Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chanukah and Onions

 Hard to believe that next week is Chanukah. I barely got the succa put is this possible?

Of course, one of the fun things about chanukah is that it's a light-hearted holiday and, in recent years, has become the big magnet for lots of new chanukah-related videos and songs.

My creative juices start flowing and every year I say THIS is the year that I'm going to do something -- a skit, monologue, song, whatever. Could be kind of serious or just pure fun and funny.

Still have a week to see what I can get together. Then, of course, I have to figure out some social activity to show off.

On another topic (entirely), I recently read about the amazing power of onions as an herb that actually absorbs all sorts of poisons and bacteria in the air. The stuff that I was reading mentioned leaving an open onion around someone who's sick and watching it turn black, overnight, as it absorbs the person's bacteria (and, of course, the person gets better). Gal's got a doozy of a cold so maybe I'll give it a try, but I have to figure out where to hide the onion because she's going to think that I'm nuts if I tell her what I'm doing.

For another tip (that I've tried and works), hold a metal spoon in your mouth when you cut onions and you won't cry. Don't know why, but it works.

And as long as we're on a roll here -- for hiccups, drink a cup of water from the opposite side of the cup (meaning that you're going to have to bend over to drink). Don't know why it works but it does, every time. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Politics Safed Style

Today is the primaries for the Likud political party. Who knew?

Let me explain a little about Safed politics. In Safed, Likud rules. The Likud is Menachem Begin's party, and it grew out of Begin's pre-State Irgun activities (underground, anti-British). He also was the biggest challenger to the Labor Zionists, headed by Ben Gurion, who was seen by the ruling Ashkanazi/Zionists/secular elite as the ONLY people who could possibly govern Israel.

There was a good deal of anti-Sephardic, anti-religious sentiment in those old Zionists who saw their vision of a socialist democracy as a sort of Garden of Eden.  There's a lot of discussion about how these old Labor Zionists (Golda Meir, held onto power by, basically, forcing religious people to send their kids to secular schools, refusing them health care unless they "towed the line" (politically), etc.

In fact, many people believe that what tipped the balance in the 1974 elections was when Begin mocked Labor by asking his audience of mostly Sephardic working-class supporters "are you really "chach-chachim?" (said while squinting at his papers, as though HE'D never heard of the derogatory term before, but was merely repeating something that he'd heard somewhere)...he brought the whole disrespect that the Ashkanazi elite held for the Sephardim out in the open, and before you could say "gefilte fish" had won the election.

Safed was always one of the bastions of anti-Labor sentiment and the old-timers remember only too well how anyone who didn't support Labor was shunted off to the side.

Unfortunately (for Labor, anyway), after the debacle of the 1973 Yom Kippur War,  the Likud was able to come to power and ever since then there's been pretty much of a 50-50 split between the two camps, with the power in the government bouncing back and forth between the two.

There's still an atmosphere, in Israel, of "Ashkanazim are more refined, modern, educated, etc" -- you see it on TV where the Ashkanazi-controlled media often makes fun of the Sephardim who live in the periphery.  (Safed, by the way, counts as the periphery). 

Which brings us to the primaries. Tzfat is, and always has been, a Likud town. So the Likud primaries, which are happening today throughout the country, are a Big Event. The voting is going on down the street from me and, from the crowd milling outside, you'd think that the suffrage movement hadn't ever gotten off the ground here. There were hundreds of men milling around, tons of signs, lots of garbage, and not a female to be seen anywhere. VERY male-bonding experience, I guess.

On another note, can anyone tell me how my dogs know when one of the family comes through the gate? The dogs can be inside the house which is about 20 meters from the gate, with no sound of visual contact whatsoever, but when the kids come in, neither barks and their tails start to thump.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Alternative Crowd

Years ago my son named Tzfat residents "the Alternative Crowd" (when we were at a community picnic and he, then aged 14, told me that he had seen exactly what a number of them were smoking (in my defense, I had gone back to town to pick up some other picnickers when the alleged incident took place). Anyway, since then, we talk about my friends as the "alternative crowd."

