Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mixed feelings

Today marks the first day of the school year for Shana and Ayelet. Despite the ridiculousness of having to go to school on Friday, which is a three hour, five minute day, I am feeling a sense of relief that structure will at long last be returning to our lives. On the other hand, it is 8:08 in the morning, I am sitting in the kitchen, my platters for Shabbat are all packed up, and now I have to go pack up Dani and Ariella for a Shabbat at Saba and Savta's. And I would rather be in bed. School brings that unfortunate adjunct - waking up for school. There was a nice feeling in August of not always having to get up bright and early. Not being a morning person, I am going to miss that. I like being productive, but I prefer be so at night. Despite the hour, I of course had to tkae a first day of school picture of the annoyed and slightly tired young ladies.
To backtrack, on Wednesday we went to the mall in Malcha for a last hurrah, last shopping experience. Our intention was to go, shop, have lunch at the food court, shop some more, and then head to Yael and Aaron's for a barbeque. It almost went according to plan. However, the entire country seemed to be in the mall, and most of them were taking up every seat and most of the air in the food court. So instead of enjoying all the options that are uniquely available in the kosher food court, we ate upstairs at Burger King. Well, we had fun, and Lola got a crown. She also got the tik (backpack) of her dreams. Then we headed to the Katsmans and had a great time and a yummy barbeque.
On Thursday, the best thing ever happened - Jordy was home and awake!! Lola had been waiting anxiously for days, asking about his return, and now it was finally here. Sadly, because Ariella had an appointment, they could only play for about half an hour, but look how cute they are together!

I just wonder if the whole cooties thing is going to set in soon, and they won't want to play together. Or maybe we will be lucky, and they'll just coast past that.

Thursday was also baking day - everything compressed into one day, but somehow it came together.

This week's flavors are chocolate caramel sandwiches, chocolate pecan fingers, old fashioned sugar cookies, tuxedo brownies, and linzer cookies. The chocolate caramel usually give me agita, but this time I handled to dough differently, and it seems to have done the trick. Hopefully, the guests at our friends' kiddush (Happy 20th Anniversary Robin and Avi!) will agree. Robin is a big linzer cookie and chocolate caramel fan, so these were made by request. Here is a look at the large platter, with mostly their favorite flavors.Soon David will be taking the younger ones to Har Nof for Shabbat, and picking up a carpool of the big ones and friends from school. Their busing situation had to be adjusted in light of additional riders, but the guy who runs the buses is sitting shiva, so things are a bit, shall we say fluid. Bottom line, parents are doing a rotation so that until the big bus starts doing the run everyone will have a seat. Guess it's time to cook for Shabbat.

Wishing you a good Shabbat!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sweet interlude

It's Tuesday, what here is the mid-point, since it's our third day of the school/work week. I think it's finally time to post last Shabbat's cookies.
From left to right, snickerdoodles, double decker brownies bars, chocolate espresso cream wafers, honey pecan bars, and black forest cookies. The chocolate espresso cream wafers are a new offering, and they were really good - so good, in fact, that there were none left over for a photo after Shabbat. I know, should have been more efficient on Friday, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.... Anyway, the wafers are deeply chocolatey, crisp, not too sweet, and with a healthy proportion of salt compared to other cookies. The coffee flavored filling is a sweet contrast, and the whole thing works!

Another photo I neglected to post last week was this cake, which was for a four year old, new to Israel, just getting settled in, birthday. It's pretty simple, traditional bakery style buttercream covered yellow cake with chocolate buttercream filling and fondant decors randomly applied. His mom and dad really wanted him to know they were celebrating, even though circumstances were different than usual.

This week has been passing by in a blur. On Sunday night, David and I attended the wedding of the youngest son of a family that has been close with David's for about centuries. It was a beautiful venue, with an amazing view at the chuppah, and an extremely leibedik wedding. Monday brought a return to speech therapy for Ariella (YAY!) and a visit to the eye doctor for me. When I got home, Dani had a new boy in his class, Shmuel, the son of my old friend Rahel, over and they were hanging out. Then Pacey came over, and then Ori and Michael. Before I knew it, we had a testosterone party going on here. In order to escape a bit, Ariella joined me to pick up Dani's books from school. We stopped at the mailbox and received Ariella's invitation to first grade orientation, signed by her teacher. The teachers were all in a meeting and the secretary - the woman who really runs the school - was not in, so we didn't manage to meet Ariella's teacher or get class lists. Not a necessity, more an issue of curiosity to see how Dani's class is being split, and to see if there are any new additions to Ariella's class. Then we headed to the local candy/gift/t-shirt store tp pick up the final uniform t-shirt that Lola needed. While we were there, we noticed that they had restocked the supply of jeans skirts, and lo and behold, we tried on two and they were great. They may not be the cheapest in the country, but they were definitely reasonable for what they were, and if I don't have to run around to find them, I am thrilled.

