Thursday, January 31, 2008

TT - 13 things my daughter has with her in bed

I'm writing this week's list on my laptop while I sit on the floor next to my daughter's bed as she falls asleep, so a list of all the stuff she has in there with her seemed like the obvious choice. Beyond the standard blankets and regular pillow she is snuggled up with:

1. A hot pink Tweety Bird pillow
2. A large turquoise and purple fish pillow
3. A red elephant handmade by someone from the local senior citizens' day center that we bought at last year's children's after-school activities fair
4. A purple beanie baby named Benter (no, I have no idea why Benter either. It's not a Hebrew name.)
5. Mommy Bear - a white bear wearing a ballerina costume complete with pink tutu
6. Idan Bear - a small light brown teddy bear, the brother of the family. He used to have a plaid bow-tie but it's long gone
7. Daddy Bear - a medium-sized dark brown teddy bear
8. A Pink Elephant
9. The Swissair Dog (a stuffed dog wearing a Swissair shirt - a gift from a traveling friend)
10. A small Scooby-Doo. This one used to be her brother's, and is the very last present my grandfather picked out himself for his great-grandson.
11. A blue and white bunny with a rattle inside. Also inherited from her brother (who never really played with stuffed animals).
12. A small dalmatian - this one is a really cheap shlocky carnival midway-quality one. I have no idea where it came from, but she won't give it up.
13. A small plush doll in Native Alaskan costume that my parents sent from Alaska.

There are probably a few others in there that I've forgotten about too. It's a wonder that she can even fit in the bed with all of them.

Hang on, she just fell asleep! I'm outta here!! Zooooooom!!!

Happy Thursday Thirteen everyone.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Where is Thumbkin?

My daughter really dislikes getting her fingernails trimmed. None of the usual song and dance routines worked, she still fought it every time. In desperation one day I decided to try singing a new song and from some under-utilized recess of my mind I called up the lyrics to Where is Thumbkin. And what do you know, it worked! She really liked the fact that each finger got its own verse. By the second time we did it, she was singing along, and when she realized that I'd been cutting faster than I was singing she made me go back to be sure no finger's verse was skipped.

A little thing, but it worked.

Visit Rocks In My Dryer for more good tips, and while you're at it check out the craziness going on over at Bloggy Giveaways - there are more than 600 different bloggers participating in this round of the carnival with an unbelievable assorted of stuff on offer! You can find my tea set giveaway here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Holy Major Storm Batman

I braved the pouring rain this morning to stick my head out onto the roof (patio - it's a penthouse) to make sure everything was alright. Lucky thing I did, too, since I found that the drain had become totally blocked with leaves and debris and the roof was starting to flood! I quickly took off my shoes and socks (no, I don't own a pair of boots and I didn't want to wreck a good pair of shoes), rolled up my jeans, threw on a jacket and headed out to stand in two inches of icy cold water to clear the drain. (Did I mention it was pouring rain at the time?)

This is the drain guard. Poor thing just couldn't stand up to the sheer quantities of leaves that blew down in the storm. (We had a much bigger flooding problem before we got this, but it can only do so much before it too gets blocked.)

I finally got that sorted out and was about to head back in before my toes got frostbite, when I glanced at the other end of the roof and saw this:

Do you have any idea how heavy a palm tree is? I couldn't pick that thing back up to save my life. It's still sitting there perched on, and probably breaking, my clementine tree. Once Jay gets home tonight I'll have to send him out there.

Oh, and did I mention that the ceiling in the downstairs bathroom is leaking from somewhere, either my roof (which will need to be fixed at my expense) or somewhere on the common roof (not expensive but a real pita to get identified and fixed)?

Anyone have a big mug of mulled whine wine they'd like to share?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tea for Two - Giveaway Days are Here Again

This is a sticky post and will remain here on top until February 3.
Please scroll down for new content.

It's time for another one of Shannon's great Bloggy Giveaways. I had a great time giving away a few items for breastfeeding moms last time, and even won some adorable zipper pulls for my kids. I'm really excited to be a part of the fun again, and just wait until you see what I'm giving away this time - a gorgeous floral pattern porcelain tea set for two! Perfect for sharing a quiet moment with a friend or for pampering yourself when you need a quick pick me up.

The set includes two mugs, each with a removable strainer, two lids (for keeping that tea nice and hot while it steeps, or if you're anything like me for keeping it hot while you put another load into the washing machine, do the dishes, answer the phone and remind your children that jumping on the couch is not allowed...) and two porcelain spoons. Here, see for yourselves:

I don't know about you, but I feel more relaxed just looking at them.

To enter, leave me a comment telling me your favorite hot drink, and remember to leave me a way to contact you if you win. And while you're here, why don't you help yourself to a fresh cup of tea or coffee and take a look around.

This giveaway is international and open to everyone.