Anyway, the name "alternative crowd" has stuck, at least in our family, and my Shabbat guests are often members of this group. today, for example, I thought that if I ever write my book about Safed's residents (a dream of mine -- to interview some of the dozens of people with fascinating stories of how they ended up here) I would start with all of the people sitting at the table with us. There was a guy who used to be involved in the entertainment industry in LA, another guy who had once hitchhiked around the world (lots of stories about Afghanistan), a lady whose ancestors came from Jamaica and, evidently, were converted to Judaism there (her grandmother had Jewish traditions and rituals that she had observed), another "flower child" who had her first baby at age 14 in New Orleans and homeschooled her kids in the mountains of Tennessee, a former-Protestant/former-Catholic/now Orthodox Jew from simply wasn't boring, especially when everyone added in their thoughts, experiences and opinions.

Anyway, one of these days, I'm going to write that book.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Vegan Dilemna

I woke up this morning with no real plans for Shabbat and have, in the last 5 hours, amassed 9 guests. So, as soon as I finish my present writing assignment and take a nap, I'm going to have to start cooking a little.

I'm still not sure whether my soldier-son will be coming home -- probably not, they're still on alert, even though there's supposed to be a "cease fire" -- or my student-daughter, who would like to go to Jerusalem to hang out with her boyfriend, but he's still mobilized as well.

All of which makes it very difficult to cook. Daughter (if you've been reading, you'll remember that she's a vegan) comes home after a week of eating a lot of tehina and bulger (2 easy dishes for a vegan to prepare) and wants to EAT. So here's my plan:
  • Fresh green beans and sauteed tofu squares (after 45 years, following the childhood trauma of being forced to stay at the table and eat my canned Del Monte green beans, I can finally look a green bean in the eye)
  • soup (barley? some other grain?)
  • eggless challah (extra oil should do the trick)
  • fried eggplant slices (OK, i cheat and bake them) and then wrapped around non-dairy cheese spread (like cigars)
  • pasta (found some basil-pasta in the store this week...that should go nicely)
There's something liberating about not cooking during the week -- when Shabbat comes, I generally enjoy the preparations. Sometimes it takes me a little while to pull myself away from the computer and get started, but generally, especially if I have a good stock of veggies, i can do myself proud in a few hours, from soup to nuts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

War isn't Good for Diets

Didn't know whether to invite people for Shabbat because my son was supposed to be home from the army for the weekend and he generally prefers a guest-less Shabbat. But it doesn't look like the Gaza situation will be quieting any time soon, meaning that it doesn't look like he'll be home anytime soon. So maybe we'll just go for it and have a crowd. I do feel like cooking. (Correction: I don't really feel like cooking, but I do feel like eating something yummy, so....)

I found a relatively inexpensive fruit and vegetable store that's not too far away and stocked up on veggies, so I'm already planning my menu. I got some chicken breasts to bake with a masala sauce (with mushrooms...ummmmmm) and will make a thick vegetable soup and some grains and potato something-or-other. I also got some fresh green beans and was thinking of steaming them with cut up tofu for Friday night if my vegan daughter comes home. (with some smoked salmon for moi).

Went to speak to someone about a job today. It interests me and I like the idea that I'd be able to take on new responsibilities...and hopefully grow a bit too. I also like the idea that it would be half-time, so I would still have time to develop my other projects and interests. Will hear more in the coming days.

Watching and reading the news -- more rockets in the south, a bus explosion in Tel Aviv, endless talk of war -- is not doing much for my weight-loss program. Who can be bothered to drink 8 glasses of water when the world is turning upside down in front of you? Gal is making chocolate fondue and I think that I will partake.

Turns out that there's a whole blogsphere for middle-aged bloggers. Who knew? What do we all kvetch about? 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yellow Journalism is Back!

I remember in school, learning about the early years of the 20th century when yellow journalism was the rule rather than the exception.

CNN has proven that either history repeats itself or history just isn't's alive and kicking. Their reporting of the entire Israel-Gaza conflict of the past week has been totally skewed, but today they outdid even themselves.