Later on in the afternoon, Ariella, Dani, Ayelet, and I went to see the latest Harry Potter movie. It has been open for ages, but opened right as the three weeks started, and then life got in the way, so we didn't manage to see it, though Shana went last week. It was fun to take the other three and just sit and watch. The movie was very beautifully made, but really not a compelling film. There was little or no emotion or connection to the characters. The book was SO much better - at least Dani seems willing to read the books now, knowing that the stories they tell are more interesting and gripping, not to mentioned detailed.

Today brought a visit to the earring store for a two week check of Ariella's piercings, which are thank God fine. We searched in vain for a new backpack for her, picked up falafel, and headed home. Later tonight, we have coffee for chayalim. Have to remember cold drinks too!

Til next time.


Sunday, August 23, 2009


If Shabbat is supposed to be yom menucha, why am I so wiped after it?

On Thursday, we spent the day in Yerushalayim, but lest you think the best of us, there was really no spiritual aspect to the visit. We started by heading in to the center of town. Lots of traffic and roadblocks added time to our journey, so I jumped out of the car with Shana, Ayelet, and Shana's friend Elana, and we ran to Maoz falafel - awesomely good! - and after a quick lunch, headed to the centerpiece of the day: Chor BaKir. Literally, the "hole in the wall," Chor BaKir is a store on Ben Yehuda that sells skirts. Lots and lots of skirts. They also sell some tops and other items, but the key there is the endless quantities of denim and other skirts. Ayelet really needed new skirts before school starts, as she has grown up/out of many of her skirts from last year. Shana and I also wanted to replenish the supply a little. Even thought the store is almost always crowded, there are many helpful salesgirls who make the process rather painless. It was so painless, in fact, that we found a total of eight skirts to bring home - four for Ayelet, and two each for me and Shana. By that time, David, Dani, and Ariella who had parked the car and then enjoyed their own lunch at Maoz, had joined us. After a quick discussion with Ayelet to explain that I would not allow her to have any skirts shortened - what if she grows more?! - we negotiated with the owner, paid, and headed for the seamstress to adjust one of Shana's skirts. We left the skirt with her and made a beeline for Fro-Yo, everyone's favorite frozen yogurt store, also known as Katzefet. After enjoying all sorts of frozen confections - the favorite being a frozen yogurt with all kinds of options for swirl-ins, including frozen fruit and berries, and a few kinds of chocolate - we returned to pick up Shana's skirt. Our next stop was Givat Shmuel, to shop a little more. We did not do as well there, but had a small level of success which was enough, not to mention less costly.

We then moved on to Har Nof, to Savta and Saba's, for a family barbeque. David's cousin and his family were visiting Israel for a week, so it was a great opportunity to catch up. It was a very late night, and we returned home exhausted. But as there is no rest for the wicked, I had to do some finishing on the week's baking. It was a late night, but aren't they all?

Friday was non-stop with Shabbat preparations, especially with a slightly late start in the morning. The funniest interlude of the day was when a customer/friend called to ask if I had extra cookies left, because her pregnant daughter was here for Shabbat, and was afraid there would not be enough cookies for her to enjoy and allow their guests, more than expected, to have some too. While I did not have enough for another platter (our guests needed dessert too!)I packed up a doggie bag for her daughter - it would not do to have anyone's hand bitten off! Shana and Ayelet were pretty helpful and made the load lighter, but it was nice to light candles and sit down!

Shabbat was very nice. The neighborhood is filling back up, and the park and the shul were crowded. We had a new family for lunch, and Ayelet brought their daughter, who will be in school with her, to hang out with the girls in the afternoon. Thankfully, they seemed to have hit it off, which should be good for everyone involved. Our friends Sara and Akiva, who just got back from the US, where they celebrated two family weddings, and Sergio and Tzippy came by when they had finished lunch. It was nice to see everyone and made the dessert part of the meal more lively. Eventually we ended lunch, cleaned up, and napped. Then it was time for sheva brachot! A new family made aliyah two weeks ago, and on Thursday, their oldest daughter go married. They did not think they would be able to make sheva brachot here, as they felt it would be presumptious to ask people they had just/never met to house their guests. But friends convinced them it was doable, and it was. We hosted the chattan's grandparents, who were a very sweet couple. As a result, we were invited to seuda shlishit, which could have been weird but wasn't! We actually met the couple in the morning after shul - more accurately, David had met the husband, but we rest of us needed to meet. The evening was fun, and we headed back home to make havdala and take Elana to the airport.