The winner will be chosen at random on Sunday, February 3.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Otherwise known as a post in bullet form...
  • Sunday is the start of our work week here in Israel.
  • We work from Sunday to Thursday.
  • Schools and stores are open a half-day on Fridays, but most adults now have Fridays off
  • Giving them, but not their children, a two-day weekend.
  • Many parents use that time to run errands.
  • Since I work part-time from home, I try to do my errands during the week when it's less crowded.
  • My husband and I like to go out to a cafe for breakfast on Friday mornings (another popular use of the time).
  • My little suburban city boasts a disproportionately high number of good cafes.
  • There are 4 within walking distance.
  • There used to be 5, but one has now turned into a generic, mass market Italian place. Blech.
  • It is supposed to be COLD and stormy most of this week.
  • By the end of the week, it is supposed to get down into the high 30's (low single digits Celsius) by the end of the week - unheard of in Tel Aviv!
  • I've had enough of winter already.
  • Bring on spring.
  • My house is a tip.
  • And I have about 4 loads of laundry to do today.
  • I also need to get to the gym.
  • And work.
  • Which means I really need to stop writing this inane list of miscellanea and get cracking.
  • Bye.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The object of my desire

There it is. Right there. Can you see it? No, of course you can't. I've hidden it away from prying eyes. Up there. On the top shelf. Behind the baking supplies. And the onion chopper. And the bamboo steamers. In a paper bag. A plain one, not the sort to attract any attention. Move along now, nothing happening here. No reason to linger. That's right, move along now.

But I know it's there. Waiting. Calling to me. A siren song for my ears alone. I have to be strong. To keep the secret. To be caught would mean the end of my dreams. My heart's desire taken from me. Scattered among the masses. Unappreciated. Wasted.

It was hand-carried across the ocean. Meant to be shared, but no. I know that it's true destiny lies with me, with me alone. It is much too precious to waste on those who cannot see its beauty. Feel its magic. Once there were many, but they were squandered by unrestrained lust. This is the only one. The last of its kind. It calls to me from the darkness.


Soon it will be night. Everyone will be asleep. Then I will creep stealthily into the kitchen and climb up on the stepladder. There will be no witnesses as I finally succumb to my heart's desire. I have to have it. To possess it. To devour it. To make it one with my whole being.

The very last peppermint patty.

Oh god it was good.

Visit Writers Island to read more about desire.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What was that again?

A few week's ago Angie from Seven Clown Circus tagged me for the Read It Again meme. This is a fun one because it gives you a chance to revisit some old favorites, perhaps even some that were lost in the internet shuffle during the days when you only had 2.4 readers a week... I first answered this meme here, so you if you look at that one you'll actually get twice as much bang for your meme buck. There are posts there that even I've forgotten about. Good ones, too.

So here's how it works. Go back through your archives and post the links to your five favorite blog posts that you’ve written. But there is a catch:

Link 1 must be about family.

Link 2 must be about friends.

Link 3 must be about yourself, who you are… what you’re all about.

Link 4 must be about something you love.

Link 5 can be anything you choose.

This is a great way to circulate some of the great older posts everyone has written, return to a few great places in our memories and also learn a little something about ourselves and each other. Post your five links and then tag five other people. At least TWO of the people you tag must be newer acquaintances so that you get to know each other better. And don’t forget to read the archive posts and leave comments!

So here are mine:

Link 1 - Family: Family History As Seen Through A Rolling Pin

Link 2 - Friends: International Ice Cream For Breakfast Day

Link 3 - What I'm All About: Is it the events, or is it the moments? and It's The Little Things

Link 4 - Something I love: Since I love writing, how about this, or this, or this.

Link 5 - Wild Card: The Old Man of the Mountain

I'm going to tag whoever out there hasn't done this one yet and is interested. Please do let me know in the comments if you do it, I'd love to see what you choose. Oh, and I'm also going to tag Maddy, Janet and Grace, since they were kind enough to bestow various awards and bling on me. (See, instead of thanking them properly and passing them on (which I will get to SOON, I promise) I'm giving them homework. Nice of me, isn't it?)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

TT - When Real Life Gets In The Way

Otherwise known as "Thirteen Things I Was Busy Buying In The Supermarket When I Could Have Been Home Doing A Much More Interesting Thursday Thirteen":

1. Wax paper

2. Milk - 2 kinds

3. Peach yogurts (only kind M will eat)

4. Individual size cottage cheeses with enclosed spoon - Itai's new favorite school lunch

5. Swiss cheese

6. Zfatit cheese (a 5% fat, semi-soft, slightly salty white cheese - delicious!)

7. Cream cheese (a 30% not nearly as healthy but oh so much more delicious cheese)

8. Barbecue flavor potato chips

9. Canned tomatoes

10. Flour (6 bags - 2 white, 2 wheat, 2 rye, which should last at least two weeks...)

11. One bagel

12. Dish sponges

13. Fusilli pasta

And a whole bunch more crap critical household items, but that would put me over 13 so you'll just have to be left to guess.

Have a great day everyone, and may all your shopping trips be short.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Am I the last person to have discovered this?

Just in case I'm not, and you haven't either, I'll share my discovery.

I'm not a huge tea drinker but I've been sick a lot lately and so haven't been able to indulge my coffee addiction as much as usual. I was looking for a good hot drink I could have in the evenings without then being up all night.

Enter red tea.

