Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Find Your Own Voice

When Shelly told me that Clean Cut Blog was hosting a group writing project about your ONE first rule of writing I was intrigued. I love riffing off a theme, and I love to hear myself talk (or should that be read myself writing?), so off I went to the wilds of my keyboard to try and come up with my own very first rule of writing.

Hmmm... What to pick... tap... tap tap... tap tap tap...

Should it be "always spellcheck", or "always start with a hook", or "picture them in their underwear"?... (Oh wait, that one is for public speaking. Nevermind.) Perhaps it is "always follow the hero cycle" - that one worked for writing 12th grade English papers...

I thought about what makes me enjoy various writers - is it the expertly crafted sentences, the fascinating subject material, the beautifully realistic dialogue?... Perhaps it's their overly zealous use of periods...

No, my first rule of writing wasn't any of those. And then it became clear.

My first rule of writing is to find your own voice.

Sure, there are a whole lot of great writers out there, crafting beautiful turns of phrase that are a pleasure to read. I love reading a great novel, or a fascinating blog, or heck, even the back of a cereal box, and can take inspiration from all of them, but my own writing, such as it is, wouldn't ring true if it weren't written with my own voice.

I believe that everyone has something to say, and that everyone CAN say it. Who better to tell a story than the person living it, either physically or within their own imagination. I'm not a professional writer (ok, I am in a way, but that's markcom, not creative writing. Ok, yes, I suppose markcom can be a form of fiction at times, but you know what I mean.) and I will never be a great writer. What I can do is be true to my inner muse, whether she wants to write long philosophical essays about nothing at all or just to document the minutiae of my children's lives.

By writing in my own voice, I give you a glimpse into my world, my head, my heart. Read it if you like.

I hope you will.

Oh, and don't forget to spellcheck.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fun Monday + Loads of Gifty Goodness

Do you have any suggestions for The Great Gift Hunt of 2007? Great, I thought you might. Just leave them in the comments and get some link love to promote your work or your favorite gift site. Scroll down for the first crop of great links.


I saw this on Christine's blog and it looked like fun, so I decided to play too. You need to show pictures of your refrigerator, WITHOUT cleaning it first.

It happens that I saw this while I was waiting for my groceries to be delivered, so in the interests of blogging integrity I now present you with my fridge - before and after a small to medium-sized shopping trip.

Before, looking a bit sparce

And after, a bit fuller (though not as full as it was later after I went to the greengrocer)

And the freezer

Not too bad. Now, if I could just find something to eat...


And now for some great readers' gift ideas for my soon to be four niece and soon to be born nephew:

Melissa Garrett, herself quite the crafter, recommended Jen Way of BeeBee Mod
for unique onesies and toddler/kid tees , and Stacy of Mamas Doodles for the cutest tails and tutus. (See her comment on the Gift Hunt post for more info.)

Shelly from This Eclectic Life suggested a teepee from Target, and what kid wouldn't love a teepee of their very own.

Rachel from Mommy Rumination, another one who knows her way around a needle, e-mailed me a whole bunch of great links for everything from cutesie aprons to purses, crocheted or otherwise, to crayon rolls to way cool clothing.

Thanks you guys, those are terrific suggestions!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I need a good eye - preferably yours

Hello blogworld. I have a mission for you. I'm on a hunt for several very cool, unusual and creative gifts, and since it's nearly August I only have a few weeks to find them.

Here's the scoop. My niece is turning 4 in about 2 weeks, a major event in her life of course, which is soon to be completely overshadowed by an even bigger Big Event - the upcoming birth of her baby brother, currently scheduled for 8/28 (obviously it's a c-section).

So, this is your mission, should you choose to accept it - The Great Gift Hunt Of 2007. And I sure hope you will - I need HELP!

I need:

1 birthday gift for a 4 year old girlie-girl who isn't afraid of getting dirty
1 new baby gift for a baby boy (not a blanket, I got them a handmade crocheted one last time)
1 big sister gift (smaller, but distinct from the birthday gift)

Because I live in Israel, it's a lot easier for me to order things online and have them delivered directly. However, again because I live in Israel, I don't always know exactly what my sister has or doesn't have. That's where you come in. To up my chances of getting them something they don't have yet, and to ensure that my name will go down in history as the coolest big sister ever, I prefer to give them unique, preferably handmade, gifts.

I know loads of you out there are crafty, heck, some of you even have your own etsy shops, and I'm betting that even those of you who couldn't craft to save your life still have a pretty good eye and have run across all sorts of great things in your internet wanderings. I want to know about them.

There are no cars houses big cash awards prizes of any kind to be given away (since I do have to shell out for three different gifts, plus shipping, here folks), but there will be loads of linkie love and free publicity (among all the twelve people who actually read this blog) for all the suggestions, and of course my undying gratitude, so please, take pity on a craft-challenged mama and help me out with my search. So come, promote your own online business, or your friend's, or your neighbor's, or your neighbor's neighbor's... If I could make them homemade cakes I would, but sadly that's about the extent of my crafting abilities and I just don't think they would travel all that well...

You can leave links or even just ideas in the comments. I'll keep everyone posted as they come in, and if I get enough I'll even do a special linkie love brag post just for that.

Thanks everyone, I can't wait to see your ideas!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Those Hazy, Crazy, Not So Lazy Days of Summer

It feels like we've been dragging Maya from appointment to appointment lately (yes, I know, I still owe you all a post on that. It's harder than it should be to bring myself to write. Harder than the circumstances warrant.) Anyway, it feels lately like we've been racing from evaluation to evaluation with her. For the most part, the sessions involve an element of play, but they're still hard on her and I wish to hell they weren't necessary.