Hundreds and hundreds of rockets have been falling on Israeli cities, towns, villages and rural areas, but for CNN it's "not about security". Nope, CNN, true to form, has found a way to blame Israel for trying to defend its citizens against this new form of terror.

All I can say is that there's a special place in hell for people who use their power to mislead the people who rely on them and trust them for accurate information.

I did just double my donation to Honest Reporting.

Tם Pickle or Not to Pickle

I assume that in some areas of the country, olives come in a can or jar, but in Tzfat, people wait for the autumn and head out to their local olive tree to pick their olives. I must admit, once you've eaten home-pickled olives it's pretty hard to go back to the canned stuff.

I've tried on several occasions to make my own olives but my efforts have always come up a bit short. A few years ago I swore that I was going to leave the olive-pickling to the experts, but a few days ago, while walking the dogs, I saw that a low-hanging olive tree hadn't yet been claimed, so this evening I went back and picked a small amount.

On my way home I met my neighbor, one of the multitude of self-professed expert olive-makers in the neighborhood, all of whom are prepared to give you the benefit of their experience. He told me to pound them first to soften them a bit, and then soak them in salt water for 3 days, changing the water daily.

So, i'm off on an adventure. (A bit depressing that this is my big adventure, but I'll take what I can get) Updates to come.

Monday, November 19, 2012

We're All OK

Last war, we followed the news. This war, we follow the social networking, where everyone and his brother posts his opinion about what's happening.

I'm not particularly pro-active about arguing with people online ... I figure that a lost cause is a lost cause. But I've taken on a few absurd posters, including one UK rabbi who laments the loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza but can't be bothered to relate to the rockets that created the need for the Israelis to respond. I guess that I pissed him off because he accused me of profanity (well, yes, I did say that his post was "bullshit") and then removed me from his "friends." If anyone wants to annoy him, here's his profile: Just don't say, in so many words, that he's full of crapola...he's testy that way.

Mine is the cute one (with the helmet)
Spoke to my son who's massed with the other soldiers along the Gaza border. He can't tell me exactly where he is or what's happening, but he's in the Engineering Corps so if the Israelis launch a ground invasion, he's in the first group over the border. Heartening, huh?

Yesterday I went down to the cemetery to the grave of the ARI to pray for my son, and all the soldiers', safety. There's a tradition in Judaism that if you pray for something at the grave of a righteous person -- a tzaddik -- for 40 consecutive days, it will come about. I don't consider myself a religious nut (not totally, anyway) but I did it twice and both times, my prayers were answered.

So I thought that maybe I'd offer the service -- after all, the cemetery is a 15 minute walk from my house, and the grave of the ARI, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, is one of the holiest Jewish sites in the world. From previous experiences, I know that it's a big commitment -- you can't go anywhere that doesn't give you the time to get to the grave at least once during every 24-hour period, you go down no matter what the weather is, etc. But it's a big "segula" -- indicator for good fortune, so maybe it will be of interest.

Had a lovely young woman staying in my guest room this Shabbat. She was in Israel on Birthright and wanted to come back and specifically, wanted to come to Shabbat in Safed. She went to a local family for Friday night dinner and came with me to a family that was hosting us for Saturday lunch. Hope that she had a good time. I always wonder what happens to these people -- we develop a relationship, even for a short amount of time, and then the visitors go on their way.  Did something change for them in Safed? Shift? Especially for those people on a "Jewish Journey" -- did they journey?

Speaking of journeys, I'm considering re-activating the Safed T-shirt business that I had a few years ago. The graphics are amazing (I think -- my friend Elisheva did them, i can't take credit), but I'm not sure how to market them. If i was to go back to college, I think that I'd like to study marketing.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Divving Up

There are collections going on now for everything imaginable, and, while I want to help all of these causes, I don't know exactly how to divvy up my donations.

Pizzas for soldiers. Sounds ridiculous, given all of the other needs in the country right now. But it's important for the soldiers to know that the citizens appreciate everything that they're doing right now. Plus, as the mother of one of those 20-year-olds who's sitting on the border right now, waiting for orders, I know for a fact that a pizza would go a long way towards bolstering his morale. So, just donated.