Red tea, also called rooibus or bush tea (which any fan of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency would know is Precious Ramotswe's beverage of choice), comes from the Cedarburg region of South Africa. It's delicious, almost a bit sweet, not at all bitter, and it's naturally 100% caffeine-free. It's even chock full of healthy anti-oxidants. I haven't tried it iced yet, but I'm thinking that will be pretty darn tasty too.

Red tea - it works for me.

Visit Rocks In My Dryer to see what works for everyone else.
Photo courtesy of Stock Food.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Traffic Circle in the Road

What to write, what to write...

The Writers Island prompt for this week is the fork in the road. I could do the obvious and write about how my daughter is standing at a fork in the road. One side leads to a standard, mainstream kindergarten class with 35 (!) children and an excellent but very overworked teacher, the other side to a special needs kindergarten, with smaller class sizes, therapists, and support services, but special ed. I could tell you that I enrolled her in the regular one this morning, all the while knowing that it will most likely not come to pass but wanting to reserve a place just in case something goes wrong (or even better, right. That's not likely though. Sigh.). I could write how I bumped into the mainstream kindergarten teacher this morning and had to blink back tears when she asked if Maya would be joining her next fall. Or how after hearing my explanation she then reassured me that the teacher of the local "communications/language" kindergarten is very good, and told me that she has several children from there that come to her class two days a week. I could tell you how I die a little inside each time I think about putting an intellectually gifted child, MY intellectually gifted child, into a special needs class. I could tell you about how the experts all agree that this is where she needs to be right now, so that she can focus on advancing rather than on surviving, and then hopefully (oh god how I hope) return to the mainstream track for first grade.

I could tell you all of those things, but the truth is that I really don't want to dwell on them again this evening. I want to stick my head in the sand for a few minutes and think of other things. Simpler things.

So I'm going to tell you instead about the traffic circle in the road. Traffic circles are things found in roads, just like forks, so I figure that's close enough.

Eight years ago my husband and I took a trip to Thailand. (The best vacation we've ever had, hands down. I would return tomorrow if I could, but that's a topic for another day.) So anyway, Thailand...

When Jay and I travel we try to get off the beaten path and leave the teeming hordes of tourists behind, at least in between visiting the sites that have drawn all the hordes to them in the first place like culture-starved moths to a flame. To do this in Thailand, we decided to do something that very few tourists dare - we rented a car.

In most countries this might not be considered a major feat of daring, but the rules of the road in Thailand make driving a bit more challenging than usual. For starters, they drive on the left side of the road. Next, the roads are fairly narrow and filled with all manner of vehicles - from trucks and buses down to mopeds carrying entire families, to horsecarts, bicycles, pedestrians, and the more than occasional chicken.

On our first day with the car we were managing, barely, to avoid the carsbicyclesmopedsgoatschickenpedestrians, and even the pickup truck full of gold-plated Buddha statues (yes, really), but as we approached the outskirts of Ayuthaya we realized that the worst was still to come - a traffic circle. If you've never driven on the "wrong" side of the road let me assure you that entering a traffic circle is a special little corner of hell, and of course it was my turn to drive. As I neared the circle I began chanting to myself: go left, go left, go left, go left, go left... I reached the circle and miracle of miracles managed to turn left into it, ironically the "right" direction, and looked in front of me to find...

Yes, right in the middle of the road stood a whole group of elephants. Elephants! In the road! No one told me there would be elephants in the road!!

I managed to stop the car well short of them, but really, elephants? Don't you think that's just a bit above and beyond?...

(They weren't actually wild elephants running loose through Ayuthaya. A second look showed that they were trained elephants getting ready to carry a bunch of Japanese tourists around town. Apparently, tame elephants and their mahouts don't follow traffic laws any better than anyone else in Thailand. No, this is not my photo (I was too busy trying not to hit them to take out my camera), and I don't even think it's an Asian elephant. It's courtesy of It was free, don't be picky.)

Monday, January 21, 2008


Tomorrow is the day that Susan takes a giant step towards health.

Life begins again tomorrow, and she's got so very much to live for. Go add your voice and cheer her on as she does it.

We love you Susan.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers

I'm going to kill two birds with one virtual stone today - I'm going to write something on fellow travelers, this week's Sunday Scribblings prompt, and at the same time I'm going to write about Tel Aviv for the Carnival of Cities which is being hosted this month by Grace of Sandier Pastures.

The winter of 1990-1991 I was finishing my last year of university back in the States. I'd spent the previous year at Tel Aviv University in Israel, and at the end of this final year I was planning on getting married and returning to Israel for good. While I was back in New Jersey, my fiance (now husband of 16 years) was serving in the Israeli army. If you are wondering why that winter rings a bell in your mind, it was the date of the first Gulf War. Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait in August, and Bush (the first one) had announced that if he didn't withdraw by January 16, 1991, that he would suffer the consequences. (It's a very strange feeling to have a start date for a war hanging over your head like that. It's hard to explain if you haven't lived through it.) Everyone knew that the moment the war began, Iraq would begin attacking Israel (and Saudi Arabia) to provoke the Israelis into retaliating, in the hopes that this would split the Arab nations away from the anti-Iraq coalition. Israel did in fact come very close to retaliating (and wouldn't you if another country suddenly declared war on you and began lobbing missiles at your civilian population centers?), but held back due to Bush's pledge to protect Israeli cities from the scuds. (As a result of this promise, U.S. Patriot missile batteries were deployed in Israel in a valiant but ultimately ineffectual attempt to shoot down the scuds.)

