized over and over and gave him a hug and a kiss right when it happened, it took Itai quite a bit longer to forgive her, helped in no small part by the fact that the kite didn't actually get lost.)

We're home now (duh, even I wouldn't go so far as to bring a laptop to the beach). As soon as Maya's done in the bath I'm going to hit the shower, and the boys are busy cutting basil and getting ready to grill hamburgers for dinner. Yum.

(Oh, and it's a good thing that I'm not breastfeeding anyone right now, because after consoling a sand-caked Maya after the kite incident I am covered from head to toe in sand. Even my boobs are covered with sand!)

Friday, June 15, 2007

By request - Salmon House recipes

Ye asked, and ye shall receive.

All recipes are from Dan Atkinson's Salmon House on the Hill Cookbook.

Rum-Soaked Salmon with Apple Ginger Puree
Serves 4

1/4 cup (60ml) dark rum
2 Tbls (30ml) Demarara sugar
1 Tbls (15ml) minced lemon grass (white part only)
salt and black pepper to taste
4 x 8oz (225g) boneless salmon fillets
1 recipe Apple Ginger puree (see below)

Mix together the rum, sugar, lemon grass, salt and pepper and rub the mixture over the salmon. Marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Turn the salmon over frequently for best results.

Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Bake the salmon for 10. Remove the salmon, place on serving plates and top with the apple ginger puree. The puree is served cold, so if you don't want anyone to complain about cold salmon, serve it on the side or around the salmon rather than on top.

Apple Ginger Puree
Makes 1.5 cups (360ml)

1 Tbls (15ml) granulated sugar
2 Tbls (30ml) hot water
1/2 cup (120ml) ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 cup (240ml) peeled and diced Granny Smith apples
1 Tbls (15ml) apricot chutney
1 Tbls (15ml) white wine
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) Dijon mustard

Dissolve the sugar in the hot water. Combine the ginger, apple, chutney, white wine, mustard and sugar solution. Process in a food processor until finely ground. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Fresh Fruit Salsa with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper
Serves 4

Fresh fruit and balsamic vinegar could go equally well on a salad or with ice cream. Now you can say you have tried everything.

1 cup (240ml) balsamic vinegar
1 Tbls (15ml) lemon juice
1/2 cup (120ml) honey
2 Tbls (30ml) cracked black pepper
1 cup (240ml) strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 cup (240ml) blueberries
1 cup (240ml) pineapple, pared and diced
1 cup (240ml) mango, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup (240ml) kiwi, peeled and diced
4 sprigs mint

Place the vinegar, lemon juice, honey and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Add the fruit and toss. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Divide the salsa between 4 sundae glasses. Serve with a sprig of mint.

Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cheesecake
Makes one 4x12 inch (10x30cm) loaf pan

This is a good recipe for a cheese appetizer. It can be served warm right from the oven or chilled from the refrigerator. The smoked sockeye salmon adds a rich, smooth, smoky flavor.

1/2 cup (120ml) grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbls (30ml) butter
1/2 cup (120ml) minced onion
1/2 tsp (2.5ml) minced garlic
1.5 lbs (680g) cream cheese
4 eggs
1/2 cup (120ml) whipping cream
1/2 lb (225g) smoked salmon, pureed

Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Line a 4x12 inch (10x30cm) pan with parchment paper. Brush with butter and sprinkle a little of the parmesan cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Do not allow them to color. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Place the cream cheese in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the eggs, cream and salmon and process slowly on low speed until it is well mixed. Pour into the pan and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese.

Place the pan in a larger pan and add enough water to come halfway up the side of the pan with the cheesecake. Bake for 1.5 hours. Cool, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. It slices well when it is chilled, but it does get firmer the longer it chills.

(Carolyn, was that the one you'd wanted?)

Bon appetit!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

That's just going to have to do for now

(Scroll down if you're looking for the Thursday Thirteen. Sorry to bump it off the top, but I needed to vent.)

I've been going round and round with my header and tagline. There's no way around it. I'm going to have to find a graphics program and redo it myself as a jpeg to get the text looking decent. Blogger really sucks for any kind of graphics editing.

I wonder if my old desktop still has photoshop on it...


PS Terri, your idea worked, and it is definitely better than it was before. Unfortunately, that little bit better still looks like crap against the busy background and needs more manipulation than line breaks can supply.

