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Monday, February 25, 2013

Post Purim Pressures

Purim passed. Post-Purim passed. And the mishloach manot, dishes of food gifts, are still piled up on my dining room table.

No, not talking about Pesach. Not yet. Though today's schedule includes some preliminary attention to one particular area of the house. 

No, my anguish revolves around one of the most enjoyable aspects of Purim -- mishloach manot, the giving of food gifts to neighbors and friends.

Every year I swear that i'll cut down, give the money that I save on mishloach manot to charity, not encourage all the neighbors to hand out stuff that ruins our teeth and makes me fat. And every year....

This year I had one case of Dancing Camel beer left over from my winter stock. I sell the stuff in Safed and make a few shekels (though my profits are generally drunk up by my son who likes a beer or two with his friends when he comes home on leave from his base). So I baked some cookies and tied a bag of cookies to bottles of beer to give out. Imaginative, huh?  (would have been even better if the cookies hadn't been so good, enticing me to munch on the leftovers).

Still doesn't help me with the dilemma of what to do with all of the goodies that are sent to me. I generally freeze the baked goods for Shabbat desserts for the next few weeks. Some of my Sephardic (lady) neighbors create Purim goodies that are true works of art -- swirling cookies, fried within an inch of their lives and covered with delicious syrup. The toffies, quite frankly, get tossed -- I can't deal with what they do to the teeth. But the other yummies are, unfortunately, sitting quietly, staring at me, waiting for me to look for a treat to have with my morning (or afternoon, or evening) cup of coffee.

Ha! Wait until I have grandchildren....they'll see what a good safta hands out for AFTER-Purim treats!





Purim in the Supermarket

never know what you'll find in the local
supermarket on Purim




Purim shopping

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Crazy Busy

These last few weeks have been super-busy ones for me, and haven't really left me a lot of time for my own musings, but it's 9:30a.m. and I have the whole day in front of me, so I'll take a few moments with my first cuppa before heading out to the world of article-writing and parnassah (income).

I was invited to write on a unique blog in the States, MidlifeBlogger, and that was kind of fun. Who knew that 50-somethings like myself have a whole blogsphere where they can kvetch about being 50-something? I joined in.

And then, basically, I've been writing a lot. I'm continuing the development of my website, another project that I'm not sure where it will take me, but in the meantime, it's fun and a lot of people have told me that it's a helpful resource.Someone actually saw my advertisement for home-made Safed sushi and ordered some for Purim, so I decided to get back into making the sushi, which I haven't done for several years (a friend took it over when I traveled to the States --with my blessing -- and when I returned I told her to just continue, but now she's left Safed and I'm going to try to start up again). I think that it's a good idea to do something besides writing and I'm not quite ready to do house-cleaning.




Friday, February 08, 2013

Shabbat Menu

I didn't invite guests this Shabbat. Wound down, and my sons are coming home, so I'm taking a break from my normal dozen or so guests. On the one hand, I'm looking forward to a quiet Shabbat without the added rush of getting ready for guests. On the other hand, I do enjoy the banter and friendly atmosphere of a table full of fun (and funny) folks.

Now that I'm getting ready to cook, however, I realize that, while the portions may be smaller, I still need to cook, more or less, the same number of dishes. Just less.

Friday night
  • Soup (maybe -- thinking about it) with knadalach. Or, minus the knadalach, if I add barley and make it a barley soup, I can forget a grain as a side-dish)
  • Chicken snitzel (already made, in the freezer)
  • Mashed potato
  • some type of grain -- bulger? I would make kasha, because it's healthy, but my son certainly won't eat it and I'd eat it just because I should, which isn't all that enticing
  • Pastalim (little potato-filled triangles which crisp up nicely when baked)
  • salads
Saturday
  • meat lasagne (strips of fried eggplant, filled with meat, covered with more strips and baked in Vedad's sauce.
  • potato kugel (my trick is to bake it well, then flip it over and bake it some more, so both sides are nice and crispy.)
  • mushroom burekkas (a Gal favorite - I saute onions and then add mushrooms, salt and basil -- fresh if I have it, if not, dry). then roll it up in phylo dough and bake it. Yum.
  • soup (if I make it for Friday night....why not add a bit?)
  •  sweet potato something-or-other (my daughter parboils it and then bakes it with sweet chili sauce....there's an idea)
OK, time to get cracking. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Kvetching

I don't kvetch too much about raising teenagers on my blog, but all of you who have heard me sigh about the trials and tribulations of raising a teenager can raise your hand.

OK, put 'em down. Yes, it's a challenge, though to be honest, if I didn't have a supportive community, neighbors and a supportive school to back me up, I don't think that we'd be in very good shape.

I'm going to take a moment, however, to kvell (look it up).

Several weeks ago a woman in the community who has a daughter with special needs asked for a young girl to volunteer to take her daughter to and from an afternoon club. The girl is kindergarten-aged and, not only does the mother need some back-up, but the child herself will benefit from the friendship of an older girl.

I mentioned it to my 16-year-old and to my utter surprise, she agreed to undertake the project. Not only that, but she remembers, every week, and makes sure to notify the mother if there's a school trip or something else happens to prevent her from helping on a particular day.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Shkadiya Porachet

If I was to write that title on an email and send it, it would bounce as spam, but in reality, the "shkadiya" is a almond, or, in this case, an almond tree, and "porachet" means "to bloom." There are not many Israeli kids who reach nursery school without knowing the "shkadiya porachet" song and, having raised five of these kids, I know the song well.