So all that is a long-winded way of saying that we decided that Maya needed some extra fun in her life, so we planned a very kid-friendly day especially with her in mind. We lazed around at home for the morning, then took the kids to see Ratatouille (very cute I must say). After the movie we hit the beach for a bit (very convenient having a beach - and the Mediterranean at that - right in the middle, or more precisely at the edge of, the city. We've been having a heat wave the past few days and the beach was MOBBED. Nevermind though, the conditions were perfect - gentle waves and water warm enough to put in a bathtub. That's my kind of day at the beach. After the beach we hit our favorite beachside bar/restaurant for a casual dinner and then I took the kids to a cute little boat-themed playground nearby while Jay went to get the car. Needless to say, both kids were sound asleep within 30 seconds of getting out of the shower tonight.

I suspect their parents won't be that far behind either.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

TT#23 - The disaster zone that is my dining room table

I was trying to decide on a topic for this week's Thursday Thirteen. Hmmm... Should it be my favorite characters from literature? Summertime activities? Things I plan to do with my daughter while my husband and son are in the States for a wedding?

Nothing really struck my fancy though. That's when it hit me. I should be looking closer to home. And so I give you...

13 pieces of crap that are currently taking over my dining room table

1. Sale flyer from some supermarket I don't shop in (found it in my mailbox yesterday)

2. 2 cd's that hold my backed up photos for the past 5 years (yup, that's a good safe place for them)

3. A toy rainstick (a/k/a a brightly colored plastic piece of crap toy

4. 3 pens (two felt-tip and one ball point, in case you're curious)

5. The current issue of Budget Travel magazine, which I can't get rid of because my cleaner wants it

6. My husband's cellphone

7. A small green and pink mouse made of plastelina clay that my son brought home from camp last week

8. Several pieces of mail, including a postcard of a family of bears that my parents sent the kids from Alaska

9. An envelope containing all of my daughter's paperwork for her evaluation by the Child Development Agency

10. An empty water bottle

11. A dishtowel

12. My keys

13. Assorted computer paraphernalia

You'll note that none of these items actually pertain to food. It was too much trouble to clear them away before dinner so we ate at the island. Please tell me I'm not the only one who lives this way and has to frantically run around and straighten when company is expected.

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!

Chicken in Green Curry Sauce

We had a fantastic GNI (girls' night in) last night. My good friend S is moving back to the States in a few weeks, so we had to send her off in style with loads of good food, good drinks (appletinis are my new BFF) and loads of good company. Oh yeah, and a pretty beaded bracelet too.

Since it was her last GNI, we let S pick the menu and to my surprise she picked my very own chicken in green curry sauce as one of her all-time favorite foods! It got rave reviews and loads of requests for the recipe last night, so after going and digging it out (I remembered I'd written it up for someone else ages ago but didn't remember where I'd put it) I figured I'd share it with all of you, too.

Chicken (or Tofu) in Green Curry Sauce

This isn't a "real" recipe so all quantities and ingredients are suggestions... Don't be put off by the number of ingredients, this is much more of a "make it up as you go" dish and is actually quite easy to cook once you've gotten the basic idea down.

garlic (2-3 cloves)

scallions (separate whites from greens)

5-8 dried kaffir lime leaves

lemon grass (fresh is best but dried will also work)

galangal (dried root similar to ginger, sold sliced and dried, looks like wood). Substitute freshly ground ginger if you don't have galangal.

1-3 Tbl of green curry paste, depending on strength and desired heat. Available anywhere that sells Asian food products. It comes in a little plastic bag or tub and will last forever in your refrigerator. BE CAREFUL though, fresh chili paste is VERY strong. If in doubt start with a little and add more later. (If you can't find curry paste you can substitute 2-3 dried birdseye chilis or other small red chilis. It won't be quite the same, but it will still be good.)

Cut up any or all of the following (e.g. whatever happens to be in the fridge at the time):

eggplant (this can be left out if you're in a hurry)
green beans

2 chicken breasts, cut into strips or chunks OR 1 package of firm tofu (cubed)

peanut or other light oil for stir-frying


Soy sauce
Mirin (or other white cooking wine)
Hoisin sauce
Oyster sauce
Coconut MILK (not cream). Shake to mix before using.

Approximately 1 heaping tablespoon corn starch mixed in about 1/3 Cup water. (You'll need to restir this just before using.)

Handful of chopped basil

Scallion tops (greens)

To prepare:

Stir-fry garlic, galangal/ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, chili paste and scallion bottoms (white parts) in a bit of oil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the wok and stir-fry the chicken until just cooked through. Remove from wok and set aside.

Stir-fry the eggplant with a bit of salt. Add a little oil if necessary. (Not too much, eggplant soaks it up.) Cook until eggplant is very soft (5-10 minutes).

Put seasonings (garlic, etc.) back into the wok.

Add the "take longer to cook" vegetables (carrots, zucchini, etc.). Stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Start adding the remaining vegetables. When they're nearly done, add in the cashews and the tofu or chicken. (Note: tofu doesn't need to actually cook, just get warmed and seasoned) and cashews.

When the vegetables are bright colored and still fairly crisp, start adding sauces - I use a combination of soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, mirin (or other white cooking wine) and a little chicken (or veggie) stock to help make a sauce. Next add about half a can of coconut milk. Stir to mix. Taste. When you've got the seasonings the way you want them, give the corn starch mixture a quick stir. Pour into the wok and stir quickly. Add a little more if you want to make the sauce thicker.

Serve over noodles or rice. Top with fresh scallion greens. Remind everyone NOT to eat the galangal, lemon grass or kaffir lime leaves. As in Thailand, they're left in the dish but the diner just leaves them on the side of the plate.

Enjoy, or as we say in Israel, B'Teavon, which roughly translates to "Bon Appetit".

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Welcome Back, Potter

Too bad most of the people who just bought the book are too young to get this, but I loved it. Poking fun equally in both directions, and very funny.

Monday, July 23, 2007

No Market For Used Teenagers

I had a pretty idyllic childhood - a loving family, long summers at camp, fondly remembered holiday gatherings, family vacations, ski trips, parents who put their all into raising two kids they could be proud of. I got good grades, minded my teachers, listened to my parents, didn't fight (much) with my sister... Exactly what you'd hope for in a child.