In the midst of all this and with a typical sense of the invincibility of youth, I decided to spend the end of December and most of January in Israel. I'd been separated for my fiance long enough and didn't want to miss this opportunity to be with him, despite the increasingly worrying political climate. I'm not going to go into war stories right now, suffice it to say that sitting there with a gas mask on during those first nights of scuds, when everyone still thought he might be crazy enough to use chemical warfare, were the most frightening of my life. The whole country shut down, hoping the next scud wouldn't fall on their bedroom roof. I was lucky, I was on kibbutz up north where I was relatively safe. In Tel Aviv and the central region the fears were much more real.

After a few weeks of this surreal existence, trying to get on with our lives while carrying gas masks around the kibbutz, a few things slowly returned to something approaching normal, and as part of this the airport finally reopened, just in time for my flight out. I knew that if I did not get on that flight out I could be stuck for weeks more and end up having to cancel my final semester of university. I had no choice, it was time to go home. This was more complicated than it would have been in peacetime though, since public transportation was still not running and there was nearly no civilian traffic on the roads. Luckily, someone from the kibbutz had to drive down to Tel Aviv very early that morning. I accepted his offer of a lift with gratitude, and that is how I found myself sitting outside a closed bakery in North Tel Aviv at 6am, with no place to go, no way to get there anyway, and a flight that wasn't leaving until midnight.

At 7 the owners came to open the store. I quickly went inside and ordered a coffee and a pastry, glad for the chance to at least warm up for a while. After I'd sat there for about 45 minutes (the only customer who came and actually stayed), the wife asked me what on earth I was doing there, in this outlying neighborhood in the middle of a war, surrounded by luggage and reading a book. When I told her, she went in the back and spoke with her husband. Five minutes later I found myself being driven to their apartment, coffee and a big bag of baked goods in hand. They had to work that day, but I was more than welcome to stay in their home until it was time to leave for the airport that evening. Her only request was not to go out on the balcony, since the scuds had blown out the windows and there was broken glass everywhere.

These people hadn't even known my name when they opened their home to me and then left me there on my own all day. Seventeen years later I am still speechless with gratitude at their generosity. Israelis can be abrasive at times, occasionally even downright rude, but when push comes to shove they pull out this inner reserve of strength and compassion that has no equal. The whole country temporarily forgets its many differences and pulls together for the common good. Israelis have known their share of crises, but if I had to pick who to have sitting next to me during the next one there is no one in the world I'd rather have with me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

TT - What the Heck Is Tu B'Shvat?

1. Tu B'Shvat, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat (sometimes written as Shevat), is a holiday also known as the New Year for Trees. The word "Tu" is not really a word; it is the number 15 in Hebrew, as if you were to call the Fourth of July "Iv July" (IV being 4 in Roman numerals).
2. Tu B'Shevat will begin this year at sundown on Monday 21 January and will end at sundown on Tuesday 22 January.

3. Judaism has several different "New Years." This is not as strange a concept as it sounds at first; in America, there is the calendar year (January-December), the school year (September-June), and many businesses have fiscal years. It's basically the same idea with the various Jewish New Years.

4. Tu B'Shevat is the new year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. See Lev. 19:23-25, which states that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years; the fourth year's fruit is for G-d, and after that, you can eat the fruit. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of Tu B'Shevat, so if you planted a tree on Shevat 14, it begins its second year the next day, but if you plant a tree two days later, on Shevat 16, it does not reach its second year until the next Tu B'Shevat.

5. There are few formal customs or observances related to this holiday. This New Year of trees is not accompanied by a cessation of labor or specified feasting, nor is it mentioned specially in the prayers of the day. In order to make the day special and celebratory, certain supplicatory prayers are omitted.

6. It is customary to eat the fruits associated with the Land of Israel (dates, olives, figs, and pomegranates), and to partake of some new fruit not eaten yet that year, if available. The fruits associated with the Land of Israel are enumerated in Deuteronomy 8:8: "...a land of wheat and barley and (grape) vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and (date) honey" (Deut. 8:8).

7. In Israel, it is customary (especially for children) to plant new saplings or plants on Tu B'Shvat. Jews living outside of Israel often commemorate the holiday by donating money to the Jewish National Fund (the traditional "blue boxes") to plant a tree in Israel.

8. Another long standing custom (among the religious apparently, I've never heard of it) is to pray at this time for an especially beautiful etrog (citron) for the next holiday of Sukkot.

9. Some people have adopted a "Tu B'shvat Seder" for the evening of Tu B'shvat, based upon the writings of the students of the Arizal in the book "Pri Aitz Hadar" ("citrus fruits"). The holiday is celebrated with a "seder" analogous to the Passover night seder, and indeed the night marks the beginning of a 60 day period until Passover.