Aid for southern residents. Aside from the horrible stress that they're facing from the rockets and the destruction all around, many have had their livelihoods pulled out from under them. Medics are asking for blankets and other supplies, organizations are asking for donations to help take care of physical and psychological needs, etc. Dozens of organizations. Which one to help? Sent in a donation.

Public Relations. It's sick, watching some of the international news organizations file completely skewed reports that distort the entire episode. According to some of these "news organizations" Gaza is being pummeled -- and they provide absolutely no mention of the REASON that Israel has attacked. Honest Reporting, which, for my money, does one of the best jobs of mobilizing people to refute dishonest reporting (they give an award out every year for the Dishonest Reporter of the Year -- unfortunately, there's significant competition) is asking for help. Hell yeah.

And then there are all the individual stories. People who are desperate for assistance. Kids who are terrorized and need to leave the area. The Magen David Adom -- Israel's version of the Red Cross -- which is stretched beyond their means.

How does one possibly say "no" to any of these causes?

It's hard to laugh, but sometimes you have to. (My daughter says that I have worn this one out, but it still makes me chuckle)

Friday, November 16, 2012

What's Unique about Safed?

I've been contacting travel site and blog owners to ask them to put up articles that I write about Tzfat. they get free content and I get a backlink to a site for which I get paid. Win/win, huh?

Well, actually, I enjoy writing the articles and I get a kick out of thinking that maybe I'm drumming up a little tourist business for our city.

One of the sites asked me to write my article in the form of "a perfect day in Safed" (I guess that they have some kind of series going) which got me to thinking -- what is it, exactly, that I like about my city? I do like living here and consider myself lucky, but why exactly?

Well, here are a few ideas.

  • If I want to take the dogs for a nice, interesting walk, we can stroll up to the Crusader fortress and walk around the ruins. Can't do that in many places, hmmmmmmmm?
  • Recently posted by a Facebook friend: "I was on a bus and didn't have enough money, so the passengers each pitched in a shekel to make up the difference." That probably doesn't happen everywhere.
  • When guests come to my guest room and want to find a "Shabbat experience," I have a list of people to call who will happily host them for a Shabbat meal. 
  • My daughter's friends, who don't look particularly "typically religious" always kiss the mezuzza when they walk into or out of the house.
  • Another daughter went to visit a friend and came back with a box of homemade cookies because her friend's mother was worried that, as a vegan, no one in her own house would make sure that she had (eggless) Shabbat cookies.  
  • And speaking of daughter-in-law's parents often send a challah or some of their homemade wine when the couple comes for Shabbat. (And when I tried to send a nice homemade challah back -- a Rosh Hashana, specially braided, apples baked into the braids challah -- my son forgot it in the car. Sigh.)
  • When trying to help a new immigrant customer find the office that she needed, the post office clerk left his chair and came around the counter to walk outside with the woman and point her in the right direction.
  • Along the same line.....I've seen, more than once, a supermarket clerk elaborately mime preparation instructions for some product that new Ethiopian immigrant customers needed because they were unfamiliar with the food that they were buying. 
  • There's a Jewish tradition that if you pray at the gravesite of a righteous person for 40 consecutive days, your request will be granted. So 10 minutes from my house is the gravesite of the ARI, one of the greatest Kabbalists who ever lived. I did the 40-day thing twice. And it works.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Education. Sort Of

My daughter came home yesterday to tell me that one of her teachers hadn't responded to her or to her friend during the class. She then went on to "mention" that she and her friend had been playing with their cell phones under the table -- she said that they played with their cell phones because the teacher was ignoring them while the teacher get the idea. What came first, the chicken or the egg.

Anyway, she then went on to tell me that this particular teacher had a fit because my daughter's friend asked her about belief. She basically asked her (if i have this right) "what's the difference between believing in God an believing in fairies?" So, instead of answering her intelligently, the teacher had a fit and decided that this girl isn't worth her time. (this was before the cell phone incident, but likely connected).