And then I became a teenager, and it all went to hell.

To say that I was testing my boundaries would be a gross understatement. It would be a lot more correct to say that I chose, yes chose, to fall in with a bad crowd because they were more "interesting". I wasn't interested in the goody-two-shoes smart kids, I didn't want the reputation that went (in my snobby high school anyway) with being in the marching band, I didn't have enough money to keep up with the in-crowd, and didn't really want to anyway. I wanted, or perhaps needed, to rebel, but the truth is I had a great life with great parents. I had nothing to rebel against.

That didn't stop me from doing it anyway.

I made a conscious decision to become a burnout, with everything that went along with that. I looked around, decided they were the most appealing group, and cultivated the habits I'd need to be included. (God I was stupid, and arrogant, and foolish, and careless, and did I mention stupid? So completely, unbelievably stupid. And so very lucky to have survived fairly unscathed.)

There is no reason to detail all of my misspent youth, suffice it to say that the one-quarter of it that my parents found out enough was more than enough to ground me for life. The part they didn't know? Well that would have gotten me grounded until long after I was dead.

I pulled stunts that put my parents through hell, and even today I cringe in shame at the mere memory of some of them.

As I carried out my senseless rebellion my parents never wavered. No matter what I pulled, I always knew they loved me unconditionally. Even when they were unspeakably, and justifiably, angry, I always knew that they loved me and that I had a home and that that home was a moral touchstone.

This wasn't true for many of the others I knew. There was B*, who was always getting thrown out of the house by his mother's new husband. Seems this cop didn't like getting a screwup burnout for a step-son. We'd all leave our cars unlocked every night in case B needed a place to crash. Then there was I*, whose parents didn't even bother showing up to his high school graduation, leaving him stranded and alone when it was over. (I drove him home, while he talked about cutting up lines of cocaine in the kitchen while his father watched, afraid to say anything.) Or A*, whose mother was so helpless that she didn't even try to exert any control over what went on in her home. Or T*, who'd share bong hits with his parents. Or J*, whose single mom was so busy working 3 jobs that she was never home long enough to know what he, what we all, got up to in her living room when we should have been in school. I could go on and on... There were of course others like my parents, who were probably just as devastated as they were at what their beautiful, formerly sweet and innocent children were getting up too, but for every loving family there was at least one more that was equally disfunctional.

It took years, four of them away at college, before I was able to grow up enough to move past all of this and back towards my family. Looking at us today, 20 years later, you'd never dream of all the strife and discord that ran rampant through the house for a few years. My parents are two of my closest friends. Instead of choosing to run away, we choose to run away together - on joint vacations. On purpose. Without being forced or bribed, just because we enjoy being together. Our biggest obstacle these days is that in a fit of college-age idealism I picked up and moved halfway across the world, leaving all of my family behind. We need to work even harder to stay close emotionally since we live 6,000 miles apart physically.

During one of these early joint vacations I asked my mother why she never threw my sorry ass out of the house. Her answer has stuck with me all these years. She said:

"I'm your mother, and I love you, and I would NEVER EVER throw you out of my home, no matter what. I did however try to sell you to the gypsies once, but there was no market for used teenagers."

She then added that had the technology been available she would have happily locked me in a deep freeze for about 6 years, not letting me out until I hit 22, but that she would have kept that freezer safe at home.

I'm not in touch with many people I knew from high school anymore, but from the few that I do speak to occasionally I've seen something. We were all headed together down the wrong path in those days. The difference lay in who stayed on the path, and who managed to get themselves together and return to being happy, well-adjusted human beings.

The answer? Those with loving, supportive families. It's a terrible cliche, but true nonetheless. The ones who came from very difficult places had a much harder time clawing their way out, and often didn't, while those that came from good strong families were more able to return to their roots. I look around today at my innermost circle of high school friends, the ones from families like mine, and see that we have become doctors, and lawyers (at least 3), real estate tycoons, corporate hacks turned lactation consultants (that would be me), stay at home moms... Whatever and wherever our passions led us. And you know what? We could never have done it without our families.

So for all that you did Mom, by raising me right, by loving me unconditionally even when I probably didn't deserve it, and by welcoming me back with open arms and forgiving all my sins, I say "Thanks, Mom. (And Dad.)"

I could never have done it without you. I love you Mom. (And Dad.)

This essay was written for MamaBlogga's July Group Writing Project, on the theme "Thanks, Mom".

Done! (Harry Potter)

I'm finished reading, now I have to let it percolate a bit and then I'll go back and reread a few sections of both this and Book 6. I got it this morning and was done in time for bed, including a few hours at the playground and then another hour to cook dinner. (No, I didn't even try to work today. Yes, I'm a geek. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a good story, and I HATE being kept in suspense.)

And she's a damn good storyteller. Not always a fantastic writer, but a damn good storyteller. I couldn't wait to see how it was all going to end.

We can talk spoilers later, once more people have had a chance to read it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My turn to go quiet

At long last I've got my hot little hands on the Deathly Hallows. See you in a few hours everyone, I'm not coming up for air until I'm done.

(Well, except for an emergency trip to the pharmacy downstairs for more birth control pills. Turns out there is something more important than HP after all. Definitely don't want to run out of those.)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Doncha Just Hate It When...

Margalit tagged me for a new meme called "Doncha Just Hate It When". You need to list 8 different things that drive you completely up a friggin' tree. Gee, I think I can do that... (Should be easy considering how bad a mood I've been in this weekend. Can anyone say "crazy woman at the mercy of her hormones"?) Ok, here goes...

1. DYJHIW the person in front of you in the supermarket check out line can't find their card, then asks 1,000 questions, then needs to send the checkout clerk to go bring razor blades or cigarettes or perhaps a case of soda, then needs to hear about the 12 different specials, then argues over the price of the meat they thought was on sale but isn't, then... All while you stand there holding a carton of milk and a container of cottage cheese, both of which will surely have gone sour by the time you're finally able to make your purchase.