10. You can an explanation of how to perform this Tu B'shvat seder here.

11. My kids have had a Tu B'Shvat seder in preschool some years, but it's not something we've ever done at home.

12. CafePress apparently sells Tu B'Shvat t-shirts. Who'da thunk it. (Yes, I'm reaching a bit here...)

13. Tu B'Shvat coloring pages and games can be found here.

Factual information about Tu B'Shvat was plagiarized taken from Judaism 101 and JewishByte.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Take time for you, too

That's my WFMW tip, or rather reminder, for today. When you're feeling overwhelmed or strung out, or just can't stand to hear one more whiny word, give yourself permission to take time off. Leave the children with your husband or another willing victim babysitter for the evening and head out the door.

If you're lucky, a girlfriend will be available. Even better, she'll have a great chick flick waiting. I recommend Hairspray, it worked wonders on my mood tonight, and watching it with a good friend was just what I needed to come home feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the world again.

Even if a girlfriend isn't available, don't miss your chance. Grab your laptop or a good book and head out to your local coffee shop and just clear your head for a while.

Because you need it, and you're worth it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Woman Of Valor

A woman of valor, who can find
Her worth is more precious than rubies*

So says a poem that is often recited at the start of the Jewish Sabbath. When I hear these lines, I usually think of my grandmother, remembering how they were spoken at her funeral so many years ago. I remember listening to the rabbi praise her virtues as we mourned. My grandmother was indeed a treasure to me, more valuable than any rubies, diamonds or pearls. I have long wished that she could have lived long enough for me to learn more from her, but I was just a young girl when she finally succumbed to the disease that riddled her body.

This week though, those words in praise of a valorous woman bring to mind someone else. Someone much younger. Someone who inspires me each day, who is the kind of parent I can only wish to become. The kind of woman I can only wish to become.

This woman, this very dear friend of mine, is in terrible pain right now. She has been dealt a massive blow, the kind that changes your life forever, and I am utterly unable to find a way to help her. Not only can I not find a way to help lessen her pain, I can't find her at all. After a desperate cry for help she has vanished, unable or unwilling to be found. After days of no response, my mind begins traveling in directions it should never go. Voicing dark thoughts no one should ever give voice, for fear that speaking them might give them wing.

As I send ever stronger messages of love and healing towards her, and leave ever more frantic messages in her inbox and voicemail, I can only hope that she can feel that love wherever she is, and know how very much I care.

And then I really hope she calls and tells me that everything is fine, because I'm worried sick.

The Writers Island prompt for this week is treasure, and if you are out there reading my friend, know that you are truly a treasure to me.

* The correct translation is apparently pearls, but I learned it as rubies, so rubies it shall stay. The particular jewel is irrelevant here in any case.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

No Knead Beer Bread

For those of us who are not Jay amateur artisan bakers. Easy, impressive (yes, it does look and taste like "real" bread, even slices well too), and very tasty...

I threw this bread together yesterday for a playgroup afternoon I was hosting and served it to rave reviews. Most people ate it with the sun-dried tomato cream cheese I put out, but it was also really good with just a bit of butter (or for that matter with the mango chutney I spread on the leftover end this afternoon).


1 standard size (12oz / 33oml) can of beer or malt beer - ordinary Maccabi seems to work best if you can get it
3 cups flour
1 packet (12g or approximately 2tsp) baking powder
1 tbl sugar
1 tsp salt

  • "Something" to throw into the dough. I used about 1/4 cup of chopped black olives. Chopped nuts would also work well.
  • "Something else" to sprinkle over the top - I used sunflower seeds
Mix everything together (took about 2 minutes in my stand mixer).
Pour into greased loaf pan.
Bake 30 minutes at 350F (180C).

Note: I accidentally used a larger size can of beer but other than having to bake the loaf significantly longer (which is probably why the top cracked) and having it smell slightly of beer you'd never notice. I like a forgiving recipe...

Friday, January 11, 2008

My On Again Off Again Love Affair

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "The Date". It came with the following suggestions:

You can either write about an actual date (blind or otherwise) or about a particular date or a due date or a deadline or the best day of your life or the day that changed your life (or if you feel cheeky you could write about the date that is a food.)

Since I am in fact a cheeky broad, I decided to skip the sublime and go straight to the ridiculous.

Dates. Specifically, rotten ones. No, not a bum first date, or that blind date with the guy who had spinach stuck in his teeth the whole evening and talked non-stop about insurance sales. I mean actual dates. The fruit. You know, small wrinkly looking little brown things, grow on palm trees? But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Years ago, Jay lived briefly on a kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Northern Israel. I was a student then and used to come up each weekend and any time I had time off. When I was on my mid-winter break I planned to spend about six weeks on the kibbutz, working in exchange for my keep. It was all arranged. I would work in the kibbutz preschool helping to care for the children, a position I was really looking forward to. Unfortunately, just before I was due to arrive I broke my wrist and ended up in a cast. The powers that be on the kibbutz decided that I was no longer able to work with the children with a broken arm, and sent me instead to the date packing house. Ok, I'm a guest, they're opening up their home to me, I'll go where I'm told.

