Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Safed Chanukah

It's been a pleasant week of Chanukah. Very low key but all the kids were home in Safed at some point or another, so I enjoyed the pace and interactions. It always amazes me that after years of living on the edge of WWIII, my children not only get along but actually like each other, as adults/almost adults. We had a restful (and delicious) Shabbat -- I made the Khachpuri which I had been looking forward to -- good thing that I thought that it was good because I've been eating them all week. When we had lunch on Saturday, after the challah, salads (we're totally Israeli now and can't manage without about 10 salads before the main course at a Shabbat meal) and a thick red lentil-sweet potato soup, no one wanted to try the khachpuri which, admittedly, I patchke'd about a bit. So, OK, it didn't go to waste -- I had some great lunches at work.

Soldier-son didn't make it home for Shabbat but he did have leave for the last several days of Chanukah. Those were the days that the 15-year-old was in Jerusalem with her sister so again, it was very quiet. I had given her a chunk of cash for shopping and she came home with some nice sweaters and a very happy disposition -- shopping does that for her. She even helped to rake up the yard with her brother, a first!

Sometimes I simply don't know if I give into her too much, just to diffuse the tension in the house, or if I'm supposed to acknowledge that she is different, with different struggles and needs, and I have to adapt myself to meet her "where she is." I was a pretty strict mother with my older kids but it simply doesn't work with the youngest one -- she's simply a different kettle of fish and I find single-mothering to be very difficult. (My teen even told me once "you don't have any spine" -- sigh. She may be right.)

I was talking with another Safed mother today who also has an adolescent who's going through teen issues. She gave me a good idea -- write positive, building notes. It wouldn't have to be "cheesy" but may have the effect of, not only developing more positive interactions than constantly reminding her of what the kid needs to do, hasn't' done, etc, but also allowing me to express myself before she tunes me out.

I'm going to try it. Another friend once suggested that when I have something difficult to tell my older kids, that I write a letter. Then I wouldn't find myself in the back-and-forth of trying to say what I want to say, having to explain, go on the defensive, etc. I did on a few occasions and it really works. In fact, we never opened the conversation again -- it was simply presented, in the letter, and finished with.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chanukah, o' Chanukah, come Light my Menorah

For a relatively minor holiday, Chanukah always sparks (pun intended) something in me. I get a kick out of watching the glow of the candles (oil wicks don't work well for me) and imagining all of the mushy phrases, like "a single candle can light up the world."

One of the nicest events of the holiday is walking around Tzfat after candle-lighting and seeing everyone's candles burning outside their homes. Lighting the candles isn't the end of the "mitzva' -- an additional important part of the candle-lighting is to "spread the miracle" by letting the candles be seen publicly. It's a point of Jewish pride that, I guess, is a lot easier to do in Israel, where you don't have to worry about being targeted by anti-semites (or having your menorah stolen). But it's very moving to walk around and see everyone's menorah shining brightly.

Family Shabbat this week. Everyone is expected to gather at the homestead, including my Tel Aviv daughter who doesn't come too often. The slow pace of Tzfat, not to mention the religiosity, makes her itch. But she promised that she'd make it up this week so I am preparing a yummy dairy meal to make my two vegetarian daughters happy for Saturday lunch. I found a recipe for Khachpuri on Israeli Kitchen which looks like exactly what I want. I don't know that I'll have all the right ingredients (one cheese looks like another to me) but I think that I have it right. I just walked down to the Tzfat Kadosh cheeses (goat's and sheep's milk cheese -- yum!) to get some of the ingredients. I do hope that the carton that I bought in the supermarket that I think is buttermilk really is buttermilk.

I have lived in Israel for 28 years and am still not "Israeli." Most of the time, I don't notice it much, but a few days ago, I saw, once again, clearly, that my credentials as an "Israeli" are sorely lacking.

I was heading up to town, dragging my pushcart (for shopping) behind me. I wanted to head up the stairs to the next street but the stairway was under construction and there was only one small lane open. As I looked up a group of 40+ people was starting to head down.

I stood there, waiting for them to finish coming down, when a young woman came up behind me and took my cart. "Com'mon" she said and just started up with the cart, forcing the people coming down to hug the wall and let us walk up.

We were very polite and said "excuse me" a bunch of times but darned if we didn't get up the stairs quickly! Of course, the fact that they were American tourists, so they were as polite as me, worked in my favor.

Last night my 15-year-old went to Kiryat Shmoneh with her friends for a birthday/Chanukah party. She warned me that they'd be coming back "between 2:00a.m. and 3:00a.m." because they'd ordered a van which was set to bring them back at that time. Since she was coming home with a friend, I didn't worry, but when I woke up at 3:30a.m. and they still weren't home, I started to fret.

Of course, by 3:40, they walked in -- the van itself had come late, but since my daughter doesn't have a cell phone, I couldn't find out what had happened. And of course, by 3:40, my sleep was pretty much disrupted for the night -- I got maybe another two hours of sleep.

Funny, people sometimes ask me if I worry about my son in the army, but frankly, when he's on base, I know where he is. It's my wandering daughter who turns my hairs white.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Chocolate for the Dogs

If my neighbor's dogs, whom he let out at 5:30a.m. this morning to run around barking throughout the neighborhood, die because some dog-hater left some big bars of chocolate sitting outside their gate.....well, i will have known nothing about it.

'nuff said

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hetro, Homo, Single, Double.....

Someone posted this on FB today.....evidently this young man was raised by two lesbian parents and turned out to be the kind of young man that any parent would be proud of.