2. DYJHIW your children take temporary leave of their senses and turn into demon spawn, who will surely vaporize in a ball of fire if they dare listen to so much as one word you say. (Bad day much Robin? Actually, today is ok, but this was definitely my yesterday.)

3. DYJHIW you finally decide on something you absolutely, positively must have for dinner, only to discover that you're missing one crucial and unobtainable ingredient.

4. DYJHIW you finally have the chance to go out for a date night and you can't get a friggin' babysitter, despite having TEN (!!) of them in your pda. (Damn girls are getting older and way too popular. Why should they get to go out on a date when I can't?)

5. DYJHIW someone in the house (who shall remain nameless but is 5'11" and has a first name starting with "J") puts your white sock in a dark load - thus dyeing it PINK and ruining a good pair of tennis socks.

6. DYJHIW you get stuck behind some idiot going at a slow crawl in the fast lane on the highway.

7. DYJHIW that same idiot has cut you off to do this.

8. DYJHIW you wake up one morning, at an age much closer to 40 than you'd like to admit, only to discover that along with the gray hair you're trying very hard to cover up and the damage that gravity has done to your already barely there boobs, you now have a GIANT ZIT right in the middle of your cheek! Gray hair and zits simultaneously, there is truly no justice in the world...

Whew, that was cathartic...

I'm going to tag Fairly Odd Mother, Shari, Meredith, Jen and Janet for this one. Happy bitching girls. Once you all finish reading HP that is, no one expects anything until then of course LOL.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Five on Friday

I didn't feel like blogging about the much more serious issue of what's going on with Maya and her issues today, so I decided to stick my head in the sand and try out a new meme I just stumbled across instead. Of course I could do one of the two memes I was just tagged for, but I want to give those a bit more thought first.

So without further ado, here is my inaugural issue of Five on Friday:

1. Have you ever worn hand-me-downs? Who did you get them from?
Sure. I got stuff from an older cousin all the time as a child. These days I occasionally get clothes from girlfriends, but not often.

2. Have you ever given hand-me-downs? Who did you give them to?
My sister has gotten lots of my baby clothes, since I know she'll return them should I ever decide to need them again. Other local friends get other clothes, and we've got a major circular equipment swap with a number of other friends. The idea being to keep all the large, hard to store stuff in permanent circulation until you need it again. I haven't seen my exersaucer in years, or my baby bucket either!

3. How do you feel about hand-me-downs in general? Do you like the idea of recycling things or does it bother you to have something used?
I like it. It's gentler on the planet. It's crazy to spend so much money and use so many resources for things you'll use for a very short time.

4. Do you ever visit yard sales? (maybe you call them garage sales, tag sales, junk sales, etc...)
I would if they had them in Israel, but they don't really. Maybe because most of us don't have garages, lawns to hold a sale on, or the ability to store enough crap to warrant one. We do have kids toy swaps though.

5. If given $25,000 to buy furniture and decorate your home, would you buy new pieces or antiques? Why?
New. I like vintage clothing sometimes, and have no problem at all with hand-me-downs for my kids, but for home decorating I prefer a much more modern, cleaner (as in cleaner lines) look.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

TT #22 - 13 shows I'd love to see on reruns

I'm running late this week and very pressed for time, so here's an easy one: 13 shows I'd love to be able to catch on reruns.

1. Get Smart - need I say more?

2. Dangermouse - Greatest Cartoon EVER

3. thirtysomething - a great show, and I think I'd like it even better now that I am in fact 30-something (for a little while longer anyway. Ahem.)

4. Hill Street Blues - the original gritty cop show

5. Zoom - the original ones, for my kids

6. Electric Company - for my kids, and to see a young Morgan Freeman do Easy Reader

7. The original Super Heroes - a cartoon from the good old days

8. Gilligan's Island - if only to get the damn song out of my head

9. M*A*S*H - it just doesn't get any better than this. Hmmm... I see that the whole series is available on dvd. I wonder how much it costs...

10. OLD episodes of Letterman from back when he was young and edgy (before he moved over to CBS)

11. The Partridge Family - for the music of course

12. Little House on the Prairie - I LOVED both the books and the show as a child, I'm curious to see how the series would hold up now

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, July 18, 2007

WFMW - Toy Swap

Here in Israel a favorite end-of-the-year activity is the class toy swap. Each child brings in a bag full of odds and ends they no longer want and sets up their own stand. All the children then start swapping and bargaining to their hearts' content, coming home with a weird and wonderful variety of "new to them" toys. It's all run by the children themselves. They decide what they're willing to swap for each item and do all their own negotiating (this is the Middle East after all, they're born negotiators).

Yesterday it was our turn to host our weekly playgroup. This group of kids, now ages 5-8, has been playing together since they were babies and has reached a level of comfort and independence that allows the moms to kick back and relax (or take care of the littlies that have come along over the years.)

When my son asked if we could do a playgroup toy swap I jumped at the idea and encouraged him to fill 2 BIG bags with stuff to trade (hey, I'm no dummy. And, I filled up an entire giant hefty bag of trash while I was at it too!). And with that my involvement ended. The kids all trouped in, bags in hand. To keep the chaos to a minimum (and to reduce the danger of small chokable objects spreading out to where the babies were) we had them set up their stations in my son's room, where they then spent the next 2 hours wildly trading back and forth, and all of it completely on their own. They had a ball, got rid of a load of junk their mothers were tired of looking at, and came home happily toting bags of new things to keep them occupied this summer.

Best of all, Itai ended up with less than he started with. He's happy with his new haul, and I'm delighted with all the decluttering I managed to do. Definitely win-win!

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for more tips and tricks.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sometimes mothers really do know best

(This entry is being submitted to Scribbit's July Write-Away contest. The theme this month is "your most adventurous moment".)