It's not a horrible question. And it does deserve an answer. But our wonderful educators would rather tell the kids that "there's a special place in hell for girls who don't wear long sleeves" (same teacher, by the way, and not an unusual thought...a friend told me that her daughter's teachers told the girls the same thing about socks in another school) than provide them with some kind of spiritual food.

OK, granted, it's ridiculous. But what do I do? Call the teacher and tell her that she's an idiot? Call the principal and get a name for myself as a trouble-maker? Stay out of it and let my daughter continue thinking that these people, supposed to be her role models, don't have anything of value to offer about Judaism except the length of the girls' sleeves?

You send your kids off to school and trust the educators and.....what a waste.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

50 Most Influential American Jews

The Forward has just published its annual list of the 50 most influential American Jews. Of course, the first thing that I did was check out the list to see if there's anyone that I know. Can't imagine why, but you never know what my relatives may have been doing over the last year.

Then I started looking over the list. Bassie ShemTov who created the Friendship Circle in Detroit, a model program that promotes inclusion of disabled individuals, assistance to impaired children and their families and generally fostering a new look at how society deals with handicapped people. I certainly see how Bassie is influential and a true role model.

Hindy Poupko-Galena, who chronicled her 2-year-old daughter's fight with cancer, the little girl's death and the positive impact it's hand on cancer research and bone marrow donations. Yes, an influential woman and certainly deserving of the honor.

Rabbi Andy Bachman, a New York Reform rabbi who fought against an anti-Israel divestment campaign at a local food co-op. Yup. Peter Beinart, the anti-israel son-of-a-Mica (my female dog) is influential, even if he's a jerk. Even Sheldon Adelson who practically bought Mitt Romney for umpteen million dollars -- I resent that someone can use their money to buy the presidency (or try), but OK, he (and his money) are pretty influential.

But can someone please tell me why one of the owners of Wise Sons deli in downtown San Francisco is on  the list? Because he's "responsible for bringing serious deli to a city that long resisted a well-crafted pastrami sandwich?" He's an "influential" Jew? Or Aly Raisman, the teenage gymnast who brought home several gold medals from the Olympics? Hey, I cheered her on as much as anyone...especially when she did one of her sets to Hava Nagila. But ...influential? Scooter Braun, who manages Justin Beiber? I'm sure that he's very talented in what he does, but is the fact that he keeps Justin out there in front of the world's teeny-boppers enough to make him an influential Jew? Lena Dunham, the self-professed "half-Jew" who stars on some TV show or other? Barbara Streisand -- great voice, but influential?

I think that Forward should first, identify what exactly it means when it uses the word "influential." And then make the list. In the meantime, they're lost a lot of my respect.

Monday, November 12, 2012


What do you way to a woman who has just lost her second child?

Never mind that the "child" was in her 60s.

One of the most amazing women -- no, the most amazing people -- that I've ever met is now sitting shiva for her daughter. Her son died in his 50s a few years ago and now cancer has claimed a second child. Edyth has lived in Tzfat since the '70s. She is best known for setting up and running the local English Library which has provided a cultural mecca for the local English-speaking population. Following her belief that a library should be freely available to all she refused to charge a fee -- a universal and totally accepted practice in Israel -- and instead, she raised the money through fundraising.

Edyth's life has been anything but boring. She graduated from the University of Chicago Law school in 1939 ("I was one of two women in my class" she once told me) and then joined the Women's Army Corps and marched into Paris with the American troops. ("When the pilotless planes came through" she told me today, referring to the V1s) "I went up on the rooftops to watch"). She married a rabbi and had three children; following her husband's death she remarried and had a fourth, but the marriage didn't last and she was left to support all four kids. (She told an interviewer that, no matter what else was happening in her life, she always read to her children at night -- they all grew up to be successful, three liv(ed) in Israel, and the family was always very close).