Now I'm not exactly what you'd describe as "liberal." But it's pretty much escaped me as to why anyone would care what other people do in their bed. If they have issues about religion or any other theoretical or philosophical questions about their sexuality, that's between them and their God. I have enough of my own issues to improve...I don't need anybody else's.

Frankly, I wouldn't have minded having a second adult around to help me raise my kids. There's still 15-year-old in the middle of adolescence left to go. Different bedrooms though.....

Housework pays

Swept out Hagai's room today and I found my lost gold chain! I'm the world's worse housekeeper but sometimes, cleaning a bit is worthwhile.

Hagai had his ceremony today for the end-of-year-one-in-the-army. He's in the Israeli Army Corps of Engineers which, in any conflict, is the first group of soldiers over the border, as they are the ones responsible for dismantling minefields, roadside bombs and other goodies.

I took my New Zealand cousins (or rather, they rented a car and took me and Gal) and I think that they were touched by the ceremony too. You can't help it -- these young boys ready to do whatever needs to be done to take care of their country.

Anyway, my cousins had a camera so I can share the photos.

Livnot is having a big shabbaton for all the bnot sherut ever who were at Livnot (32 years worth). some of the guests are staying at my house. Luckily, no kids coming home this weekend so there's plenty of room. I did remind the people who were organizing it, a million times, that the guests had to be OK with dogs. So, I guess I did my part.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fire and Jealousy

In addition to the regular round of requests for people who are going through horrible life situations (a father of a large family who can't work because he has to stay at home due to his wife's chemotherapy treatments -- how old could a mother of babies be?; a family of 12 kids that's always begging for money for the basics, etc)we've had two incidents of fires in Safed in the last two weeks which have impacted on people who really can't afford to replace their belongings.

One was a family that lives 2 minutes from my front door -- the mother happened to wander outside one night at 11;30p.m. and saw that the outside of their house was on fire -- where they have their washing machine and dryer, all their firewood for the winter, etc. The Tzfat fire department came in a timely manner....someone said that it took close to half an hour. So they're struggling to replace their necessities (7 kids -- you need a washing machine)

The second was even more frightening. Due to a local mobster war, some people splashed kerosene over a shoe shop on the main street and set it ablaze, burning down the apartment of the woman who lives above. It was a rented apt but it held all of her worldly possessions (luckily she wasn't there at the time).

One of our local deep-thinkers evidently said that fires were a kabbalistic sign of jealousy -- not necessarily pointing to the person that it happened to, but jealousy in the community.

I need to check my smoke alarms.

No more pictures for awhile -- to no one's great surprise, letting my daughter take the camera to school to take pictures of her classmates wasn't a wise idea. The lens needs fixing. A mere few hundred shekels.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lazy Days

I'm taking a few days off this week, mostly to work on articles that I'm writing for web-content freelance work. Some of it is dry but I'm creating content for a new site now that's basically history, and it's very interesting. I spend, probably, more time that I should doing the research -- probably why I'd starve if I relied on freelance work long-term. But it's kind of fun. What's even more fun is sitting at home on a freezing rainy day and just pottering around my house. Some people go away for vacations, but frankly, I put so much effort into my, it's a travel location anyway. People pay a lot of money to come to Safed! So I stay at home, save a ton of money, have everything that I need at my fingertips...(am I as boring as I sound?). Anyway, if anyone asks me where I was, I can just say "having a Safed vacation." Yesterday I went to the butchershop to get some chicken bones for the dogs. I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting...while the old couple in front of me stocked up. Anyway, just as the elderly man was paying the butcher and I thought "OK, my turn" he started to bless the butcher. Long life, nachas from the children, good health....and then he went on, naming each child by name, the butcher's mother and father, wife, in-laws..... Ah, only in Israel. Another "only in Israel" though was that, after they finished and left, a woman who had called in her order came in to collect and so SHE became the next in line. And, only in Israel -- I wanted to leave, but was afraid of offending the butcher and his mother (who also works in the store...woman must be 80 if she's a day).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Immigrants

I had to go to an office near one of the new supermarkets today. The supermarket is located near the Tzfat Ethiopian Absorption Center which, I had recently heard, had just absorbed several hundred new immigrants recently arrived from Ethiopia. So after I finished my appointment I went into the supermarket to pick up something, and the local ulpan (Hebrew language) teacher was standing next to the vegetable stand, giving the group of Ethiopians a Hebrew lesson. They were learning the names of the various foods and how to do their shopping. Shoppers were manuvering their way around the group who were standing there dressed pretty much as they must have dressed in Ethiopia. No one gave them a second look. Business as usual in Israel. My guests in the guestroom this week are a nice young couple from New York, soon moving to Vancouver. My cousins are hosting them for Friday night dinner tomorrow night so they should have a nice time. I would have loved to have hosted them myself, but my son is back from the army this week for the first time in three week and I know that he'd like a little bit of privacy, so I'll have to do my hosting next week. There's another couple from Atlanta who are coming next week and they sound very nice on email, so I'm looking forward to meeting them. They were also pleased to be set up for Shabbat meals. And the week after that, a couple from Germany......whew! Anyone who said that you never meet new people in a small town like Tzfat never had a guestroom!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gilad B'Bayit

I could hardly function yesterday. I simply kept watching the news like everyone else in the country -- couldn't get enough of seeing the few pictures and video clips that they provided of Gilad Shalit.