I've had many adventures in my life. There have been taxi rides in Cairo (no set fee, you get out of the cab and then hand whatever amount of money you feel is reasonable back in through the open window, tell me that's not nerve-wracking), maniacal drivers in Turkey, roads clogged with elephants in Thailand (right in the middle of a roundabout! when driving on the wrong side of the road! in a rental car! Surprise!), Hmong mystery dessert, again in Thailand (ask me about that one some day), loads of other adventures from my sordid past which shall remain unmentioned, at least for now. Heck, some of you even think that my life in Israel is adventurous...

All of those events pale in comparison to one in particular, long ago, in a galaxy country far far away. The Great Girl Scout Camping Trip of 1970-something or other. Now THIS was adventure.

It's been 30 years since then, but this little escapade is enscribed upon my brain in indelible ink. It was the day I first discovered that I am NOT in fact smarter than my mother. (It would have been even better had that lesson learned at age 8 actually stuck through my teenage years, but there are some things that just have to be learned and relearned again and again. There's a reason wisdom only comes with age.)

So there we were, Girl Scout Troop 410 (why oh why is my poor overstuffed brain crowded with useless trivia like the number of my old Girl Scout troop?), ready to set out and conquer the wilderness, if wilderness comes the form of overnight covered wagon platform camping at a Girl Scout camp. We had sleeping bags, we had cookout supplies, we had our pj's, our toothbrushes, hats (because of course 70% of your body heat is lost through your head), we had gotten safety talks, and behavior talks, and the (here it is folks, pay attention now) all-important NEVER EVER EVER BRING FOOD INTO YOUR TENT talk, given by our leader extraordinaire - my mom. Yes, experienced camper and troop leader that she was, she knew it would be vitally important to stress this particular rule.

The only problem?

A daughter who thought to herself, that's a stupid rule, I'm going to ignore that one. Yes readers, my friends and I decided to bring a few treats for a late night in-tent snack. And what you ask did we decide to bring? Why we brought Fun Dip of course. Yes, you read that correctly. We thought it would be a grand idea to bring FLAVORED SUGAR to an open tent in the woods.

We oh so sneakily hid the candy in our bags, bringing it out late at night once all the adults had gone to bed. We feasted on pure sugar, and sometime during our sugar high we managed to spill the sugar ALL OVER THE INSIDE OF MY SLEEPING BAG. Which we then ignored because by then we were well into sugar-induced coma. Yes, I went to sleep in a sleeping bag full of pure SUGAR.

Not for long though.

A very little while later I was awakened by movement of some kind INSIDE my sleeping back. It was furry. It was big. IT WAS EATING THE FUN DIP! I leapt up screaming, bringing every grownup within 10 miles running, where they found that I had a full-grown RACCOON inside my sleeping bag.

And boy was he mad at having his little late night snack interrupted.

Thankfully it all ended with nothing worse than a very long lecture by my mother on the importance of listening to adults who probably have a very good reason for what they're telling you (did I mention it was a very lonnnnnnng lecture?). It was a successful lecture, too. Not only did I learn that my mother does (sometimes at least) in fact know best, I also never touched Fun Dip again.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a blimp! No, it's Robin's giant head!

Seriously you guys, I think my overinflated ego is going to cause my head to swell right up and explode - over the past week and a half, I've gotten not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different awards from awesome bloggers I really admire, all saying such lovely things too. What a compliment! Like I said to Jen, with weeks like this I'm going to have to stop picturing myself sitting alone at the unpopular table, and I may need an anchor to keep my head from crashing through the ceiling.

Shelly from This Eclectic Life gave me a Schmoozer Award. I always knew that I was physically incapable of shutting up, now I've got proof!


Last week Jen from Never A Dull Moment and Michelle from Scribbit both gave me Rockin' Girl Bloggers, and then to my surprise I found that Janet over at Fond of Snape The Beach had dropped another one on me!

So, without further grandstanding (Down ego! Down!) on my part I'd like to share the love by taking the somewhat unusual step of turning around and giving BOTH of these awards to one individual who really represents the spirit of both to me: WhyMommy. If you don't know WhyMommy, please click on the Team WhyMommy button on my sidebar and go meet someone truly incredible, and lend her some support and some love while you're there. She needs all she can get.

I'm giving her the Schmoozer for the way she has opened up her life, and her fight against her recently discovered Inflammatory Breast Cancer, to everyone in the blogging world, talking openly about her cancer and where it is taking her so that other women will learn from her story. I know this openness is going to save lives out there. Someone is going to go get something suspicious checked, someone else is going to find strength to keep going when theirs ebbs, she is going to save lives.

On the other side of the spectrum, I'm giving her the Rockin' Girl Blogger award for the way she is working so hard to keep her family her focus, not her disease. Just a few days after receiving her first chemotherapy treatment she is focused not on the next one but on the playdate she plans to attend on Tuesday.

WhyMommy embodies everything I hope I could be in the face of great adversity. She truly is a rockin' girl.

All of you that write blogs, that comment on them, that just read them - you're all rockin' in your own individual ways, with your own strengths and joys. How wonderful it would be if you could just take a minute to go lend some of that strength and joy to one of our own who could really use it right now. Leave her a comment, or just keep a good thought in your heart. We can't stop this terrible disease, but together we can try to make it a little bit easier to bear.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Busy busy busy

This weekend is totally getting away from me, blogwise. Too much summer fun to be had. We're off to the pool in a few minutes, then we're invited to a big bbq this afternoon to celebrate our friends' 20 years in Israel.

The next post will be more substantive - there were awards given! and awards to be awarded! Lots of glamour and excitement around the island.

Hope everyone's having a great summer weekend (or winter weekend for those of you down under).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #21 - My Favorite Cookbooks

Many of you already know that I love cooking (or more precisely I love eating good food and am happy willing to cook it to get it) and that I collect cookbooks, often bringing one back as a souvenir of my travels. This week I'm going to share 13 of my favorites with you. They're not all the most sophisticated. In fact, some are pretty basic, but they're all tried and true standbyes that I can turn to and feel confident of finding delicious to eat.