Only catch? (You knew there had to be a catch, right?) The only job I was physically capable of doing with one arm in a cast was sorting dates - grade A (for eating as is), grade B (for making into silan - date syrup - the "honey" of the land of milk and honey), and grade R - for ROTTEN. Rotten, putrid, moldy dates. I spent six straight weeks sorting rotten dates. By the time I was done, I couldn't bear the sight, smell or heaven forbid the taste of a date. It had even impregnated my cast so that my entire arm smelled of rotten dates. I think I was even dreaming of rotten dates attacking me while I slept.

For the next 7 years I couldn't even look at a date, let alone eat one, which is really a shame considering how wonderful Israeli dates are, and the ones from this kibbutz in particular. Thankfully I was eventually able to get over the bad connotations and begin enjoying dates again (I think I might very well sell my sister for a big fat majoul date. Not my kids of course, but my sister very probably.) It did take many more years before I was willing to buy or bake with date syrup. That didn't happen until my son first tasted it in school and came home begging me to buy some.

The Israeli holiday of Tu B'Shvat begins Monday night, and Israelis everywhere will be celebrating by serving plates of dried fruits and nuts with, you guessed it, delicious Israeli dates right there with pride of place. And I'll be loving each and every one.

But I will take a minute out to thank my lucky stars that I didn't have to see them until after they made the grade.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

TT - Things I didn't manage to get done this week, and why

Here are thirteen things I should have accomplished this week and didn't, because I was too busy having bronchitis, followed by a severe allergic reaction to the bronchitis medication. It's been a barrel of laughs around here lately I tell ya...

This is what I should have done this week - thank heavens for a terrific husband who brought the kids to school each morning and came home early each afternoon to get them:

1. Worked something vaguely resembling my normal number of hours (I work from home by the hour - I don't work, I don't get paid)

2. Grocery shopped

3. Taken Maya to speech

4. Taken Itai to soccer - twice

5. Taken Maya to the doctor to have some birthmarks that seem to be growing looked at

6. Gotten my hair colored - I'm starting to bear a distinct and very unflattering resemblance to Pepe Le Pew

7. Gone to the gym - twice

8. Finished the laundry I started 3 days ago, and kept up with the rest

9. Taken Maya to her sports class

10. Gotten the right headlight on my car replaced

11. Dealt with an outstanding tax issue

12. Paid Itai's school insurance (in person at city hall)

13. Any one of a thousand other things that a mom does each week

Next week's got to get better, right? I have to be due for a break already.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Urgent - Need Asthma Medicine Help (updated at end)

I'm coopting this week's backwards WFMW for some urgently needed help:

My doctor won't be in for a few hours and the pharmacy isn't open yet. I was prescribed several asthma medicines for bronchitis:

Budicort (budesonide)
Ventolin (salbutamol)
Movex (bromhexine hcl)

I've taken all three before without incident.

Right now my entire body itches uncontrollably - from scalp to toes, it even woke me up during the night. It is truly unbearable.

Has anyone heard of this as a side effect of these medications? I'm severely allergic to several antibiotics, and the way I found out about the last one was when I developed a sudden terrible rash. I'm afraid to take another dose for fear that if it is an allergic reaction that it will get much worse.

Help please!

UPDATE: the dr just called - it's the pills (movex). I'm to stop them immediately and he phoned in a prescription for a different pill to stop the itching. Now I just have to survive another 35 minutes until the pharmacy opens, and then long enough for the pill to work.

2nd update: the first anti-hystamine didn't work. I'm now on two different anti-hystamines and a steroid. This is highly unpleasant, to say the least. Supposedly I'll start feeling better by tomorrow morning, if I have any skin left at that point. Yuck.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Widow's Walk

The sun rose above the steel gray water, or rather the black sky turned a slightly lighter dark cloudy gray. Another day of waiting and watching was about to begin, just as had so many before, and likely to end the same way - looking out at an empty sea.

It had been over a year since they'd parted. He had hoped to earn enough money from this voyage to finally leave the sea and make a home for her and the child they both hoped would soon come. Perhaps he'd open a small shop near the harbor, selling provisions to the sailors off the ships. It would be a good life, a simple life. One they both dreamed of, talked about during the days before he sailed. Now the dream seemed to be slipping further away with each passing day. His ship was three months overdue. Three months she'd spent pacing the widow's walk as she searched for him, waiting to see the sails of his ship coming over the horizon, wondering if the widow's walk's very name had cursed her fate.

The woman sighed and pulled her shawl closer around her shoulders in a futile attempt to ward off the chill. With a heavy heart, she climbed the stairs. She reached the door at the top and turned the handle. With a deep breath, she stepped outside.

She saw nothing, just as she expected. After so many days of nothing she was becoming resigned to her fate. She'd been a fool to think that she would be one of the lucky few to escape the cruel fate of so many sailors' wives.

As she stared out at the unforgiving sea, a shape began to form on the horizon. She watched, not daring to let her mind form coherent thoughts. The shape began to grow, turning into a triangle pointing to the sky. Could it be? Yes, it was! A sail. But whose? She barely dared hope and stood riveted in place, watching.

The triangle was joined by another, and took on more definition. Soon she could no longer deny the joy that was leaping up from a place so long dormant she'd feared it too had died.