We have a Prime Minister who is not afraid to make hard decisions. And he made the right decision. Bring our captive soldier home and God will take care of us. There's nothing that we can do to these terrorists that will punish them in the way that they should be punished, but that will come in a divine manner. In the meantime, we MUST bring home our soldier. And that's what we did.

The emotions, they joy....for once, we weren't glued to the TV watching the aftermath of some horrific terrorist attack. The entire country was together, giving thanks -- each person in their own way -- and savoring the moment when a young man returned to his family and home.

Interestingly enough, the Psalm for Tuesday mentions both "Succot" (the holiday that we are celebrating now) and "Gilad." Coincidence?

Sunset view from our porch
Our succa (built by yours truly!)
Rappeport succa
The succa
Last day of succot -- goodbye 2011 succa!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Post Yom Kippur

Had a very quiet Yom Kippur. At the last minute someone called to rent the guestroom, so I went down to clean.

Three loads of laundry later (hagai came home from the army so I had his army stuff to add into the equasion) and a lot of cleaning and setting up, we were ready. VERY nice young couple came, and since it was Yom Kippur they didn't eat there or even spend much time in the room, leaving it, pretty much, as clean as when we started out. On the other hand, one of the nice things about having guests in the guestroom is having a chance to chat with them, and that didn't happen. I've started to offer a tour of Tzfat as an added (free) feature of a stay at the Rappeport Guesthouse for people who come for a few days, because it gives the guests a better overview of the town and it gives me a chance to actually spend time with these guests.

thankfully I had made the whole pre-Yom Kippur meal beforehand and then Gal went up to stay with a friend for Yom Kippur, so with just me, Hagai and the dogs, it was pretty quiet.

I went out last night but it was cold and I didn't feel like sitting outside at Beirav, yet i get claustraphobic when I go in, so I wandered around a bit and in the end, just went up on the Tzfat citadel (where it was completely empty -- i shouldn't go there without the dogs, not that they'd ever really do anything to anyone, but it would give someone some pause before starting something) and did my own prayer-thing.

Today, I kept meaning to go to shul, but I had a book, "Inspirational Readings for Yom Kippur" and reading ABOUT the prayers, their meanings, different intrepretations and ways of thinking about the prayers -- well, it was a meaningful day. Plus, I slept a lot. Probably won't get to sleep until very late, but that's what you get for taking two naps during the day.

I had some interesting dreams, but I don't remember much -- just one, where Gal was frying fish, and I was furious because she had already fried up tuna-fish patties and there was no one to eat the (expensive) stuff. Maybe it had something to do with my Yom Kippur resolution to worry less about money?

I did resolve to try to be more pro-active in helping people this year. One idea was to pair up people who live alone with people who would check up on them daily. The idea came about because of a man who lives nearby -- I know him a bit, but not beyond saying "hi" every once in awhile. He has Parkinsons, or something similar, and evidently he fell in his apt a few weeks ago and it was several days before anyone found him. He fell on his arm and it gangreened and had to be amputated. Horrible. But no one thought much about it when they didn't see him for a few days because no one was used to seeing him daily. Anyway, I was trying to think of something that we could do, as a Safed community, to insure that it didn't happen again. There are many singles who live in Tzfat without family -- I'm sure that it's a worry to them.

Ended the fast with the noodle kugel that I had prepared ahead of time, along with some VERY unhealthy cheese burekkas (the dough is, um, not exactly low-cal) and two cups of coffee. Now I'm REALLY not going to sleep for many hours. Should find something useful to do. I've got some freelance writing, which is great. I like it and am, I'm told, pretty good at it. I write for sites that are looking for including keywords, etc, and I'm learning a lot about how to write to optimize websites.

Onto Succot. The succa is pretty much built (a-hem!) and I need to get a new outdoor table, which I've needed to get anyway, so it's simply time. I didn't redo my porch structure before now, which I had planned to do this summer, and the succa is a bit flimsy, but I hope to have the project done this winter, since the wood is really rotting out. Ah, so much to do!

Will have to do some cooking too for the holiday. Some cousins are coming up to spend the first day of the holiday with us so that should be fun. I'm just going to make some one-pot meals with salads to carry us through. I did notice, though, that the weather forecast mentioned that it's going to be colder and a bit rainy during the holiday. Bummer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rosh Hashana 5772