1. Sheila Lukins' USA Cook Book - this one was a real find. It was in an odds and ends bin in a small bookstore I just happened to stumble into in a small city in Israel. I got it for about $5 and it became an instant favorite. All those great American standards, but with loads of interesting twists. And, it has my favorite chocolate brownie recipe.

2. The New Pillsbury Family Cookbook, 1975 edition - this one was my grandmother's, which makes it all the more special now that she's gone. It's ancient and battered and completely outdated (recipes say things like "use 1 can of mushrooms (ok to substitute fresh)", but for the basics it can't be beat. Whether it's finding out how long to roast a stuffed turkey or finding the classic chocolate chip cookie recipe, this one gets the job done. As long as you only use it for the standards it serves just fine, just don't look here for anything more exotic than a salad, unless you want it covered in aspic LOL!

3. Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook - The bible for healthier vegetarian cooking, but not just for vegetarians. After more than 15 years with this book I still find new discoveries. You can tell my favorites by the number of stains on the page. Be forewarned though, vegetarian food is not necessarily diet food!

4. New York Cookbook, Molly O'Neill - a taste of home on every page, in all it's multicultural glory.

5. Gloria Bey Miller's The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook - the absolute must-have handbook for anyone who wants to learn to cook Chinese food. I don't refer to it that much anymore, but it's served me long and well and still retains pride of place as a reference book.

6. 100 Fast Noodles, John Midgley - many of my very favorite noodle recipes come from here, including mango chicken, pepper chicken, and the ever-popular cold sesame noodles

7. Marcella Hazan, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (the one that got my husband started making homemade pastas and pizzas!). Marcella NEVER takes shortcuts. She can be an incredible pain in the ass, but she knows her stuff. The gold standard for classic Italian cooking.

8. A Taste of the Caribbean, by Angela Spenceley - a vacation in a book! This one even has cocktail recipes. Every time I cook something from this book I imagine myself sailing the turquoise waters of the Caribbean again.

9. Gap's Cooking School Thai cookbook - poorly printed and chock full of MAJOR mistakes, but a great souvenir from a fun day in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It's even a good cookbook guideline if you remember to use common sense when the recipe says something ridiculous (like an entire CUP of chili paste! My god, that would singe your eyebrows off!).

10. Mevashlim, Haim Cohen - an Israeli cookbook (in Hebrew) by one of Israel's favorite chefs. What makes this one unique is that it's arranged by ingredient, rather than by course, so if you go to the greengrocers and find that the asparagus, or cherries, or broad beans look great you can snap them up and then come home and easily find inspiration for what to do with them.

11. My birthday cake books. I'll lump all these together. I have four or five books just on decorating birthday cakes. My kids pore over them for weeks before their birthdays, heck months even, trying to decide which cakes they want that year. And since each birthday needs at least 3 different cakes (friends party, afternoon program, and family party) that means I've generally got my work cut out for me.

12. The Northwest Best Places Cookbook. Another vacation souvenir, from an earlier trip. It's got amazing, albeit fairly complex and time-consuming recipes.

13. Pasta e Verdura, Jack Bishop. An entire book of vegetable-based pasta sauces. Always something fun in there.

Whew. That was tough. So many great cookbooks to choose from... So, what are some of YOUR favorites?

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, July 11, 2007

WFMW - Allowance

Last winter my then 6 year old son was driving me completely crazy asking me to buy him things. We live in an urban area, and every day as we'd pass the candy store, or the grocery store, or the stationary store, or the toy store, or any other store with kid-appeal I'd start hearing a never-ending chorus of "buy me buy me". Most things were little items, but I didn't feel that he really needed to have a new pack of soccer cards every single day, or even every 2 or 3 days for that matter (not to mention that that stuff adds up over time), and it was getting harder and harder to give him a reason why that he was able to comprehend and accept.

We decided to start giving him a weekly allowance - 6 Israeli shekels each week (about $1.50) "because he was six". We wanted him to have enough that he could afford to buy himself that pack of cards, plus perhaps something very small, each week, but that he wouldn't be able to afford say cards and candy, or that he'd have to learn to save up for something larger.

To our amazement it worked beautifully. My 6 year old son saved his money for MONTHS until he had enough for a particular toy. No more cards, no more junk, because he knew he'd have to pay for it. Most importantly, no more nagging. If he'd ask, I'd just remind him that he was welcome to spend his own money on it and that would be the end of it.

Now, at 6.5, he's got a better grasp on the concept of money. Sometimes he saves, other times he blows it on popsicles at the pool, but he's just as likely to spend it on an ice cream or toy for a friend as on himself. He's learning important skills and values, and I'm getting a much more hassle free life without the constant begging for little treats.

Allowance - it works for me.

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for more great btdt tips.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

(Still no titles. Well this one would have been titled "The Internet Bridge". Harumph.)

To me, the most wonderful thing about the internet is how small it's made the world. Not only because it has enabled the creation of wonderful communities, bringing together people who live hundreds and even thousands of miles apart, not only because it has brought all of the world's information to my kitchen table (information on breast cancer? potty training? developmental disorders? peach pie recipes? The possibilities are endless...).

To me, what is most incredible is the way the internet can build bridges. The best way to conquer fear and prejudice is to get to know someone. To look them in the eye, or at least in the blog, and say "I recognize your humanity," and "I see how much we have in common, let's learn more about each other." With the internet, individuals can find each other even if they are from countries whose leaders haven't yet found the courage to look for common ground instead of remaining apart. One of the biggest thrills I have as a blogger is to see that someone from a country that won't recognize mine is reading my blog and seeing me as a person, a woman, a mother, not just as an Israeli or an American (at least I hope you are and that you're not here because my hackneyed writing is providing a great virtual dartboard LOL). Welcome, and please, let's build that bridge together, one stone at a time. I would love to hear from you (even anonymously) and have a chance to personally extend my hand in friendship, to learn what makes you smile each day, what challenges you face, what makes you who you are. Each bridge built makes the world a little bit smaller, and a whole lot better.