Edyth was a fundraiser for the Miami Federation for many years and when she came to Tzfat she initiated a number of different projects, in addition to the library, for the welfare of the community. Her children joined her efforts and did a lot of their own work as well...her son, who passed away several years ago, started a unique religious/non-religious high school in Jerusalem that teaches co-existence within the Jewish community -- something that's often forgotten. The daughter who just passed away was, politically, somewhat to the left of the political map, yet put a lot of her efforts into fighting the delegitimization of Israeli academics that is so popular among the anti-Israel academic crowd and is so dangerous to Israel.

And yet, with all those "good deeds" under her belt, she's just buried her second child. What do you say? "Anything that I can do?" No, obviously not. "I'm so sorry." Well yes, obviously.

All I can say is that Edyth's determination to continue to do whatever she can to make other people's lives easier and better (she told me that when she wrote to her daughter's friends to let them know that her daughter had passed away, she "happened to mention" that a donation to the library would be a fitting tribute to her daughter's memory -- "do you think that God will mind" she asked me, or words to that effect) inspires me to do more. And I hope that that's a fitting tribute to her daughter.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

True Confessions...

of a lady of a "certain age" who's learned a few things
  • I love it when the store is out of 1% milk. Then I can buy the 3% without feeling guilty.
  • I have 2 dogs with zero nighttime bladder control in the wintertime. 'Nuff said.
  • I have 2 daughters with ADHD. They say that it's genetic. I think that I know where it's coming from
  • Just saw our local mongoose family again this morning, this time with someone else. You'd think that I had taken a trip to the zoo.
  • There is nothing more obnoxious than someone who doesn't have anything else that occupies her time and spends her time worrying about the things that are occupying her neighbors' time. 'Nuff said. 
  • Why is it that when you know something intellectually, it doesn't always transfer to your emotional knowledge. Like, although I know that when my daughter walks around dressed like she's out at the beach for a day, I should just shut up and ignore it because if I don't, i'll drive her further away. But sometimes I just can't help myself, and then I kick myself later. Which brings me to...
  • I was never sorry when, in doubt, I kept my mouth shut. Never said to myself "wow, I wish that I would have spoken out." Not once. On the other hand, the reverse.....yup, lots of times.  
  • God runs the world. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't like to ask Him a few questions though. 
  • if you ever can't figure out what to make for Shabbat, start frying up onions and garlic. Something will come to mind.  
  • Vegetarianism and veganism make total sense to me. So why can't I do it?
  • Did I drive my mother up the wall like this when I was 16?
  • I would very much like to say to myself "I deserve a vacation" and go and blow a few thousand shekels without worrying about wasting money. I don't seem to be able to do it, but I'd like to.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rainy Sabbat Musing

It's a good thing that I have dogs because if not, I probably wouldn't have left the house today. It's been raining on and off since yesterday and there's nothing more satisfying than curling up on a couch with a good book.

Of course, the book was one of those "makes you think" novels that can make you loose sleep. It was about a young woman who goes to work for a quadriplegic and ends up falling in love with him. 

So aside from the panic attacks that followed about "what would happen" the book also raised the question do you respond when someone who is such a situation decides to end it all. Do they have that right? Do you have the right to refuse? Talk them out of it? Is our definition of "quality of life" absolute? These people often have to live with unrelenting pain, infections, diminished abilities (of course), and the fear that goes along with being totally dependent on others for every little aspect of their lives. 

God forbid, if faced with such a dilemma, how would I respond? Traditional Judaism teaches that we must fight for every breath of life and never give up. How would God judge someone who simply couldn't face that type of life? Harshly? I don't think so, but, of course, I have no idea. 

On that cheery note, a bunch of ladies came over for lunch which was a lot of fun. This is not a crowd that is reticent about expressing their views, and we had a go at the recent elections, with a South African neighbor expressing the most disagreement at Obama's (as she viewed it) anti-Israel policies. Honestly, if it wasn't for my Shabbat guests, I doubt that I'd ever have much opportunity to socialize or hear many different views on various subjects since so much of my life is centered on work. This was fun.