Elana was very nervous about getting on to the airplane, and as a 16 year old, she is no longer eligible to fly as an unaccompanied minor. Her father sent her a blow by blow list of the actions she would be taking in the airport that another father had sent his son before he flew home by himself. That helped, and we took her through the initial layer of security and check-in, where we found friends from the yishuv who were putting their daughter on the plane as well, though she is older and heading to a year of sherut leumi on her own. We introduced the ladies so that Elana would know of a friendly face. It was good for her to know that someone on the plane would know who she was. She was still kind of rattled, especially by the security trainee who asked every question in the book. We left her at the entrance to security and passport control, where we were not allowed to enter. By then she seemed a little calmer, as her suitcases were not overweight, and because from that point, there was really no way to miss the stops she needed to make. So we headed home, tried to unwind, and get a little sleep. Now it's Sunday, and I am still tired.

Will add this week's cookies shortly!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Long Day

This has been another long day, in a week full of them. I am not exactly certain what got accomplished the last few days, but today was certainly full. To backtrack, on Sunday Shana and her friend Elana went to the mall and movies, to see the latest Harry Potter installment. Ayelet has been working, working, working. David and I headed to a bar mitzvah Sunday night. On Monday Dani went with Elana, her father David, and her brother Yacov to Latrun, the Bullet Factory, and Mini Israel. They had a good time, while Shana stayed home and worked on the reams of math homework she pretty much neglected up til now. Today Shana and Elana went into Yerushalayim to shop for gifts. They seem to have been successful. Dani and his friend Pacey spent the day going back and forth between houses. David and I headed for Rami Levi, spent lots of money, got home, and unpacked. Then I baked some cookies in preparation for welcoming an old friend, Rahel, and her family to the yishuv. It was great to see her again after so many years - she has not changed a bit, except for addition of the husband and four kids. For the first few days they will be staying a couple of doors down, so I am looking forward to spending some time and giving them a hand with adjusting. I was also making dinner for a new family that just moved into the yishuv - it's like an epidemic around here! Unfortunately, with all the commotion, both David and I forgot that Ariella was supposed to have a tutoring session. Just completely flaked. Oy, and school is approaching so quickly! By the time the tutor called, it was too late to bring her because she (the tutor) was on a tight schedule and had to leave shortly. Another stellar day in parenting. Plus, Ariella was complaining that she did not feel well, though it may just be that she wanted to wear a sweater; "But Shana and Ayelet get to wear a sweater when they don't feel well!"

Tomorrow (Thursday) I first have to finish all the Shabbat baking and start to cook for Shabbat. Then we are going to Yerushalayim to do some shopping and then head to Saba and Savta for a barbeque in homor of a visit by David's cousin Mutt, his wife Louisa, their three boys, and Louisa's parents. Should be a full house. Unfortunately, it severely limits my baking/cooking time, so I have to be extra prepared. We are hosting for Shabbat lunch a new family that we are meant to be "mentoring" as a buddy family. We also have two guests sleeping in the guest room. They are coming for the Sheva Brachot of a young couple, of whom the bride's family just moved to Israel TWO weeks ago. They thought it would not be an option to make the Shabbat here, because they felt it might be too presumptious in a new community, but friends convinced them it could be done, and it looks like it can. People really step up here!

More and more returnees are showing up - it is nice to have friends home. Just hope no one will sit in my seat in shul this Shabbat before I get there!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

A new dawn, a new day, a new week

Shavua tov, everyone. It's what we call Sunday, but it's not an American Sunday. We always have to gallop straight out of the gate on Sunday morning. None of this sleeping in and staying in pajamas for us Israelis. Okay, it is vacation, but Ayelet had to be at her job at 8:30, David went to 7:30 shacharit, and I had laundry in the machine by 8. Not bad. Ariella wanted to know if she would have to wake up this early for kitah alef - didn't have the heart to tell her that 7:30, today's wake-up time for her, is not nearly early enough. Maybe I didn't want to say it to myself; school is creeping up on us!

Shabbat was very nice. We had our friend David and his son Yacov visiting from Passaic. They are here for a whirlwind, see the whole country, visit lots of friends and relatives, in honor of Yacov's bar mitzvah trip. It was nice to catch up. We also had a new family, Jeff and Jamie and their four kids, over for lunch. It is a comfortable feeling to not be the new people - to actually feel like we know, to an extent, what we are doing. My neighbor Judy, who has lived in Israel for 30 years and has observed our evolution here, commented on this phenomenon - how much fun it is for her to watch us grow in confidence and - for want of a better term - Israeli-ness.

After lunch Ariella's new friend Avital showed up at our door - she had insisted to her mother that she knew the way, and she did! Her mom, Tamar, was not too far behind, but we were both impressed with Avital's navigational prowess, and I was impressed with her confidence after just three days in her new home. Ariella went over to their house to play, and a couple of hours later, after not managing a nap, we picked her up and headed for the park. It was nice to hang out in the shade with friends, though it was a reminder that people are starting to return and fill the place up. The lazy days of summer seem to be coming to an end. No offense travelers (except for a couple of you we really miss, and you know who you are), but stay away a little longer - we like the way summer is here! And absolutely no complaining when you get back about what Israel is missing or lacking. We like it fine, and if you don't, get over it and ask yourself what you are really doing here!