Took the day off work to prepare for our 3-day no-cooking-lots-of-eating Rosh Hashana/Shabbat. when I started out today, I almost didn't know where to start -- there was so much to do! It's 5:00p.m. and, even after a half-hour nap, I'm starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Ariel came up from Tel Aviv and took her sisters to Haifa to shop, so I have some quiet time to get everything together (and use the laptop, since the desktop computer is on the blink I even made fresh pasta (thanks to my cousins' pasta maker, as well as her recent private tutorial) and have divided up the meals fairly well to avoid over-meat stimulation. Friday lunch will be a BBQ, so I didn't have to prepare anything for that -- I'll just have to remember to take the meat out of the freezer in time. Tofu for the veggies, of course. I need to make the roast for tomorrow night which, with potatos and pasta/pesto should make a nice meal. Thursday I have a lasagne prepared and someone (a daughter, don't know yet which one) is supposed to make something with sweet potatos. For tomorrow night I stuffed chicken breasts with stuffing (again, leaving some out for the vegetarians) and will serve with rice and the ever-present salads. Friday night -- fish. It's just me and the kids, so I don't know who will actually eat it, but I have to try. And for Saturday, I prepared the cholent so that I can throw it on the gas to cook, stick some chicken in the pot with the seasoned potatos and grains, and voila....a one-pot meal. Now, aren't we all IMPRESSED? I sure am. And now that I see the fridge full of mostly-prepared food (will have to bake/cook them tomorrow so they'll be as fresh as possible) I'm starting to relax. Many people have the tradition of starting the rosh Hashana meal with "simanim," foods that are, basically, plays on words. For instance, everyone will have a piece of carrot which, in Hebrew, is "Gezer" and say a blessing that God should "L'gzor" our enemies. The Hebrew word "l'gzor" means cut but it's from the same root as "gezer" (go figure). Anyway, populars siman foods are leeks, dates, cabbage, fish (some people actually have a fish head or meat from a sheep's head on the table so that "we can be at the head of the year and not at the tail,") etc. Friends started the tradtion of having coca-cola as a siman so that "God will hear "kolanu" -- our voices). This year I added beans and fennel as my personal siman. Beans, in Hebrew, are "shu-uit" so the blessing will be that "God whill shoo away our troubles." And fennel is "shamir" so we'll ask that God "shomer" (guards) us. I'm sure that my kids will be mortified, but hey....I've been cooking for 2 days straight -- I get a little fun too! So mamy things to give thanks for this year. We had enough. That's already 90% of life. Other thanks are that my kids have each other, like each other, get along, support each other, they congregate here, in their home, so I can enjoy seeing them together and happy. We're all healthy. That's another 9%. My wish for next year? that I always remember that 99%. And the last1% is that I can find a way to pass some of these messages that i've learned, by the seat of my pants, on to my children. Shana Tova

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eat, Love, Pray

Am reading the book "Eat, Pray, Love." I'm right at the end, but by 11:30p.m., I just couldn't make it through those last few pages, so one more night should do it. Anyway, it's a well-written touching book and I can see how it inspires people.

One particularly touching scene involves Liz "letting go" of her ex-husband. He turned on her in their divorce and all the venom came out. She (Liz) conjured up his image and basically talked it out with him and just let go of her anger and frustration. She wanted closure and, since she wasn't going to get it "for real," this was her attempt to sort it out.

Brought up all sorts of thoughts and feelings. First of all, when someone acts like that, angry, lashing out, humiliating you and trying to hurt you, it can only mean that the ability to act that way was there all the time -- you just didn't see it. And somehow you have to believe that the parting-of-the-ways was, in the end, a blessing, even if you didn't see it at the time.

Also, so much of these issues are control issues. The guy (and sometimes, though, I believe less, the woman) lost control of you. And he needed that. And that's cause for the serious anger issues that you see.

But the scene also spoke to how much our emotional health is dependent on the ability to close bad episodes in our lives.

While I was in my mid-20s, I worked as a supervisor at an overnight camp for 2 summers. During the first summer one of the counselors under me tried my patience. Endlessly. She ("Eileen" -- a pseudonym) challenged me and made me feel totally inadequate -- not difficult, seeing as that I have the self-image of an ant.

Anyway, during supervisor pre-camp the following summer, the psychologist who was running the sessions had us act out such a scenario as a way of preparing us for supervising a staff. We role-played the parts of the supervisor and the insolent staff member. And, bless his heart, the psychologist gave me the role of the bitchy staff member.

Well, for the next 15 minutes, I put everything that I had into it. I used all the retorts and talkbacks that Eileen had used on me. Everything that the "supervisor" tried to gain control and to put me in my place -- I threw right back, using the techniques that Eileen had used on me.

After those 15 minutes, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I had closure. The psychologist, who was with me the previous year and knew what it was all about, said to me "Do you feel better Laurie?" and I just beamed.

In many ways, Rosh Hashana is about closure. Learning to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, our omissions.....oh, when I think about it, so many things! But if we can't learn to forgive each other (or at least forget the hurts) the lack of closure, in the end, only hurts us the most.

Kupat Cholim Again

Month go by, even years, when I don't step foot into my local branch of Kupat Cholim. The location of the Health fund office, right down the block from me in central Safed, is convenient enough that I can leave my house five minutes before my appointment (to which I walk).

Which is lucky because, when I do need them, it seems as though it happens in waves. I've been visiting them almost weekly these past few weeks for physical therapy to take care of an inflammation on my heel (I'm unclear as to whether this is a bone spur or something else) that has bothered me all summer. In addition, I have some eye issues and to top everything off, Gal got her first cold of the school year and has been home for several days with a fever and sore throat/cough, so it seemed like a good idea to get it checked out this morning. It's times like this that I pity my American friends and relatives -- I was in and out of the clinic within a half hour, having had her fully checked, a throat culture taken and a "just in case" prescription handed to me.

If her culture comes back positive, I'll get a 90% subsidized course of anti-biotics for her at the nearby pharmacy (another 5 minute walk....gee, am I spoiled or what?)

Israel has its problems but somehow they've made sure that their citizens receive proper, low-cost, effective and universal health care. Yoo hoo America?