Salads (avocado, vegetarian chopped liver -- green beans, fried onions and walnuts, blended together, cooked tomatos with garlic (known locally as "matbucha"), hummos (of course), beets, carrots)
Lentil soup
potato kugel
mushroom quiche

and cooking for a week!  Whee! Of course, that means granola suppers and lots of crackers with peanut butter, but it's worth it.


Friday, November 09, 2012

Cat Psychologist Anyone?

Can someone please tell me why I always end up with the animals who need psychological help?

Juliette, who was found stuffed in a box outside my gate last winter (someone knew which sucker's gate to put her near) has zero self-preservation skills. Aren't cats supposed to know how to take care of themselves?

When we found her she was tiny, probably about 4 weeks old, so I kept her in for much of the winter last year. By the time she started to wander outside, she was oblivious to the dangers of the neighborhood. She strolls around the lane as though dangerous dogs (or dangerous people) don't exist and would hop up in the tree in our yard from where she couldn't figure out how to get down (my daughter used to have to climb up there on a regular basis to grab her -- we just trimmed the tree so hopefully that problem has been taken care of).

It's pouring outside and whereas every other cat in the city is probably tucked safely under some roof or other shelter somewhere, Juliette is walking around outside, completely soaked.

Is this normal?

Thursday, November 08, 2012


It suddenly occurred to me that our cute little puppy, Penny, is eight years old. We got her shortly after our first dog, Sparky, died. She's a constant in my life and except for her daily food, a pat here and there and her walks (the highlight of her life) I don't pay much attention to her.

I just read a letter by a man whose dog was swept away by a wave during the recent New York hurricane. The guy wrote that he was aware that so many people had suffered so much more than he, but still, having his dog disappear like that was a trauma in and of itself.

I can relate. Penny (once named "Jenny" but renamed when our cousin Jenny came to live nearby) has been an important part of my life for many years. She accompanied me through my divorce, headed south with us during the 2006 war (throwing up all the way -- she's not a traveler) and has been a grudging hostess to the various dogs and cats who have come through our front door on their way to permanent homes. (well, yes, some did stay....)

Anyway, dear Penny has had a running ear infection for several months. Most of the time it doesn't bother her, but sometimes she shakes her head and I actually hear swishing sounds. I've had her on two different types of antibiotics and it clears itself up for awhile and then comes back.

My next attempt at getting a handle on her ear infection is going to be a natural remedy - olive oil that has garlic soaked in it.

Penny hasn't been thrilled about the antibiotic drops so I doubt that she'll like the olive oil, but we'll give it a go. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Shabbat -- again

Just when I'm winding down from last week's Shabbat leftovers, the next week's cooking looms. I shouldn't complain....once I get started, I quite like the process of putting different foods together to make a meal. I generally start thinking about a menu on Sunday, and spend the rest of the week shopping -- a little here, a little there -- and by thursday, I (hopefully) have all my ducks lined up.

I don't tend to be very inventive in my cooking -- when I do try something new, the feedback from my offspring isn't encouraging. But, as my son once told me, "presentation is everything" so we chug out a bunch of salads for the first course with a wide range of colors and textures, soup (in the winter) is nice, and then, by the time we're eating the main course, no one notices that it's basically the same as always, with maybe a different sauce or something.

This week it's just me and my daughter for Friday night (I like to have guests on Saturday) so I'm thinking about what to make that's vegetarian. I personally like the break from meat too, and although I'm not a vegetarian, I could happy do so if someone else would do the cooking.

Right now, my mind is on the soup -- maybe a lentil soup for the Shabbat day (when we're having guests) and a barley soup for Friday night.

And...ah...the wonders of Internet....just came across a great vegetarian Shabbat menu idea.

Don't know who this mum is, but thanks! The vegetarian kugel sounds yummy.


Woke up this morning to an Obama win. Dare I tell anyone around here that I actually voted for Obama? I kind of mentioned it to one lady on the street (someone who was still depressed over the results of the election) and she looked at me as though I had just committed treason.