This week's cookies were really yum, if I say so myself.
Espresso double chocolate chunk cookies, apple crumble bars, orange chocolate chipsters, mint brownies, old-fashioned sugar cookies, and caramel brownies. The next pictures will not do justice to these flavors, but they were ready for their close-ups (closer, closer, too close, too close!).

Apple crumble barsCaramel brownies, with a rich layer of homemade caramel in the center and another layer swirled in to the top

Espresso double chocolate chunk cookies - one of Ayelet's favorites

Old-fashioned sugar cookies - look so unassuming, but really good with hints of lemon and brown sugar.

Last night Shana's friend Elana, who just finished up a summer program here, came to spend the week with us. We have a bar mitzvah party tonight, and who knows what other fun the week will bring...


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

And now for a rousing chorus of "Yankee Doodle Dandy"

This morning, the family rose bright and early in order to be ready to leave the house at 6:45 to head to Tel Aviv, to the American Embassy. The kids and I had to renew our passports, on the off-chance we ever go anywhere. We managed to leave by ten to seven, though I was so tired I initially forgot to take the envelope with EVERYTHING in it. Quick run back into the house, a few more sips of coffee, and we were good to go. Traffic was not bad, though there is the usual "Omes T'nua" on the highway (it was much worse when we were heading back, luckily not in our direction). We made it with ten minutes to spare, checked in our bags and cell phones, and went through security. There was only one family ahead of us, so we had literally no wait time to go to the counter, where they go through your forms, which I had filled out ahead of time, and check your documents. After that, you pay, have a seat, and wait. We sat for about half an hour, while the room filled up. David and I were kind of amazed to see the variety of people who have US citizenship - we seemed to be the only native English speakers in the room. One family even asked the clerk if they should fill out the United States passport forms - that's United States people, official language ENGLISH! - in Hebrew or English - though they seemed that they would have been more comfortable in Yiddish in any case. Most of the people there had some kind of story, were missing papers, documents, photos, or a parent for the minor they brought along, or were generally farblunged. We agreed that working at the counter must be very frustrating - one of the clerks was rather testy dealing with admittedly confused and ridiculous people and their problems, but our clerk was absolutely fine. She must have had her morning coffee! As we sat and waited some more, and some people who had arrived after us were called to the consular officer counter before us, we agreed that it would only be fair if people were required to sing "My Country, 'tis of Thee" if they were to be allowed to stay and receive service. "God Blesss America," "America the Beautiful," a stanza of "The Star-Spangled Banner" would suffice - heck, they could hum a few bars of "New York, New York" - take a run at "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" for all we cared - just something American!!

When we were called up (it really wasn't that long, considering they were processing the applications for FIVE of us), the consular officer at the desk looks very seriously at us and says, "Now there's a rumor going around that you all made five appointments for five people, showed up on time, had all your documents and paperwork ready, and you were nice. Is that true?" And she breaks out into a lovely smile. She was a delight to deal with - she went through our papers quickly, let Dani and even Ariella take a turn trying to sign their names even though it wasn't necessary, and politely asked us what our view on the kashrut of Disney princesses is before offering Ariella a Little Mermaid sticker. It reminded me of the story the Joels told about flying to Israel on Continental, soon after the airline started its Israel service. The staff and passengers all looked askance at them at boarding time - surely six children were going to make the flight a misery for everyone. By the time the flight landed, the crew offered them a bottle of wine as a thank you for how well behaved their children were. Now I can't say that our kids could be charming for 11 hours, but it was nice to be commended - even if it was just for doing what we were supposed to.

And that was that. We were all done and it wasn't even 9 am! So we decided to head directly home and get a jump start on some things that had to get done - like taking Shana and Ayelet shopping for some school clothes. That is done for Dani and Lola already; we went to the local Mom and Pop store and bought their school uniform t-shirts. 14 shekel a pop and we were good to go. They are not the greatest quality and we may have been able to save a little by driving off the yishuv (while burning up the savings on gas), but I like to give the business to a local family who have been nothing but friendly to us.

Some musings from vacation:
I love living in Israel. I really, really do. I hope my kids get that, too, and appreciate how lucky we are to be here, in the land Hashem promised us. It always feels like home, even when cultural or language differences make things challenging. I am always sad when adults bemoan the state of the state. Teach your kids to love this country and appreciate all that is good in it! Yes, customer service is not the greatest, but it has definitely improved. Yes, many people, especially on the road, think their time is more valuable than anyone else's. Dan l'kaf z'chut - maybe it is. Just sit back, maintain a sense of humor, and enjoy life. We found on our trip that people, especially service, were unfailingly polite. The most unfortunate experience we had in Tel Aviv was a rude parking lot attendant. We laughed it off and moved on. Maybe he was having a really bad day. Maybe no one taught him better. His loss. What would be gained by getting into screaming match? Should that color every experience in this country?