The shkadiya trees are endemic to the Galilee and, song or no song, I didn't always pay much attention to them. But in recent years I have begun to notice more of the natural beauty around me, and, as soon as I mentioned to my daughter on Saturday night that I hadn't yet seen any blooming shkadiya trees, by Sunday we were enjoying them in full bloom.

There are white and pink shkadiyot, or maybe the white ones turn pink somewhere along the way? Don't know, but when I took the dogs out for their morning walk, I doubled my time out from what I had originally planned to accommodate some more shkadiyot sightings.

Just want to share. In Israel, the shkadiya signifies "spring" in much the same way that Punxsutawney Phil does for American on Groundhog Day. 

Full disclosure -- I took these photos yesterday, when it was sunny. 








Sunday, February 03, 2013

Library Life

In the end, Hagai showed up last night -- the alert was reduced and some of the soldiers were allowed off base, so he came home for the night, and will be back for Shabbat.

I was waiting for him to come home and bring his library books so that we could return them to the library. My older kids were all voracious readers, the combination of having a house full of books, parents who read and no engaging TV for most of the day (from the early '90s, we did have a television, but it only got Israel's channel 1 with some afternoon children's stuff and, until Hezbollah kicked the Christians out of South Lebananon, the South Lebanon Christian station that had some cute and educational afternoon shows (I fondly remember Swiss Family Robinson, a series that helped me keep my sanity through the 1990 Gulf War).

Up until my older son was about 9, we used to go to the Safed Community Center library so that the kids could pick out books, but the selection was poor and what was there was often in terrible shape -- how could you encourage your kid to read when the books were missing pages?

We moved to the Rosh Pinna library and for many years I would pack up the gang once every 2 weeks and we'd head to the library for our fix. The selection was excellent, the books were in terrific shape (thanks to a tough librarian who checked each book before refiling it) and I grew to really enjoy the outing, though scheduling the trip was challenging.

Through out years at the library the kids' interests and tastes changed, the librarian's mother -- who used to help her daughter at the library -- aged and became senile and I went through a separation and divorce. Yet every 2 weeks we continued to meet and catch each other up on our lives.

I found myself without a car at about the same time that my youngest reader no longer needed my chauffeur services and my youngest daughter was simply a confirmed non-reader, so everything worked out pretty well. I missed my bi-weekly chats with the librarian, but there wasn't anything much to do about it.

When my older daughter left to live in Miami, she left us her car, and my son recently began to visit the library to get some books for his "relaxation times" on the base. I encouraged it, though once again I'm responsible for his delays in returning his books -- this time, the delays are a bit more serious because there are times that he doesn't come home for weeks at a time.

The librarian called to remind us about some long-overdue books so I'll take my son to the bus stop in Rosh Pinna today and return the books to the library. History repeats.

I personally use the English Library in Safed and rely on its services -- don't know what my life would have been like if I didn't have it to count on. And I don't know what my kids' lives would have been like if they didn't have a quality library at their disposal, and a mother who made sure that they used it. One more thing that we take for granted, but shouldn't. 

Tense Neighborhood

Shabbat passed quietly. I did hear some planes in the skies, but as far as I know, my son and his fellow soldiers staying safely on their base.

Friday morning turned out to be a rush of shopping and cooking as we tried to get everything ready so that we could head up to Hagai's base and see him for a little while. I have some eye issues and wasn't looking forward to the 45 minute drive, but thank goodness everything was OK.

We loaded up with stuff for Hagai but also packed in some extras for his unit -- challahs, candies, cakes and cookies, etc -- so that they'd have a good Shabbat and know that everyone appreciates all that they're doing. Yochi and Gal came with me and we took Hagai out for an hour to the local town, Katzrin, to sit down over coffee and hear about the situation from his perspective.

I find it interesting that in elections, both here and, from what I understand, in the States, the soldiers' votes are generally along more conservative lines. You'd think that they'd be the first ones to look for less "security-minded" leaders but, in reality, their votes show that the soldiers tend to vote for more conservative candidates. I see this with Hagai as well. During the recent conflict with Gaza, when he was sitting along the border, waiting for orders to go in, he (and, he says, his co-soldiers) were very motivated to go into Gaza and do their job -- destroy the infrastructure that was allowing Hamas to fire rockets into Israeli cities. They wanted the war to escalate and they wanted to do their part.

Here too, although no one is looking for a war, they realize that Israel is in a lose-lose situation vis-a-vis the Syrian conflict, and that the country has to do what is necessary to protect itself and its citizens. They're motivated to play their part.

Hagai told me what their part will be -- suffice it to say that I can only hope for the best.


Friday, February 01, 2013

Konnunut

For most of the country, the "tension" over the northern border is something that flies by in the news, but when you have a son serving in the army, it takes on a more serious connotation.

Especially if your son happens to be stationed in the Golan Heights, next to the country with the weapons -- including lethal gas weapons.

Hagai was supposed to come home for Shabbat this week, but the "konnunut" -- heightened alert -- has left him and his buddies sitting in their base. So we're on our way to go and see him and bring the guys some challahs, goodies and cheer.

Little to say. The lives of all Israelis are very much wrapped around "the situation," but for those of us with kids in the army, it's a bit closer to home.

Hoping and praying for a good and quiet Shabbat.

Hagai at the end-of his 1st year