On Thursday I was debating whether to add another 200 shekels to tzdekka (charity). I'd already given quite a bit, but felt a desire to add a little. Well, 3 minutes after handing in the 200 shekels, I got an email inviting me to sign a contract for some hoped-for freelance writing work. Interesting how these coincidences work.

p.s. culture came back positive! To my surprise. Antibiotics, here we come.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Taking for Granted

Just saw a video clip that describes how Jews smuggled shofars into the Western Wall area, pre-1947, in order to be able to blow them at the end of Yom Kippur, contrary to the laws of the ruling British. The British didn't want to anger the Muslims who saw shofar-blowing as a "provocation." They wanted to appease the Arabs and, in doing so, basically stripped the Jews of all rights. Jews end Yom Kippur by blowing the shofar, but under the British, this was forbidden. The British used to post guards at the Kotel to ensure that no one blew a shofer and the Jewish Underground responded by smuggling shofars into the area and finding volunteers who were willing to risk arrest by blowing the shofar. How much do we take for granted in our lives! Found some amazing videos about Operation Solomon .

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pre Rosh Hashana Thoughts

Why is it that, just when you get yourself organized and stock up on grapes, which have gone down in price, all the family members who, a week previously, couldn't eat enough grapes, suddenly have no appetite for grapes.

Peaches. Ditto.

Why do I have the attention span of a puppy? ADD? Talk about a late diagnosis!

Why, when you mention to someone that you'd like to do something different with your life, they say "follow your dream," forgetting that you may have to figure out some short-term finances while you're following that dream. Could I be the only person who has those constraints? Or am I just being silly?

Why, when you get divorced and "divide up" 50% - 50%, does that equasion not take into account the hours that you put into cooking, cleaning, running to school events, entertaining kids' friends and generally raising the kids? Why does one partner get 100% of the "fun" of doling out punnishments and then getting the backlash? Who said "the law is an ass?" Not just the law, either.

Why, at age 53, do I feel like I'm 23, and still looking for adventure?

Who ARE these tame cats who keep coming to my porch to be fed? Breakfast and dinner. Daily. Am I the only idiot that pays 150 shekels for an 18 kilo bag of cat food to feed the strays? And how can I tell Oscar, the tabby that if I feed him, he should let me pat him.

WHAT is going on in the house next door at 5:30a.m. every morning? The guy has a bunch of dogs and they all go ape every morning. (Guess what time I got up this morning?)

What could I do, on a budget of $0, to feel fulfilled?

How do other people see me?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The number of guests houses in Tzfat exploded this year with several DOZEN opening their doors to visitors. The tourist business has taken off in Tzfat due, mainly, to private initiative. More and more properties are being bought with the goal of building and operating guest houses, small boutique hotels and other tourist accommodations.

I should really leave my house for a year or two, rent a small apt somewhere and use the income to live on comfortably! Problem is, I really like where I live. It's convenient, has a great community and wonderful atmosphere and I feel very much at home there.

I also rent out a small guestroom, the lower room of my house. It's a nice way to meet people and provide options for people to stay over who don't want to pay the crazy rates of the local hotels. Whoever wants to can have a private and very secluded room but there is also the option to come up and chat, get to know the neighbors and feel a part of the neighborhood. Everyone finds what they want and I always receive very pleasant reviews and compliments. Plus, I have the opportunity to meet all sorts of interesting people whom I wouldn't otherwise meet.

A group of us guestroom owners have been exploring ways to advertise. Advertising costs a lot of money and many of us find ourselves in the same position -- we aren't making enough money to market, but if we don't market, we won't increase our occupancy rates.

I had an idea of getting together with a couple of guesthouse owners and doing some kind of joint marketing project. We'd need to put some money into advertising on one central site which would then refer people to all of our sites.

I wonder if it would work? When I set up my own website, I linked another webpage to it, listing other people's guesthouses so if my guestroom is occupied, I can pass the business on to someone else. The people on my list appreciate the referrals and have, in fact, referred people back to me.

The question is, is there a way to set up an association, of sorts, that would market us all and would encourage us to market each other? We are competitors but we would all gain more than we would lose by working together.

Monday, September 12, 2011

La Kamsanita

I periodically peruse the various websites that are devoted to saving money, looking for tips and ideas on how to save money.

And I almost never find any ideas that I haven't been doing for ages.

So here, absolutely free and with no kickback (affiliate advertising, they're called today) links or other thoughts of personal benefit, are some of my ideas for saving money.

1. Give up the car. If you can. I gave it up and walk everywhere. I am also limited in where I can go, where I can work and what I can do for entertainment/shopping/etc, but in the long run, I come out ahead, even with those limitations. Yearly registration and insurance would cost me, easily, a month's salary.

2. Second hand stores. 'Nuff said.

3. Entertainment budget -- just take it off the list and watch a downloaded movie.

4. Eating out budget -- put it where the entertainment budget is.

4. Buying clothes. Second-hand stores. First of all, everything costs a ton less. And secondly, it's like shopping in a treasure chest instead of going to somewhere that has 20 copies of the same piece, each in different sizes. I think that it makes shopping FUN.

5. Water. Don't get me started. Don't flush after every pish. Remove the hanging apparatus in the shower so that people have to hold the showerhead while they're showering. It forces them to turn off the water while they're shampooing/soaping up. Keep a little bucket in the kitchen sink to collect the rinsing water and then use it for your plants (I actually know someone who uses it to refill the toilet tank but that's a bit much, even for me) This should really be an on-going post.
You'd think that, age age 53, I would no longer be terribly concerned with what my mother says about certain things.

Well, I am. And as time goes by, I see that she's very often right.

One of my mother's most outstanding characteristics is her ability to keep her mouth shut. It used to annoy me -- you never really knew what she was really thinking. On the other hand, her ability to refrain from criticizing, offering unwanted advice or getting into ANY sort of an argument (I just don't think that I've ever seen her argue with ANYONE) has probably done more to strengthen her relationships and the relationships with people around her than anyone I know.