And of course it goes without saying that this holds true for all of you, wherever you are, whoever you are. Take the plunge, delurk. I'd love to hear from you. Come on in, take off your shoes, grab a seat around the island and settle in for a chat. It'll be fun. And the coffee's on me.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Hotter than Eilat in July...

Nope, sorry. If there is anything hotter than Eilat in July I'm not sure I want to know about it. (Actually, it was a practically balmy 99 degrees (37C) instead of the 114(!!!) (45C) it was the last time we were there. Hot, but bearable. I'm still traumatized from the last visit though.)
If you haven't already guessed, we spent this past weekend down in Eilat, an Israeli resort town on the Red Sea (the very tip of that little downward pointing bit of Israel which is sandwiched between Egypt and Jordan) on a trip for all the employees of Jay's company. In other words, we were on vacation with 130 of our nearest and dearest... (When you're management these trips are pretty much compulsory. Oh, and the company just subsidizes it, they don't pay for it all, so it actually ends up costing the employees a fair amount. Bygones.)

The city is pretty much what you'd expect - loads and loads of big hotels, mediocre food, lots of street stalls and shops, a very narrow beach (because the hotels all go nearly down to the water), tons of water sports available (for a price of course), etc. (In case I haven't mentioned it, Eilat has never been my destination of choice - it's way too crowded and more than a little provincial, and hotter than all the fires of hell in mid-summer. Thousands of other people apparently disagree with me though.)

If you look past the rampant commercialism that is the city itself the setting is spectacular - there are coral reefs, incredibly calm, clear waters, striking desert mountains... It's just a shame that it looks more like Atlantic City than a desert oasis these days.

Jay and Itai took the company bus down Thursday morning. Maya had her preschool end-of-year event that night (more about that in another post) though so she and I stayed home for that and then flew down Friday morning (so much more civilized). That afternoon Jay surprised me with an Ayurveda (hot rock) massage at the hotel spa (divine!) and then we all (the whole company) went out on a glass bottom boat for a 2 hour cruise to gawk at the coral reef through the smaller-than-I'd-have-expected glass windows on the boat's floor, followed by a quick dip off the boat (that part was lovely) and then rush back to get ready for a company dinner.

Maya on the boat (never even made it to the fish, let alone the swim)

The following day we all went to the aquarium / undersea observatory. We'd been several times before but that's always good fun. Itai particularly liked the multi-media Oceanarium movie (complete with rocking seats and freaky effects), while Maya preferred the play areas with spitting fish and hatching turtles. What? Oh, the fish. Yeah, they looked at those for a few minutes too.

In between all of this the hotel put on shows of a surprisingly high level - an "African Circus" featuring amazing acrobats from Kenya, some kind of Kung Fu team, a Peter Pan play, and others... The kids were in heaven. Okay, yes, I enjoyed the acrobats too - they were spectacular. The Kung Fu didn't do it for me, though I heard that the guy who threw a needle THROUGH GLASS to pop a balloon on the other side was pretty impressive.

A few glitches aside (I fell down some slippery metal steps getting off the boat - just a few bruises and a lot of embarrassment - and they never brought a bed for Maya so she squeezed in with Itai - and fell out twice - which earned us a free lunch as compensation) we had a nice weekend. It wouldn't have been my first choice for how to spend my birthday weekend, but it was nice all the same.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Just got back from spending my birthday weekend away, but it's late and I'm tired so you'll have to come back tomorrow if you want to hear about it. Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.

PS Blogger's not letting me type a title, and I'm tired of trying to force it too. I'm sure by tomorrow it will be sorted and something else will have gone kaboom *rolling eyes*. G'night all.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Thursday Thirteen - My 20th, Their 100th!

In honor of the 100th edition of Thursday Thirteen, I'd like to share 13 great bloggers I've "met" through TT (in no particular order). Their lists that have made me laugh, or cry, or think, or just ponder a bit, but they're always worth a read:

1. West of Mars - what can I say about Susan, Trevor and the gang? This is definitely one of the cleverest blogs out there. If you haven't yet had the pleasure you don't know what you're missing!

2. Shelly from This Eclectic Life. A storyteller turned blogger extraordinaire. Running the gamut from riotously funny to poignant, Shelly will have you begging for more.

3. Uisce - in addition to pouring out his soul online, he gets extra points for great spelling.

4. Vader's Mom - always has a virtual smile and a friendly comment, with the cutest dog around (I love the puppy pictures she just shared for his birthday)

5. Nicholas at A Gentleman's Domain - great, creative lists. There's always something there to peak your curiosity.

6. Gattina - a Belgian take on things, funny quotes, travel pictures and more.

7. Himself from More Hockey Less War - I don't follow the local politics he's been writing about lately, but on the whole what more does the world need than more hockey and less war? Works for me. And, his banner has a graphic of a skating Che Guevara!

8. Christine from Are We There Yet? - one of the all-around sweetest bloggers I know, with a smile you can't help but return.

9. Janet from Fond of the Beach - she'll always be Fond of Snape to me.

10. Lady G from A Knight's Lady - her deep and intense love for her husband and family paint a lovely portrait of what's truly important in life

11. She of The Screaming Pages - Interesting stuff, great reader, and what's more, she put her money body where her mouth is and went to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. Plus, she's got an awesome banner.

12. Amy from AmyHabla - go give her some love, things aren't turning out as she'd planned.

13. And of course Michelle over at Scribbit. I didn't meet Michelle at TT. In fact, I don't remember how I found her blog, but her blog is where I first heard about TT (and all sorts of other great things), and now here I am, 20 weeks in and going strong. Thanks Michelle!

Thanks everyone for enriching my blogging life, and here's to the next 100!

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!

Fourth of July Reminiscing

It's not the Fourth of July here (well, it is technically still the 4th of July, but you know what I mean), but I'll be thinking of all of you in the US and remembering all those wonderful childhood Fourth of July's I spent on Lake Skaneateles in upstate NY, watching the fireworks, eating clam chowder and homemade strawberry ice cream, learning to waterski, learning to drink beer (shh... don't tell), playing UNO (somehow that was the only weekend of the year I ever played), watching the sunset over that big tree just by the point, homemade egg mcmuffins for breakfast, tubing, skipping stones, eating again, and still more eating (yes, that was a theme)... So many memories.