We live in a bubble. We saw so much city in Haifa - industry, poverty, luxury, lots of treif restaurants - that we realized how lucky we are to live in a really amazing yishuv. When in Haifa, except for the Hebrew and the knowledge that you are in Israel, you could be in any metropolitan area. In Chashmonaim, you feel yishuv ha'aretz. We live in and are part of a community that is full of Torah and chesed. We have friends moving in today - no doubt that they will be welcomed by their buddy family, be brought dinner by volunteers, have Shabbat meal arranged for them, open the door to find us and others who will stop by to say hello and introduce future classmates to their likely overwhelmed and overtired children. And that's the way it should be. I have a pile of invitations to smachot that boggles the mind. I love our bubble.

And now on to the real business of this blog - I have to start baking prep for this week. We have a friend from Passaic and his son visiting us for Shabbat, and a new family to the yishuv coming for Shabbat lunch. We also have a cousin of our neighbors' and her baby staying here for Shabbat for the bar mitzvah of the neighbors' oldest son. The party will be on Sunday - Bar Mitzvah-palooza has commenced!


Monday, August 10, 2009

Back to the grind

Well, with the end of vacation inevitably comes the let down and the laundry. We were all pretty much wiped out by the "rest and relaxation," and everyone fell into bed very early. All except for me, who caught a second wind after two giant loads of laundry, and ended up chatting late into the night with my friend Suzanne, who had just returned from Chu"l, but would not be home for Shabbat. After catching each other up on all the latest, I finally headed to sleep.

This weekend brought some excitement - some kind of elevated level of bacteria was discovered in the local reservoir, and then in a broader water supply, so we spent the first part of Friday morning boiling water. We had brought home several extra bottles of water from our trip, so that was helpful, as well. We have finally been given the all clear (I am typing this Monday evening), so we are no longer brushing our teeth with Diet Coke. Kidding - really, I am, even though I know it seems plausible!

This week I have NO COOKIE PHOTOS for you! I am klopping al chet - sorry! In deference to the Rotter family vacation, Dvora's Cookie Creations also took a week off. But never fear, we will be back at the hot oven for this week. Last Shabbat was rather simple. Soup from the freezer, bare minimum of food, lots of napping. A family from the neighborhood made a l'chaim for their newly engaged son and his kallah, held on Shabbat afternoon, so we headed over there for a mazal tov and then to the park, so Lola could fill her shoes with sand.

Sunday brought a trip to Rami Levi, as we were all but out of food, and we will return there on Tuesday, as it is the only available morning remaining. We also headed to Kiryat Sefer for passport pictures - the kids and I all need to renew our US passports. We got Shana some Israeli sized photos, as well, as she is nearing 16 and the time to get her own Teudat Zehut. Wow. time really does fly.

Today was a big day for Ariella! She recently became obsessed with the idea of getting her ears pierced, which obsession became more and more acute until the first words out her mouth this morning were "Can I get my ears pierced today?" After a brief parental conference, we decided to make today the day. With all the kids in tow (they all wanted to witness the big event), we headed to a jewelry store in Modi'in Center with a good reputation for ear piercing. The woman was lovely - very professional and personable. Of course, she was out of the least expensive earrings, so we had to go a step up to CZ's set in gold for the little princess. She behaved perfectly! Not a whimper or whine! And she looks beautiful and happy. The truth is, she is older than either Shana or Ayelet when they had their ears pierced, so I guess it was time. I had been waiting for her to ask, and ask she did.

Try not to focus on the abject lack of upper teeth, but look instead at the tiny points of light on the earlobes!

And as one last highlight, because Shabbat was so simple, and because there was no baking, we had time for a family picture before lighting candles.

Until next time, have a wonderful week!


Day 4 - Homeward Bound

By the morning of the final day of our trip, the hotel breakfast had begun to lose its charm, but only a little bit. Dani was very sweet (and kissing up) when he said it would all be better if Imma had made it! Very cute, but I have to disagree. Not that he was empirically wrong, but it was all good davka because I did not have to make it! After our final visit to the dining room, as well as to the pool snack bar, where the younger kids collected their free snacks, we packed up, checked out, and headed south. Our first stop was Nachal M'arot and Ma'arat Adam Hakadmon - a national park full of caves, and in specific, a few caves highlighting the life of cavemen. There is supposed to be an audio-visual guide through the path, but sadly, it was rather off kilter. So we walked the path ourselves, read the signs, and called it a day. There is also a hiking path, but with the killer heat, it was not the day for it. If we are ever in the area, we might try it again, as it belongs to the network of national parks and nature preserves in the country, to which we bought membership this year. We did this for the first time this year, and have found it thus far rather worthwhile.