On a global scale, the lesson that I've taken from that is that no one ever got in trouble from things that he (or she) DIDN'T say.

This has served me well on numerous occasions. One particular episode stands out in my mind -- when a person, with whom I was involved in a significant altercation, used to bluster on. He was trying to bully me with his words. Although I was dying to respond, I kept quiet. This allowed me to successfully fight him and persevere, even though the odds were not in my favor.

It's true, sometimes I feel like a doormat. But I think to myself, what will people (and my children) remember when I'm gone? My sharp and witty tongue? (OK, not likely, because I usually don't think about the correct responses until well after the argument is over). Or the fact that I manage to get along with most people?

I was thinking about this issue this morning when I was reading a blog. The writer was bemoaning so many issues in her life but was very clear about who was to blame. The people were identifiable too -- I actually know them. And I couldn't help thinking that, if those people ever saw that blog -- that would be the end of the relationship. It would be, like, gossiping about someone and sticking a loudspeaker next to the person's ear. The writer can't voice her complaints to the people involved, so she writes -- fair enough. But everyone who reads it can clearly identify all the individuals involved!

So, thank you mom. Your wise teachings have finally sunk in. I just hope that I can figure out a way to send your message onward before a family is destroyed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Meeting People

In the last two week's I've left Tzfat twice, which is unusual.

First time, last week, I headed to Tel Aviv to visit my daughter on my way to an evening wedding in Jerusalem. At the rest stop in Zichron, the bus left me while I was buying my coffee (I wouldn't have been the last in line if someone else hadn't pushed ahead of me, but that's me......wimp). I ended up hitching to Tel Aviv and my day was pretty much shot.

Then on Thursday and again on Friday, I had to go to Haifa to help my daughter. As mentioned previously, it wasn't the highlight of my week.

My kids always complain that I don't leave Tzfat often but frankly, these experiences just emphasize that I do best in my little world.

Which is why I'm grateful that I have a little guestroom below my house. It's not luxurious, but it's a nice comfortable room and allows me to meet some of the most interesting people. Some people prefer to be left alone but others enjoy coming up to sit on my porch and telling me a little about their lives.

I've had people stay with me who come from all over the world.....Israelis, immigrants, backpackers, families, couples, professors, name it. Some of these people have become friends who stay in touch. I see that, in addition to adding to my own opportunities to get to meet and know new people, I'm able to give these people a perspective about life in Tzfat and Israel that they wouldn't hear otherwise.

I can tell them about out-of-the-way places that they can explore -- things that most travelers wouldn't know about. They often meet my family and friends which also provides an opportunity to learn more about the city and its residents.

I may not run the most expensive guestroom or have luxury accommodations, but I'm proud to be able to provide, for moderate prices, not only a guestroom, but a true Tzfat experience -- and give myself an experience at the same time!

Blood Pressure

As Thursday draws to a close, I look forward to 50-something hours of homelife....catching up on errands, cooking nice Shabbat food (why not? I don't cook during the rest of the week) and generally winding down. This past Thursday my daughter, 24-years old and should-know-better, called me to notify me that she was about to head into the operating room for a nose-job. Partly medical and partly cosmetic. She assured me that she had a friend with her and, since she hadn't told me before hand that anything was up, I just decided to call later to see how she was doing. Early-afternoon I got a call -- her sister was there, she was not doing wonderfully and she wanted me to come. So I hopped on a bus to Haifa, prepared to spend the night. By evening she was moving a bit and the nurse assured me that she didn't need a sleep-over mom so I headed home. By bus. Friday, as I was rushing to do everything that I hadn't done on Thursday, I got another call -- the "friend" that was supposed to pick her up had "other things to do" -- could I come? So I rounded up a car and my cousin to drive and we headed off to Haifa. First "fashla" (screw-up) was that, programming the GPS, we entered "Italian Hospital" since, I told my cousin, "there's only one." Well, yes, there's only one -- in Haifa. There's another one in Nazareth and that's where the GPS sent us. Reprogrammed the machine (and feeling pretty foolish -- after all, I KNOW how to get to Haifa) and arrived at the Italian Hospital in time to take my daughter to......what? She wants us to take her to Tel Aviv? Is she kidding? Nope, turns out that she thought that we were about to drive her to Tel Aviv. So, we got her her meds and took her to the train station and headed back to Tzfat. It's a good thing that the next day was Shabbat because my blood pressure needed to come down. On the other hand -- she's healthy. The operation went well. She can breath better than ever. No tragedy occurred. I came home to a 15-year-old who successfully held down the fortress (and I was able to leave because I had my cousins downstairs to keep an eye on the situation). OK, deep's a new week......onward.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tel Aviv

Trip to Tel Aviv yesterday to see Ariel, eldest daughter and one of Tel Aviv's biggest fans.

I started off being impressed that the bus driver delayed the bus's departure while a young woman ran to the bathroom. That was nice of him, I thought.

Ha. Halfway to Tel Aviv, we stopped at a rest stop to use the facilities and get some coffee. I was the last one in line to get my coffee (I wouldn't have been, but someone pushed ahead of me and, well, being the nice American that I am....) and -- the bus took off without me!

I was pretty stunned because there was someone sitting next to me and she should have noticed that I wasn't there! My purse was though -- luckily, i had my wallet with me.