It was only 4 days a year, but I grew up on that lake. The house (two houses actually, but we mainly slept at one and spent most of our days at the other) was owned by my father's best friend from college. It had been in his wife's family for several generations already by that time and had the character that only an old country lake house could have. My father, his friend and several other fraternity brothers first spent the weekend there the year they graduated from college, and someone had the sense to recognize that they had something worth repeating. They came back the following year for the Fourth of July, and again every year after that for the next 20 years, gradually adding girlfriends, and then wives, and children, and then more children. Over the years we children grew up together almost as cousins. Traditions for the Fourth took on a life of their own, from the food, to the fireworks, to the annual picture of all the children arranged in size order (where I started out nearly at the front and ended up way down the line as some of these toddlers later turned into linebackers!), it was the magic that memories are made out of. The year the ice cream maker had a hole in it and all the ice cream turned salty. The year we older kids were finally allowed to take the boat out alone. The year the beach flooded. The year an exchange student from Thailand joined us. The year my father had to stand there with an upturned colander on his head to boost his friend's cellular antenna (no we didn't really get it either, but it apparently worked. Looked ridiculous, but worked.) So many memories, so much history...

It's all gone now. The children grew up and made lives of their own. An unnecessary feud between two of the families started putting a strain on things, and then the untimely and completely unexpected deaths of the house's owners ended "our" Fourth completely. Somehow growing up it always felt like it would go on forever, that my grandchildren would someday be learning to waterski in the same cold water I did, laughing about dock starts and remembering the time so and so grabbed that beer off the dock as he went by. I never foresaw my own moving 6,000 miles away, but by then things were already losing their lustre and the writing was on the wall.

I live in Israel now, where the Fourth of July is just another work day, notable only for the start of swimming lessons this afternoon. My own children don't have the Fourth at the lake, but they've got the Festival, and beachside barbecues, and joint holiday celebrations, and hopefully these will weave the same magic throughout their childhood. The individual threads will be different, but I hope that the overall picture will be just as treasured.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Another great picnic dish - Indonesian Rice Salad

Since searches for "great picnic dish" and "cold rice salad" have been bringing loads of new visitors to my blog lately (Hi everyone - thanks for coming, why don't you kick off your shoes, make yourselves at home, and have a look around. Drinks and nibbles are on the side table.) I figured I'd share another favorite of mine. This is another surefire crowd-pleaser.

I've made this one, from Molly Katzen's classic Moosewood Cookbook, so many times that not only is the page all stained (always a sign of a favorite recipe) but the book actually falls open to that page. That's saying a lot considering how many other things in this book I make.

Sri Wasano's Infamous Indonesian Rice Salad
From the Moosewood Cookbook
(Italics are mine)

About 1 hour to prepare, plus time to chill
Yield: 4-6 servings (or more if you have a lot of other dishes)

1) Place rice in a saucepan. Add the water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer until tender (35-45 minutes).

2 cups brown rice
3 cups water

2) While the rice cooks, combine in a large (and I do mean LARGE) bowl:

1/3 cup peanut oil
3 Tbls Chinese sesame oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1-2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
2 Tbls soy sauce
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (to taste)
2 Tbls rice or cider vinegar
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple (also ok to use canned-in-juice crushed pineapple)

3) Add the hot rice directly to the bowl of dressing. Mix well. When it has cooled to room temperature, cover tightly and refrigerate until cold. Shortly before serving (I go ahead and do it as soon as it's cold) stir in:

3 scallions, finely minced (whites and greens)
1 stalk celery, finely minced
1 medium red or green pepper, thinly sliced (I prefer red, or even orange)
1 8-oz can water chestnuts, drained and thinly sliced (I often leave these out)
1/2 lb fresh mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup (packed) raisins or currants
1 cup coarsely chopped peanuts and/or cashews, lightly toasted (I normally love cashews, but I like peanuts better for this recipe)
2 Tbl sesame seeds (again, these get left out if I don't have any)

Optional: fresh snow peas, for garnish


Click here to see more of my recipes.

Monday, July 2, 2007

No retreat no surrender

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Those words from an old Bruce Springsteen song embody the unbelievable strength of spirit being shown by WhyMommy, a momblogger extraordinaire who's now facing the fight of her life, for her life.

WhyMommy is living the nightmare that we all fear. The nightmare that is breast cancer. Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Yet where many, including me, would probably be curled up in a ball on the floor, she is fighting back, refusing to give in to fear or despair, determined to kick this thing in its ass and get back to the business of "just" raising her two beautiful babies, 2 year old Widget and 5-month old Little Bear.

WhyMommy needs our support to help her fight, to lend her our strength on days when hers might flag and to lift her up even higher on her stronger days. To constantly say that YES, she WILL beat this thing.

You've got my support WhyMommy, in spades. Your strength is both humbling and an inspiration. I want to add though, that if you do feel the need sometimes to let that facade crack, then be gentle with yourself and give yourself permission to do that too. You be as strong as you need to be to win this fight, but if you sometimes want to stop being strong for a few minutes and instead let others do the heavy lifting for you, we'll be right here for that too, giving you strong shoulders to lean on until you're ready to charge forward again.

If you too would like to join the Wall of Support around WhyMommy, please visit Canape's website or e-mail her at (canapesun AT yahoo DOT com) for the code for the Team WhyMommy button.

And to everyone who reads this, please, go visit WhyMommy and let her know that you're pulling for her. And then, go home and do your monthly breast self-exams. Don't just look for a lump. IBC is NOT characterized by a lump. Please go right now and read these descriptions of the symptoms of regular breast cancer and inflammatory breast cancer, and if you find anything questionable, please, PLEASE, go see your doctor. Knowledge is power and early detection is critical.