Thursday Thirteen #17 - Cool recipes from my new cookbook

I collect cookbooks, and I love bringing a new one home as a souvenir of my travels. Here are 13 really intriguing recipes from a new cookbook I just got in Vancouver - The Salmon House on the Hill Cookbook by Dan Atkinson. It's chock full of great-sounding salmon recipes (obviously), shellfish, meat, decadent desserts... Sadly, good fresh shellfish is unbelievably expensive and hard to come by here in Israel, so some of the best sounding recipes are going to have to be real "special occasion" food. They sure sound delicious though. Here, don't take my word for it. See for yourselves:
  1. Crab, Potato and Corn Cakes, with Tamarind Sauce and Mango Coulis
  2. Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cheesecake
  3. Chili-Cumin Dusted Scallops with Tomatoes and Blue Cheese Toasts
  4. Grilled New York Steak with Black Truffle Oil, Tarragon Butter and Brown Sauce
  5. Pork Medallions with Pecans and Maple Bourbon Glaze
  6. Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Blueberry Cognac Sauce
  7. Rum-Soaked Salmon with Apple Ginger Puree
  8. Vancouver Island Sidestripe Prawns with Chili Almond Pesto
  9. Scallop Ravioli with 3-Cheese Alfredo and Basil Pesto
  10. Asparagus Glazed with Orange Hollandaise
  11. White and Dark Chocolate Mousse Pie
  12. Fresh Fruit Salsa with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper
  13. Sun-Dried Cherry Scones

Ummm... Now I'm hungry. Somehow I don't think my cornflakes are going to appeal much this morning. And as usual, if you want any of the recipes, let me know.

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, June 13, 2007

Template help?

Does anyone know how to force line breaks in the header's blog description? The tagline doesn't show up well because it now covers too many different background colors. I could fix it if I could manage to insert line breaks.

Sometimes Blogger is really difficult to work with...

WFMW - Full Meal Muffins

If your kids are anything like mine, it's not always easy to get them to sit down for a meal. For those grazing days, one solution that has earned its place in my regular repertoire is the Vegan Lunchbox's Full Meal Muffins. We're not vegan (or even vegetarian), but we sure love these delicious muffins. In fact, they've been asking for them for the past two days, so it looks like muffin-making is on today's agenda.

Jennifer developed them with the idea that they'd be an easy, convenient, nutritious main course. My kids love them because they think they're pulling one over on me and getting to eat junk food for a meal. I love them because I know that they're actually eating something super-healthy. I'm sneaky that way.

Reprinted from The Vegan Lunchbox
Makes 12 muffins

1 cup whole spelt flour
1 cup barley flour (or use 1 cup white and 1 cup whole wheat flour in place of spelt and barley if you prefer)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ripe bananas, peeled
3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
½ cup apple juice, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 zucchini, finely grated (about 1 ½ cups)
½ cup finely chopped or ground walnuts½ cup currants or raisins (optional, they add a touch of sweetness)

Preheat the oven to 375º. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and spray with nonstick spray.

Combine both flours, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda in a mixing bowl and whisk together. Place the bananas, blackstrap molasses, apple juice, and apple cider vinegar in a blender and blend until smooth. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, then fold in the zucchini, walnuts, and currants or raisins. Use a bit more apple juice if needed to wet all the flour.

Divide mixture evenly into the 12 lined muffin cups, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the top springs back to the touch. Remove muffins from the pan and cool on a wire rack.Store in an airtight container or freeze in individual freezer bags to pull out and put into lunches as needed.

Extra tip from Robin - my daughter won't eat anything she even suspects of having vegetables or raisins in it, so I just puree those and the nuts really well right in with the rest of the ingredients, and voila, a nice even texture which can hide all sorts of secrets. Oh, and I have to make a double batch if I want any to freeze - they never last long enough otherwise.
Check out Shannon's Rocks in My Dryer for more good tips.

The Perfect Getaway

While we were away, Jay and I took a little "vacation from our vacation" and headed to Victoria, B.C. for two nights while my parents got the chance for some quality time with the grandchildren (who were so busy having fun while we were gone that they barely had time to talk to us when we called). We stayed in the very lovely Veranda Room at the Beaconsfield Inn, a charming little hotel that is short on distractions (no phone, no tv) but long on pampering (even putting out sherry and homemade cookies each evening). It was just what we needed to reconnect. We spent the weekend wandering around the harbor area watching boats and seaplanes go in and out, exploring the outer neighborhoods, sitting at outdoor cafes watching the world go by, hiking to deserted beaches (the Sooke picture I shared a few posts back), checking out the world's cutest houseboats, eating great food, and just generally enjoying each other, something we don't get the chance to do as often as we should. It was such a great, and greatly needed, getaway. We even had the chance to get an up close and personal view of an orca (killer whale) teaching her 2 week old baby how to hunt for salmon! So so cool...

The Beaconsfield
Seaplanes land right in the middle of town
The world's cutest houseboats
Victoria's climate is much milder than the rest of Canada's, and it's rightfully famous for all the flowers in bloom everywhere
. .

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

All I want for Christmas...

My toothless wonder, and oh so proud of it.