We packed ourselves back into the car, after thankfully discovering that Ayelet had dropped her phone in the car, and not in the caves or on the many steps, and very thankfully not at the hotel. Our next stop was Or Akiva, a town next to Caesaria, where David's brother and sister-in-law and their two boys were vacationing. We stopped at a local mall for lunch (not at McDonald's - not kosher) and ice cream,
hung out with the Efrat Rotters for a while, and then bid adieu to vacation. We drove home, turned on the air conditioning, and got back, somewhat regretfully, to real life.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Day 3 - Hot Haifa

Day 3, Wednesday, started much like Tuesday: with breakfast. But the one major difference was that on Tuesday, Ariella was exhausted from sharing a room with her sisters. Apparently, a five and fwee-quawtews year old needs more rest than her teenage sisters. So on Tuesday night, we laid down the law; either she was going to go to sleep quickly, or she would have to bunk with us. David put Lola to bed in the girls' room and warned her that he was coming to check in five minutes if she was asleep. When he returned ten minutes later, she was clearly pretending to be asleep in order to avoid deportation. So he laid the trap. He announced that she would be missing Kim Possible. She maintained the act. He talked about Scooby Doo - still nothing. So David signaled to Shana to open and slam the door. Sure enough, she popped up like a Jack-in-the-box, ready to par-tay. Caught! Sure enough, she was whisked over to our room, where she slept like a rock, a very active, snuggly rock. But hey, who doesn't want to wake up with your little one's legs over your neck.

So the morning began a little more cheerfully than the one before. Ariella was chipper enough to be eating pancakes by the handful - and I do mean handful. When we told her to use a fork, she happily obliged, by sticking a fork into the pancake currently nestled in the palm of her hand. Mmm.... tastes like pancake on a stick. Fortunately, the pancake cushioned the blow of the tines and nobody got hurt.

Our first stop of the day was the Bahai Gardens, located blessedly close to the hotel. We thought we would head out early before the heat of the day. Our bad. Every part of the day was the heat of day. The gardens themselves are very beautiful, but much of the area is off limits to civilians, who are warned not to eat, drink, or chew gum in the holy area. The view of the city is also stunning.

Next we headed to the Japanese Art Museum. Without being too rude, our assessment was: don't waste your time. We fortunately had free passes; otherwise, we probably would have asked for a refund. When we entered the building, doing a thank goodness for air conditioning dance, the guard warned us that one exhibit is not appropriate for children. Good, fine, no problem. The cashier nicely told us the same thing, then took our passes, processed them, and remarked, "It's really a very small museum without that exhibit." Great, thanks. She was right. While some of the art was interesting (mostly limited to Japanese woodblock artists of the 20th century), there was not much to see and our climate controlled time ended all too soon.

We next headed for the Carmelit, Haifa's subway that travels up and down the mountain. The cars are built like steps, and the descent is quite steep. We got off at one stop, where a shopping area was located, realized that Israeli tourism maps are rarely drawn to scale, got back on the train, headed uphill, and returned to the hotel for lunch, purchased from a makolet.
Next it was into the car for a drive to the bottom of Haifa, to the Museum of Clandestine Aliyah and the Naval Corps. It was a really interesting museum, which carefully detailed the experiences of the illegal immigrants and all they endured in their quest to make it to Israel. It was really rather poignant, knowing that we had made Aliyah three years ago that day, and while we know there were and still are challenges involved, it is an absolute joke compared to what others have gone through to survive and to find a place in this land. The chronology continues through the establishment of the State, and the development of the Navy. We walked through a submarine, astounded by the tight quarters and amounts of equipment. Not so sure that if you need so much electronics to get under the water, that you should really be there in the first place. While we watched one of the movies, Dani had some questions about quotas and the like. I said that the British wanted to limit the number of Jews allowed to enter Israel, because they didn't want too many of us here. Ariella got a panicked look on her face, then relaxed and said,"But that was before Claire (her British aunt) was born, right?"This is the Af Al Pi Chen, a ship used to bring Maapilim to Israel.

After a beverage break (the museum has very reasonably priced drinks - keep it in mind!), we headed for the cable car. Up and down the mountain we went, and again, nobody got hurt. In a vain attempt to cool off, we headed for a center called Castra, which on paper is a mall with an antiquities museum and a doll museum, as well as artists and craftsmen. Better on paper. The mall was rather drab and unimpressive, and like so much else in Haifa, had very little in the way of kosher stores. The doll museum was a cool idea: artists made dolls and put them in dioramas depicting Jewish history from the beginning of Tanach all the way to the current day. They also included Jewish holidays and some fairy tales. The idea, attractive, the dolls, hideous and grotesque. We didn't find the antiquities museum too quickly, and we were getting hungry. We headed downstairs to the supermarket - there seems to be one in almost every mall in Israel! - and purchased supplies for dinner. Then back to the hotel, dinner, showers, and collapsing into bed.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Day 2 - As Far North as You Can Go