Suddenly she gasped and flew into action. There was so much to do! Straighten the parlour, change the bedding, air out her good dress, plait her hair! She had to hurry, it wouldn't take long for the ship to reach the harbor. For the first time in months she found herself singing as she raced down the stairs, hurrying towards her new life.

The Writers Island prompt for this week was over the horizon.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

See, now that's why I don't make New Year's Resolutions

They're just too hard to keep.

You all remember that I had geared myself up to get back to the gym and get back into shape. I did start going to the gym, even met with my trainer for a new program, but every time I tried to actually work out I started coughing my guts up.

I was sick a few weeks ago. I recovered from it pretty quickly thanks to Lea's magic tea, but I ended up with this miserable hacking cough that I just couldn't shake.

After many sleepless nights and miserable days I finally dragged myself to the doctor this morning. Turns out I have bronchitis. No physical activity for three weeks*.

There goes that plan.

* At least he didn't say I couldn't make an utter and complete pig out of myself and eat an obscene number of See's Molasses Chips to console myself.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

My husband has lost his mind, and it's just fine by me

A few months ago, I wrote that I had won my husband a new bread book from the lovely folks over at A Year In Bread. We had to wait for my parents to come over to get it, and then for them to leave again for him to really start using it in earnest, but use it he has. My entire kitchen - cabinets, fridge, the works - has been completely taken over by various sponges, boules, batards, levains both liquid and stiff, couches, and various assorted vats of foul-smelling toxic waste (or so it seems) which all need to be fed at different times on different days. (Can you tell that I don't have the faintest idea what most of this stuff is? I'm sure enjoying the end results though.)

He's gone utterly and completely mad. As an example, just today he's got a sourdough baguette, two different strains of sourdough pizza dough (one aged for a week, one aged overnight, both loosely based on the techniques from the book) and a pain de campagne. Oh, and since the oven was already hot he also made a banana chocolate chip cake to serve when we have friends over this evening (after the afore-mentioned pizza) and a batch of roasted red peppers "just to make his sandwiches fun". I haven't even told you about the loaves that went to the neighbor, the cleaner and my son's afternoon program (two of them, for their "healthy food" day) yesterday. You simply can't imagine the level of mania that has taken over the kitchen lately. I'm barely managing to shove him out of the way occasionally to make actual food (i.e. not bread). Not that I'm complaining, it's all delicious albeit more than a little bit fattening. (I've prevailed on him to at least slow down a bit so that my diet has half a chance. How can I succeed with him saying "no, don't eat cottage cheese, we have all this bread and cold cuts that need to be used up"...) Right after I took that picture of him he said "Damn, I'm missing a dough!". Turns out it was in the plastic container that the cookbook was sitting on... He's mad I tell you, mad as a (very cute and very talented) hatter.

Now don't you wish he'd come visit your house (along with a cleaning crew to deal with the resulting kitchen carnage)? (In the interests of blogging accuracy (and a happy marriage), I have to admit that he did in fact clean the entire kitchen just a few minutes later and it is now sparkling and bright.)
Edited to add: Jay reminded me that in the midst of all this chaos he also made butternut squash-bulgarian cheese-sunflower seed ravioli with homemade pasta. Those went straight into the freezer though.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

TT - Strange Cold Remedies

Since I shared Lea's not at all strange and very effective cold remedy with you all yesterday, I figured why not riff off that theme for this week's TT. I give you 13 home cold remedies. The ingredients for Lia's tea are all listed here, but some of the others are a bit more, shall we say, esoteric. Yes, somebody, somewhere, is actually doing this. The "cures" are all taken off the internet, snarky comments are emphasis is mine.

1. Wet socks for sniffles
To clear congestion when you have a cold, first warm your feet in hot water, then soak a thin pair of socks in cold water, wring them out and put them on. Put a pair of thick, dry socks over the wet ones and go to bed. According to 1,001 Home Remedies (Reader's Digest), the wet socks help draw blood to your feet, thereby boosting circulation, which helps clear congestion. Yeah, thanks, but no.

2. Chocolate for coughs
If a tickly cough is bugging you, treat yourself to a bar of chocolate. Theobromine, found in cocoa, suppresses sensory nerves, which will help soothe your throat. Now this is one I can support!

"The lady at the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) shop explained that the lizards are best in a soup, and set out collecting all the bits and pieces to make the soup with. The soup ingredients (herbs) are yam, chinese dates, ginseng, medlar, and something called tragacanth. About 10 grams of each.... You cook these herbs with some pork bones and the lizards. The TCM shopkeeper told me I could eat the lizards (snap off the head and limbs and toss them out) and that the tails are the best, as in beneficial, parts to eat. They're reported to be good for asthma, colds, lungs and heart." Umm, no thanks. I don't care how well it works, no way no how am I eating a lizard!

Kam Wo Tea is great for the first stage of colds and flus, especially with a sore throat. Take at the first tickle in the throat. Excellent for singers. Ok, this one sounds a bit more palatable.

(Numbers 5-11 are taken from here)
5. Cayenne(Capsicum sp): Chilies, especially Jalapeno, are proven antiviral and most effective against cold. However, your stomach needs to tolerate the chilies to treat your virus infection! So, get into the habit of eating more chilies to develop better tolerance. Good to know, since I've been loading up Lea's homebrew with a very hefty pinch of cayenne pepper.