Couldn't vote for Romney. Couldn't do it.

a. I didn't trust him. Sure, he promised Israel his undying support, but I simply didn't believe him. I'd rather have Obama who may be kind of iffy on support of Israel's struggles but pretty much says what he means.

b. His compassion for anyone who doesn't have what he has is pretty much zero.

c. I don't trust him.

d. The dog on the car incident. Good grief.

e. The economic policies that he was promoting made less sense than Reagenomics.

f. When you look at all of the people surrounding him -- well, they're all white. White men, white a country like America, the president should represent everyone. Romney just didn't give that impression.

Plus, this clip that I saw yesterday -- good grief.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Days of Leisure

As of November 1st I am a Lady of Leisure -- relatively speaking. I left my secure job with the Livnot U'Lehibanot non-profit and am trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.


I'm nervous, curious, anxious, excited -- don't know what will happen, but I've been speaking to some people about some interesting projects and ideas, and I have six months (unemployment insurance) to make something happen. It was suggested to me that I should have found something FIRST, and then left my job, but honestly, I just never had any time to do anything when I was holding down a full-time job. And also, now I have to make it happen.

Spent 2 hours this morning walking around town, taking photos so I'll have archived photos of Tzfat to send to websites when I write articles about Tzfat. That's a niche that I am getting into....promoting Tzfat. I also spoke to someone today about developing my own little website and to work with them to draw more visitors to the city. The official Tzfat English website is a joke, so there's definitely room for some improvement in pulling Tzfat into the 21st century.

Another avenue that I'm exploring is developing my little guesthouse more -- it's been running now for over six years, but I often had to turn people away because I just couldn't get home in time to clean it from the last guests and get it ready for the next people. In addition to the income, I love meeting some of the people who come and stay with me. It's fascinating hearing about their travels, their impressions of Israel, their own lives. And I have really developed some great friendships as well -- next week there's a lady coming from South Africa with her two sons...she stayed with me last year, alone, and is now bringing her sons to experience Tzfat. I'm kind of honored that she wants to return here!

In the meantime, the dogs are getting two walks every day instead of just one.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Phone Companies, Mongooses and Family

for anyone who, like me, procrastinates calling the phone companies to find the latest deal....

I called my server, Netvision, to upgrade my bandwidth to 15 mega. Turns out that I already have 15 mega. But....

In the course of the conversation, the representative noted that, as a customer for their international service, I should really be paying 2.90 shekels/month (instead of the 5 shekels that

I'm already paying) and will now pay 9 agorot/minute for calls to hutz l'artz INSTEAD OF the 37 agorot/minute that I was paying under my old subscription. Net savings of more than 300% on international calls.

Then, I called the tashtit (infrastructure), Bezeq, to upgrade to 15MG. I was paying 145 shekels/month for 8MG and with the upgrade I will be paying 99 shekels/month. Yes, that's right --46 shekels/month LESS for the higher bandwidth!
I think that I live in Oz sometimes.
i'll save y'all a Google search -- this is a mongoose
In another interesting "it happened to me," I was walking up to town today and saw a family of mongooses! In Hebrew they're called "nimiot." Of course, by the time I pulled out my cell/camera, they'd disappeared (which is saying something, because they move quite slowly), but still.....neat!
My mother was supposed to come for a visit and we had carefully planned her visit to coincide with a family gathering in Tzfat. In addition to the not-easy task of gathering all of my kids in Tzfat (well, aside from the miami-based daughter), my niece and nephew, who are both studying here for the year, were going to come up, along with our cousins from Rananna. The New Zealand cousins are in Tzfat already (getting their new apt ready) and I had been shopping and preparing for awhile.
Unfortunately, my mother became ill right before she was supposed to come (RIGHT before -- as she was about to board the plane, actually. After a few days in the emergency room and some not-very-comfortable treatments, she's doing better) but everyone else gathered here and we had a lively and enjoyable Shabbat. 
from the back: Geoff Isaacs (cousin), Yochi (daughter), Jenny Isaacs (cousin), Baruch and Mimi (cousins)

; front row Yoni (Yochi's bf, moi, Hagai (son), Leah Ettil (niece)
Next step is off to the supermarket to restock.