In the end, instead of getting to Ariel at 11:30 and heading to the spa, which was what Ariel had planned for me (first time ever!) I had to find a hitchhike to Tel Aviv, go to the Central Bus station, get my stuff, and then head back to her apartment. We had lunch, which was nice, but missed the spa.

It should just be a kaparrah, I guess (substitution for something worse that may have happened instead).

Gam Zu L'Tovah

I've spent the last few days looking for evening work to fill in the Demand Studios gap. And the more I look, the more I realize that Demand Studios was a complete, well, waste of time. There's plenty of work out there and it's a lot more interesting and fulfilling than writing articles like "How to clip your Boxer's toenails". Really.

I guess that before, I was just resigned to making peanuts and being treated like dirt. It's kind of like people who are abused -- you get used to it and accept it.

The kind of articles that they expected took hours of research, another hour, at least, to write up, and then your work could be rejected at the whim of their editors. I had editors who refused my work on the flimsiest of excuses (yes, i know that this isn't grammatically correct, but frankly, it's MY blog). And that was it -- your hours of work went down the drain.

My initial worry at finding new work has dissipated. I have two new job offers already (both of which will, in addition to providing interesting new work, allow me to learn new skills) and I'm developing my own business ideas.

I do have to think about this trait in myself though -- I tend to hold onto a bad situation because I'm so worried about the future. This is the second time that, only after "the axe fell" did I realize that it was truely "all for the good -- gam zu l'tovah".

Chodesh Tov y'all.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


My brother, wife and their two boys have come to visit for a few days. Really sweet kids, though I simply don't remember that kind of energy and from my kids when they were little. Maybe because they're too BOYS, close in age, but they're too little bundles of energy. The dogs, who have gotten used to a rather staid house of quiet (mostly) don't seem to know what to do with themselves.

Anyway, even though Tzfat doesn't have a lot for kids to do here (and that's an underestimation) I guess that between digging up the yard a bit and following the dogs around the house, they had a good time.

We made a barbeque last night. Something about barbequed meat....though I have to remember that fresh ground beef just doesn't stick together well on a grill. This isn't the first time that I've noted that, but, of course, I keep forgetting, and then we peel the barbequed meat off the grill top. It's still good of course (actually, even better) but some things work out better after they're defrosted.

I've been writing articles at night for a company called Demand Studios for awhile. This morning I got a message that they'd terminated me -- two of my articles were too similar, and that violated their "plagiarism" code. I had used some of the same research in both articles ("Things to do in Scarcy Arkansas") and I was told that I had "duplicated content". Sigh. I really hadn't meant to duplicate anything, just to use the same basic research for both articles, but it was still a bit of a shock. I do count on that income. On the other hand, maybe it's one of those "blessings in disguise" that will push me to find something a bit more satisfying and creative. You always read about people who lose a job or something and find that it pushed them to expand their horizons -- maybe me too?

One never knows. In the meantime.....I'm doing some research.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A few weeks ago I made a nice roast beef for Shabbat dinner in honor of Hagai's return from the army for Shabbat. He fell asleep shortly after candle-lighting and we didn't see him again until Saturday afternoon. So I froze the roast.

This week, after 3 weeks, he was scheduled to come home, so I unfroze the roast for tonight's dinner. Yesterday evening he got a call to return to base because of the high level of alert after the terrorist attack.

So, I refroze the beef.

This morning he left at about 9:30a.m., and I fried up some tofu because Yochi won't eat the beef, Gal doesn't really like it and I don't care. (I actually made a nice dinner with corn, potatos, baked mushrooms and all sorts of salds). A few hours later, Hagai showed up again -- they didn't need him after all.

So, the beef is out of the freezer again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Home from the Army

It's Hagai's first Shabbat home from the base in three weeks. He got home this afternoon and now, because of the terror attack in the south, has been called back to base. Aside from the disappointment -- his entire rucksack of clothing that he'd been wearing for the last three weeks is in the washing machine. Now what?

I find myself unable to concentrate on doing anything whenever there's an attack. I just move from task to task aimlessly, unable to function.

Funny place that we live. There's an expression in Hebrew -- it "sucks the juice out of you." Yup, that's it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Chili for the Frum Vegetarian

2/3rds meat
1/3rd vegetarian

1. Make your tomato sauce. One nice big sauce for everyone. Divide -- 2/3rds and 1/3rd. Set aside.

2. Boil red beans which soaked overnight.

3. Boil white beans which soaked overnight.

4. Put white beans in a food processor and puree. Set aside.

5. Find two more pots (actually, all these containers is the hard part)

6. Put your red beans in the pots -- 2/3rds and 1/3rd.

7. Find a pan and saute ground beef.

8. Add beef to the 2/3rds beans-pot.

9. Add pureed white beans to the 1/3rd red beans pot.

10. Add 2/3rds sauce to the 2/3rds red beans pot

11. Add 1/3rd sauce to the 1/3rd red beans pot.

12. Give yourself points if you didn't mix anything, because the 1/3rd consumer will not eat anything that has TOUCHED meat.

13. Wash all the used pots. Bummer.

14. Get ready to make snitzels. Chicken and, of course, tofu. Remember, tofu first.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Big Breath

The Tisha B'Av fast ended and it's time for Ben HaZmanim, the big Israeli vacation time. And where does everyone come? You guessed it....Tzfat! OK, maybe not everyone. Some people head to Italy or London. But it certainly SEEMS like everyone comes to Tzfat.