On Tuesday, we started our day with breakfast. A lot of breakfast. Let's just say that the Dan Carmel offers a very extensive breakfast buffet. Unfortunately for Ayelet, she woke up not feeling well, and was unable to enjoy the variety. She did not mind the coffee, though. The rest of us had a great time, and then we had to go upstairs to recuperate. After a little recovery time, we packed up and headed for Rosh Hanikra, which is by the Lebanese border. The drive was pleasant, and we arrived rather quickly. Here is the view from the top.We took the cable car down to the grottos
and spent some time walking through the tunnels to search for mermaids - at least that is what we told Lola, who was only a little surprised not to find Ariel and Flounder. We actually explained grottos to her as underwater caves - like where Ariel hid her human treasures. This is the rock we decided looked like Ariel's singing rock - though she was not currently there.We took a few photos, then it was off to the audio-visual presentation. We really enjoyed the movie, which was shown in one of the railway tunnels. The film was a big mishmash of history, nature documentary, and legend, showing how the land and the sea unite at Rosh Hanikra. I don't know if I necessarily wanted a close-up of a turtle laying her eggs, but we learned a lot. Also, because of the heat, we enjoyed getting spritzed by the water spray that highlighted some of the show. Then it was back up the cliff in the cablecar, and working hard to keep the younger kids from reciting the old saw "I want that, you buy me that" on the obligatory walk through the gift shop to get to the exit. We also saw the border, where things were quiet.
Then we paused for a photo break.After another stop at the rest room - we were drinking a lot, as we should have been - we headed for Nahariya for lunch. We again enjoyed the traditional Israeli lunch of pizza, though David decided to be all touristy and have falafel. It was still very hot, even under an umbrella(notice how pink the kids look),

so we decided to forego Akko and head to Kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot. The museum there was excellent and beautiful. It didn't feel like a take pictures kind of place, but let me emphasize that it was extremely well done - both planning and execution. Shana was also career inspired by the exhibits - she says that she would probably enjoy designing and building museum exhibits, or at least making the best diorama book reports ever. The exhibit about the Warsaw Ghetto was particularly interesting to look at, especially from Shana's perspective as an artist. Also important to note - the bathrooms were very nice!

We headed back to the hotel and the pool, and then headed out to El Gaucho for a celebratory dinner - it was Tu B'Av and our three year anniversary of making aliyah. After some very yummy South American barbeque, we walked back to the hotel and called it a night.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Heading out on vacation - Day 1, Monday

After anticipating the great getaway of 2009, we finally were ready to head out on our vacation to Haifa and points north. I will try to fill you in on the highlights, but I will add more pictures later on - too tired to fix them all up after many days in the sun and no internet. (UPDATE: pictures are now on board!) I even have a mitpachat tan line across my forehead, not that too many people will ever see it, unless they come to my house and catch me in a not terrible hair day. If you are concerned that this story may not have a totally happy ending, fret not. The long story short is that we had a great time, it was very, very hot, and we look forward to the next trip - though first we will have to do even more laundry and get some sleep.

We got up not too early on Monday morning, as it would not do to start out tired on vacation, packed up snacks and sandwiches and filled the car with potato chips and Doritos. We headed north toward Haifa. On the way, we stopped at Hof Dor-Habonim. We had the directions but failed to notice that the beach was only accessible from Route 4, and not from the highway, Route 2, that we were on. This necessitated a u-turn and a little extra driving, but it was worth it. We made it to Hof Dor, where we picnicked and then walked the path along the beach there. Lots of seashells, sand, and LOTS of sun. It was a beautiful place to tiyul, although it would be even nicer in cooler weather. That seems to be a recurring theme of this vacation – it’s really, really, HOT! We are also not used to the humidity, so that is definitely a factor in the extreme sweatage we are experiencing.
And now, you no longer have to imagine pictures - here they are!
After the tiyul, and cooling off with some ice cream and ice pops, we got back in the car and headed to Haifa. We were supposed to stay at the Dan Panorama, but a few days ago, we received a phone call from the reservation center telling us that they were overbooked and that they wanted to upgrade us to the Dan Carmel. After a couple of calls to the travel agent we booked through to make sure it was okay (thank you, Chana Koren!), we happily accepted. So we headed directly to the Dan Carmel, trying to note any kosher food establishments along the way. We checked in, settled in, and headed for the pool. David, Dani, and Lola enjoyed the water, while the rest of us sat in the shade and enjoyed the relaxation. Then we headed to Mercaz Chorev, a mall in the city that closes on Shabbat, so its restaurants can be (and some actually are) kosher. We discovered a cafe (to remain nameless) with a cake display that Shana and Ayelet felt could be Cakewrecks worthy - they have high hopes of becoming wreckporters. Don't know if the whole piles of poo on a cake thing is played out, but the second one was just weird and unappetizing. Feel free to give your opinion!
We wound up at Burger Ranch, had a fun, if not overly healthy meal. Ariella only wanted schitzelonim (chicken nuggets), so we got her an overpriced helping of them. About three minutes later, after intense gobbling, she insisted that she was done and needed another serving, as that was all she wanted to eat. Nothing off the bargain menu for her! David and I debated what to get for her, if anything, when she suddenly came to the realization that she still had more in the container. "Oops, I did not see them! Hee, hee." Ahh, genius in training. She also spent much time climbing on the Spider-Man toy while the rest of us enjoyed our discount burgers. They were made more enjoyable by the BOGO coupon we got at Super-pharm, where we bought Fenestyl (like Benedryl) gel for Shana, who was having yet another allergic reation to sunscreen, only this time, it was to a brand that she had used successfully in the past. Oy. After dinner, it was back to the hotel, showering some more, and bed.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Now there's just Yom Kippur to look forward to...