6. Echinacea: This is the best herb to take during the early stages of cold. Although, it's not an antibiotic and doesn't kill germs, it stimulates the production of white blood cells, which fight off the virus. In all honesty I've never found echinacea to help me all that much. I used to give it to the kids in the winter as a preventative, but it didn't seem all that effective.

7. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): Elderberry has been used for centuries as a (natural remedy for cold and flu). It deactivates cold and flu viruses by preventing them from replicating. It’s best taken at the first signs of a cold. Sambucus nigra? Is this what sambuca is made from? I could do that...

8. Garlic (Allium sativum): This truly natural antibiotic destroys foreign bacteria with the help of a substance called allicin. Garlic is best when fresh. This one's in the tea too, and RivkA (the one with the capital A) recently recommended eating fresh garlic on toast every day as a way to stave off colds, twice a day when you're actually sick.

9. Ginger (Zingiber officinalis): Ginger, either freshly grated or powdered, taken as a tea induces sweating and elimination. It boosts the immune system and respiration. It provides relief for virtually all cold symptoms, like fever, sinus congestion, sore throat, stomachache and nausea. I'm going to try adding this one to the tea as well next time. I love freshly-grated ginger, and we always have it in the house.

10. Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis): Hyssop has some properties that make it valuable in treating colds. Hyssop is a main ingredient in za'atar, a popular spice mix here in the Middle East. We put it on salads, breads and all kinds of things. I've never heard of it being called a cure for the common cold though.

11. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): Lemon Balm is often found in cold formulas for feverish conditions. It’s an excellent remedy to take in the wake of a cold to nurture the nervous system and to expel feelings of lethargy. It’s best used when fresh. Melissa, as it's called in Israel, is a common herb in minty-type herbal teas. Again, I've never heard of it being particularly good for colds though.

12. The ever-popular chicken soup, otherwise known as "Jewish pennicillin". As a good Jewish mom myself I didn't need the internet for this one.
13. "My grandma fried onions and plastered them on your chest, gave you an enema and then you could only wish you could die. The cold didn't seem too bad after that. (I should think not!) The cure was much worse than the illness. My grandfather preferred bitters for a cold. Just the name made me cringe. It was black and kept in the fridge in a gallon jar. God only knows what was really in it." Note: this same site also mentions several people who used to EAT Vicks Vapor Rub!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Super Effective Homemade Cold Remedy

This week's Works For Me Wednesday tip comes to you courtesy of a wonderful friend, the very lovely Lea of Tales From The Labyrinth, who came to my rescue when I was felled by that tiniest of villains, the lowly virus.

So without further ado, I give you "Lea's Mother's Cold Remedy", fresh from a successful run at my house. Brew it up today to give your immune system the boost it needs to fight back.

Place the following in a mug:

- the juice of half a lemon
- one peeled clove of garlic
- one tablespoon of honey
- "as large a pinch of cayenne pepper as you can stand"

Add boiling water and steep for a few minutes.

Drink. Go ahead, drink it. It's surprisingly good. The taste actually grew on me and I continued drinking it for several more days, which I'm sure contributed to the speed at which I managed to kick my cold (well, except for this ridiculous lingering cough, but I think that has more to do with my late in life tendency towards breathing trouble. I should go brew up a mug right now, I'll bet it would help...)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Turning a corner?

The past few days have been good. Not quite as wonderful as Friday, but definitely good. I'm really hoping we're over the worst of it, at least for now. Having a few better days has given me the chance to refill my proverbial cup though, and I feel calmer and more able to handle whatever comes.

Maya has in fact been doing some of the things her therapist was concerned that she wasn't showing interest in (playing with dolls, etc.). As usual, she's just on her own timetable and likes to keep us guessing. She's been that way all her life. At 10 months the nurse was concerned that she wasn't pulling to standing in her crib and threatened occupational therapy if she hadn't done it by her 12 month visit. Little stinker went home and did it that very afternoon!

We also had a major lightbulb moment the other day when Jay suddenly realized that the very worst of her behavior had corresponded with our instructing her preschool not to keep napping her each day. She was suddenly without that extra 90 minutes of sleep (which at four years old she really doesn't need and which was killing us when she didn't want to sleep at night) but she hadn't adjusted her nighttime schedule either, so she was in fact even more sleep-deprived than usual. This for a child whose parents defined "not enough sleep" as a key issue. Well duh! Gee, do you think that might have been a factor! Idiots. She's got idiots for parents. (Not to mention all the professionals who kept insisting that our trip to Italy was the reason, despite the fact that the trouble didn't start for several weeks after we returned! Asshats.)

In any case, we seem to be on a more even keel now, long may it remain.

Here's to a better 2008.

(Oh, and just for added fun Itai woke up with a bad cold and complaining of a sore throat and upset stomach this morning. He was supposed to have a math test today, but since he's very confident about that I don't think it factored in. This is the first time he's actually asked to stay home sick so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and sent him back to bed, and an hour later he's still sound asleep.)