I'm hoping for a few good guest room rentals for the next few weeks. I have one more big job that really needs to be done on the house -- redoing the porch railing which is rotting away. After that, i think that i'm going to take a break from working on The House and try to just relax a bit. Over the last year we redid the roof, built a bedroom, put in air conditioning and bought new (used, but nice) furniture for the living room. I think that I deserve to stop saving for the Next Project and just enjoy what I have for awhile.

Would love to find some more content writing jobs. The part-time work that I do is enjoyable and I'm pretty good at it. Plus, it's puts me in a new world. Have to find out how to develop it a bit.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Strolling down the street

And there I was, just walking home from work and minding my own business.....and I saw this guy. OK, maybe it was a girl.....I didn't ask.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Business?

So, I've been racking my brain, trying to think about something that I can do to add to my income.

Anyway, I'm considering doing something on EBay. Maybe try to market some of the local jewelry? Set up a "Tzfat Jewelry" store and market some of the hand-made jewelry that the local artisans make. I wouldn't have to buy anything, just take pictures and, if someone is interested, buy the jewelry and ship it off (with a bit of a commission....). It could be kind of fun, help out the local craftspeople and give me something new to do that doesn't involve writing endless Internet content for websites that sell dating and other hope for the masses.

Just finished a marketing/sales course with a government-sponsored small business organization. It was so interesting, it makes me want to try to venture out on my own. BUT, I'm not a risk taker. EBay may bridge that issue. We shall see.

Lovely Shabbat meal with friends and neighbors. Even though the air conditioner didn't go on -- I HAVE to figure out how to work that timer! I bought a nice roast for Friday night since Hagai was home from the army, and the kid fell asleep before we sat down and slept through dinner. Sigh. The girls (a vegetarian and a semi-vegetarian) didn't touch it. But Saturday's lunch included a few of my better attempts, including sauteed vegetables wrapped in eggroll wraps, which I then baked (didn't fry!) -- they crisped up nicely when I put them on the Shabbat hot plate a few hours before lunch, and no one could tell that they hadn't been fried! Also my new success, sweet potatos with apples and whatever other fruit looks like it's not going to make it through the next week (peaches, necterines, etc) and a bit of brown sugar. Lots of compliments for a relatively small amount of work.

My oldest daughter gave us her camera so I'll try to illustrate a bit more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

Tomorrow is July 20th, so I'm hoping that the possibility that we'll see the heat of last summer is receding. It's hot, but not unbearable as it was last year. Nevertheless, I did go through with my plan to put in air conditioning. So I'm ready for all possibilities.

I went with a friend yesterday to the Beit Din. It was her last meeting with the Beit Din before conversion and I, as well as about six other women (and one Rabbi who she'd been studying with) accompanied her. It was so exciting to be a part of the proceedings. The rabbis were quite nice and accommodating and at the end, they told her that they'd send her a letter telling her how to proceed (the last step -- the mikveh!). Made my week.

Time to start figuring out who to invite for Shabbat. If all the catering food wasn't so expensive and full of oil, I'd get catered food sometimes.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Old-New Olim

A friend had a "50th anniversary of aliyah" party tonight and invited her friends to come and join her for a celebration. She came in 1961, a very different time in the country.

I find it touching that people still want to come and live in Israel as much as they did years ago, when it still seemed "romantic' and "challenging". It still is, of course, and olim today have that same sense of excitement and wonderment at coming to live in their country as I did in '83, and others did before me.

We went around the room, with each person telling their aliyah story. One woman said that she had just wandered into the Jewish Agency office in London because she was out shopping and thought that it was a shop for Jewish clothing. Another came even though her mother "sat shiva" (mourned) for her for when she came, and a third said that her father refused to talk to her for 2 years after her aliyah (we suggested matching up this mother and father).

The woman who hosted the evening said that when she first thought about aliyah, in 1960, she went to the Israeli Embassy to ask about the options, and the clerk (and Israeli!) asked her "why do you want to go to Israel? It's dirty, the people are rude, there's not enough to eat (this was in the days of rationing), there aren't enough jobs......" and then she got misty-eyed and said "I'm sorry that I'm crying. I guess I'm just homesick!"

One woman, a convert, said that she was born Protestant and converted to Catholicism, then Greek Orthodox, and then something else before converting to Judaism and coming to Israel. Another woman, an African American, said that she's always wanted to come to Israel and be Jewish (her ancestors were from Jamaica and she remembers her grandmother lighting candles on Friday nights!)

Everyone has a story. My dream is to get some free time and write a book about people who came to Tzfat -- each and every one has an amazing story.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

After a short hiatus.....(OK, it's been a year....)

Not that I don't have things to write about, but I spend all my free time writing content for complaints, since I just installed an AIR CONDITIONER yesterday in my house! Paid for by my content writing.

On the downside, the content writing mainly concerns titles like "Roller Skating in Ekert Park Montana", "and "How to care for your muskrat during the summertime". Eh, what the heck, it keeps me solvent.

I did have a rather interesting assignment a few weeks ago. A lawyer who I met wanted me to write for his blog. It wasn't exactly up my alley either, though it's nice to remember, once in awhile, that there's a big wide world out there.

Hagai, my 18-year-old, is home for the week from the army. He finished advanced basic training and will be heading up to "litfoss haKav" (hold down the line) in the Golan.On the one hand, it'll be nice to have him closer. On the other hand, things are expected to heat up in September, when the Palestinians are expected to declare their state, and they're expecting the Syrians to try to cross the border again, heart is in my stomach.

But, we do have an air conditioner sitting in the living room right now! So excited.