(We don't celebrate Christmas of course, but I figured if I wrote All I Want For Hannukah no one would get the reference.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

There's a parade outside my window

I was sitting in the kitchen doing not a whole lot when all of a sudden loudspeakers started blaring loud Mizrachi (North African style) religious music. I looked out the window to find to my surprise that there was a parade right below me. One of the local synagogues (the Morrocan one from the look of things) is getting a new Sefer Torah (Torah, or Old Testament, scroll). They are traditionally received with a parade of people dancing and singing, though I suspect the truck with the HUGELY LOUD loudspeakers is a modern innovation...

I'd wondered what was happening when I got home and saw police blocking off the main commercial street behind me and a guy wandering around with a tv camera, but I didn't expect to find a parade right under my window.

I don't particularly care for the style of music, but it's certainly an "authentic cultural experience", and anyway it's always fun to see a parade, whatever the reason.

Excuse the shaky video, I'm 9 floors up and was too lazy to go upstairs to the roof (patio) to film so I filmed out the kitchen window over my laundry lines.

A few minutes after I took that video, I went across the street to get Itai from his friend's and on our way back we discovered that the parade had returned and parked right in front of our house (blocking traffic in the parking lot completely too). I'm sorry I didn't have my camera with me, because not only did was the Torah itself in a beautiful silver and velvet round case in the Sephardi style, but the loudspeaker van was not to be believed. Turns out it was a trailer decked out especially for these Torah scroll parades (complete with the cellphone number to call to rent it), but it had not one, not two, not three, but ELEVEN disco balls strung on top (!), together with a collection of spinning colored lights that would have put Studio 54 to shame. It was really something unbelievable... How did I notice all this you might wonder? Easy. I couldn't drag the kids away so we stood there watching them stand around and do nothing (while they played ear-splittingly loud music and I tried to keep a hold on one set of keys, one real cellphone, one toy cellphone, one page of stickers, a large water bottle, a soccer ball, and a 40 pound kid who only wanted to be lifted up) for another half-hour, so I had lots of time to notice all these little details.

Seattle - In the SUN!

Oh my god, you mean she's got more? *thud*

I love this one, Itai reminds me of Seymour the Sea Monster.
Check it out! Sea lions!!
A visit to Tillacum Village.
And of course no visit to Seattle would be complete without a picture of the Space Needle...

Saturday, June 9, 2007

San Francisco - Fun and Family

Most of our time in San Francisco was spent either going to big ticket kids' attractions (Jay's aunt went all out with the itinerary) or else on the complete opposite end of the spectrum spending time visiting with family and going to the local playground (which also provided sand toys and bathrooms (clean and stocked bathrooms at that!). I was mucho impressed, you won't find that in Israel.)

I've already told you about most of what we did there, so I'll just add some pictures here for color. (Unfortunately we forgot to send a camera when Itai went to kindergarten, so no pictures of that, but he did have a blast.)
. .

Aaaaaaand they're off (Tel Aviv to San Francisco)

At long last, the first installment in my very overdue travelogue.(The really interesting stuff will start with the next entry, this is the travel itself that I'm logging for posterity. No idea why, it wasn't that interesting, but now that I've started I feel obligated to follow through...)

Itai and I left the house at the unholy hour of 3am for our 5:30am flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt. Itai started this trip off the way he'd remain throughout - unbelievably cool and cooperative. He literally bounced out of bed at 3am and got ready so fast we were ready early! He was so excited to leave that he insisted we go downstairs to wait for the taxi 15 minutes early. Our flight from TA was pretty uneventful. Our only (fairly minor) hassles were the fact that our original seats were in completely separate rows (easily dealt with), that we'd forgotten to order him a kid's meal (he managed to choke down a pretty inedible adult one) and the fact that the movie they showed was Rocky Balboa. Great, show an overly excited 6 year old a boxing movie - I spent hours after that trying to get him to stop pretending to punch.

We had just a 1 hour layover in Frankfurt before boarding the next flight - this one to NY. This flight was completely uneventful. Itai slept nearly the whole time, and even I, who never ever sleeps on planes, managed a few hours. After a 2 or 3 hour layover in NY, we boarded our final flight of the day to San Francisco. And sat on the tarmac for another 2.5 hours as storms rolled through, shutting down all of Kennedy Airport for a few hours. The pilot didn't want to let us off since we were #2 in the queue and he knew if we lost our spot we'd be stuck hours longer as they started dealing with the inbound flights from Europe, but they were good about serving drinks and showing movies to pass the time. We were getting a bit punchy by this point, but it wasn't too bad.

We finally arrived in SF at about 10pm, met up with Jay's aunt and uncle, and discovered that Maya's carseat, which we'd checked as baggage, had not made the flight with us. Luckily we didn't nead it until the following morning.

The next morning I had brunch with my boss and a coworker, finally meeting them face to face, and then it was time to head to the airport to pick up the rest of the family, who as you can see were quite happy to be reunited. (You can also see from the picture that Maya's seat showed up the following day. Unfortunately, Jay's suitcase did not, yet again SFO had lost our luggage...)