This week went so quickly! On Sunday, we took the kids our to Falafel Ofer in Modiin, one of those stuff your own pita type places. David, Shana, Ayelet, and I very much enjoyed the wide variety of add-ins - salad, pickles, chatzilim, three varieties of onions, chips, and lots more - while Dani and Ariella had pizza from the place next door, which only makes small pies. As we were eating, we were trying to figure out the meaning of the pizza place's name - Super-news? David finally explained to us that the name was Soprano's Pizza! We felt foolish, but wondered exactly who thought that was an appropriate name for a food purveyor that caters to families! And no, not that kind of familia! After that, we headed for Matityahu, to the ice cream store there, where Ayelet, the family money-maker, treated us to ice cream. The bochrim who walked in just after us tried to get the girl behind the counter to give them a sample to taste. Sounds reasonable, right? Then they explained what they wanted to taste - a MILKSHAKE! David and I burst out laughing, and the girl yelled at them, asking how they expected her to give a taste of something that had to be made specially. "Just make a small amount, and we'll try it out." Needless to say, they did not get their sample. Of course, she was also not in the mood to make a yogurt and fruit shake, so we were also a little disappointed, not to mention that the ice cream was pedestrian at best. We probably would have been better off buying a tub at Rami Levi. Oh well, at least we tried something new.

Not much else happened this week. We spent Wednesday drinking and eating in preparation for Tisha B'Av - liters of water were consumed, until we could not take any more. Baruch Hashem, the fast went very well for all of us. even Dani fasted the whole time, and the girls held up very well. I spent the afternoon baking, which was not as difficult as I thought it would be. And then it was over, and we were enjoying potato leek soup, along with bagels and lox. I think we are all glad it's over, and we won't think about fasting for at least a little while...

Our initial plans for Shabbat called for Dani to go visit Saba and Savta, and Shana's friends Chana and Shobi to come stay with us. We had also invited our friends Lori and Seth for lunch, as Lori had been laid low for days by a very unpleasant flu, and was completely wiped out. We figured that some more family members might get sick also, so whoever was healthy would join us for lunch, and Lori would not have to worry too much about cooking. In the end, Baruch Hashem they were all healthy, but one of our nephews was still enjoying a lovely case of pink-eye, so the boys' Shabbaton in Har Nof was scuttled. Being very spontaneous, we invited Saba and Savta to join us for Shabbat, and being very spontaneous, they accepted! We had a very enjoyable dinner Shabbat night. The Gersons were all able to join us for lunch, which is always fun, so we were very happy about that. Yakir, their youngest, was clearly not 100%, as he fell asleep on the couch for an hour or so. Fortunately, he was able to rally and entertain us with all sorts of singing and performing, causing his father, Seth, to die a slow death, by dessert time. Dani and Ariella headed to the Gersons after lunch to play for a couple of hours. David and Dani went to learning at shul, and I collected Lola. Unfortunately, it was too hot and muggy outside for Seuda Shlishit, so we had to eat inside.

This week was a dual baking week for me. I had a cupcake order for a birthday in addition to the regular Shabbat trays.

I had a great time making all the decorations for the cupcakes. There were a dozen each chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, with mix and match chocolate and pink vanilla buttercream and decorations. For ourselves, as an experiment for a possible addition to the menu, I filled some chocolate cupcakes with chocolate mint ganache and covered them with chocolate buttercream. YUM!This week's cookie platter contained glazed lemon cookies, chocolate cherry brownies, chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookies, ginger white chocolate blondies, and sacher torte sandwiches.

I will be proceeding to the post Nine Days festival of laundry, in preparation for our upcoming vacation. This week is also our Three Year Aliyanniversary - Mazal tov to us and all of our plane-mates!

Shavua tov!


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