Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fifty nifty

Wow - don't know how it happened, but this blog now has fifty posts on it! Guess I like seeing my own words in print. So this is post number 51 - keyn yirbu. To all my loyal readers who have not identified yourselves - Hi! Love having you here, and would love even more to hear from you. If you do not want to be listed as a follower (as we can't really figure out what the advantage is, besides having your picture show up on the page), leave a comment and say hi!

The rain has finally showed itself. Friday was a day that should have been erev Parashat Noach - it was that rainy. I foolishly left for the bakery and makolet just as the rain was starting, thinking that it would subside quickly, and knowing it was the only availble time for me that day. The mabul started before I even made it inside. By the time I was done with my errands, the water was absolutely gushing down the street, about three inches high by the curb. I was soaked from the ankle down. Then I decided that it was close enough to dismissal at the elementary school that I should do something I swore never to do - drive to school to pick up Dani and Lola. I was literally afraid that they (read:Ariella) would get hurt walking home in the pouring rain and crossing the flooded streets. Suffice it to say, it was an adventure that left me soaking wet anywhere my jacket wasn't. And it took about 25 minutes to get home, because of all the traffic at the school, which is at most a three minute ride on a regular day. Next time, we make a better plan.

Preparations for Shabbat were very delayed this week, especially since I had less help than usual, and lost a lot of time from running out in the rain. But Shabbat arrived, so we had to be ready. Dinner was a quick affair. Ariella slept in David's bed - her big Shabbat treat when Abba is away - which usually causes her to sleep later in the morning. But not this Shabbat - this week, she woke up at 6:30, and proceeded to update me as to the time. "Imma, it's 6:32. Imma, it's 6:34. Imma, now the clock says 6:37." No matter what I said, she would not stop, nor could I get her to leave. Aaaarghh!

Shul was quiet, despite the absence of most of the gabbaim. The lone hold-out, Naftali, looked wasted at the end of shul, but was very gracious about all of his colleagues who abandoned him. We went to Yocheved's for lunch, where we had a very good time. By the time I got home, there was not a lot left of Shabbat. Now we are settling in for the night, and looking forward to a good week.

I added a few new flavors to the menu this week. Lemon glazed ginger crisps - thin, crisp sugar cookies full of lots of candied ginger, with a tart lemon glaze drizzled on top. The two flavors, the heat of the ginger and the cool of the lemon, meld together really well.Next is chocolate cream sandwich cookies: chocolate cookies with a hint of almond, glazed with a sprinkling of sugar, filled with a whipped chocolate ganache.

Finally, oatmeal cookies with dried cherries - chewy and yummy, a step above oatmeal raisin! A store nearby finally started pitting their dried cherries, and they are so delicious.

And that is the tale - not much else to tell.

Shavua tov!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Storm watch

Despite my resemblance (or hopefully lack thereof) to Al Roker, I am not an expert on the weather, even though my children think I am. Every morning, they ask what the forecast for the day is. Let's be candid: for about 6 months, the answer is HOT. Yes, you should wear short sleeves, sweetie, whether it's 95, 90, or a mere 80 degrees. But the sky is grey today, and precipitation is threatening. Temperatures are supposed to drop perceptibly - still not New Jersey weather, but a drop for those of us still in sandals. In fact, one of the newspapers is prophesying that winter will start with a bang - and a storm - today. We began mentioning rain in our daily tefilot on Shmini Atzeret, and on Motzaei Shabbat, we starting asking for it in earnest. (For those in Chu"l who don't know, in Israel we start saying "V'ten tal u'matar l'vracha" on the 7th day of Cheshvan, which would have been enough time for people from far reaches to get home from Aliyah l'regel. I am unsure - not remembering what I learned - as to the reason December 4 was chosen as the date for saying it out of Israel. I mean, you daven for rain in God's country, not elsewhere, right? I even attended a shiur about tefillat geshem last year, and the teacher, a born and bred Israeli, was unaware that the dates were different outside of the Land.) We could definitely use the rain; the reservoirs are desperately low. Even with a rainy year, scientists say we are in deep trouble. There is nothing like the connection between man and nature that exists in Israel to make you feel small and dependent on Hashem. Guess that is the point.

So I am scurrying to find everything that the kids will need for Shabbat, and hoping for the rain to come - rain that will be a bracha. That's the trick, after all; getting what you want in the way you actually need it. Guess I will run my errands quickly, so I can get home before the chance of getting all wet increases. We can hope for everything, can't we?


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Supermarket Stats

Going to our local Rami Levy supermarket is a two man job: David hits the chicken counter and runs hither and yon, collecting the items on the list, while I do the produce collection and walk the aisles, looking for things I forgot to put on the list. Then I unload the cart while he bags the groceries, and finally, he pushes the cart, which I am sure I have mentioned refuses to go in a straight line.

Today, I am on my own. So here's how the trip went:

Reasonably good spot in the parking lot: Good
Relatively few shoppers in the store due to the time of day: Very good
Power failing repeatedly during the shopping trip: Bad
Headache from searching for groceries in low lighting: Bad
Carrying all the groceries in from the car by myself: Middling
Ariella helping me put away the groceries in the house: Undecided
Not having to do this again until at least Sunday: Priceless

And that's the rant for today. No cookies, though I am now heading to make some cookie dough after I finish dinner clean up. Wow, I live in the fast lane.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Down for the Count

Remember when you were a kid, and you got a 24 hour stomach bug? Somehow, magically, at the end of 24 hours, you felt all better, like none of it had ever happened. Doesn't quite work that way for adults, I have discovered. On Tuesday morning, I was the proud winner of a case of the stomach flu. I will spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, whether or not the symptoms are over in 24 hours (they nearly were, yay!), you do NOT feel like getting up and dancing the hora. Or sitting up for an extended period of time. Or pretty much anything. In fact, leaving my room was not an option for about 30 some hours. It was not exactly the lazing in bed we always dream of. And in proof that misery is indifferent about company, I learned that several of my friends had this virus, too. The knowledge didn't make me feel better then or now, except to know that it was indeed a virus and not food poisoning.

Anyhow, it is now almost two weeks since my last post. I was looking at a couple of blogs that I follow, and was wondering why they had not been updated, when I suddenly realized I was doing the same. SORRY! So here goes.
Shabbat Parashat Bereishit, as I mentioned quite a while ago, was Elisha's bar mitzvah. He did an outstanding job on the laining, despite an intense case of nerves on Friday. The family had a large number of family members visiting for Shabbat, which was so nice, and I was honored to provide the desserts for their meals. Lori picked out ten flavors, which I divided into two lists, along the lines of appearance, color, and, most of all, flavor - one for dinner, and one for lunch.

Whoopie pies
Ginger crinkles
Chocolate chip cookies
Mexican brownies
Linzer cookies

Sugar cookie ganache sandwiches
Molasses cream sandwiches
Glazed lemon cookies
Chocolate crinkles
Banana chocolate chip loaf

Each type of cookie was laid out on an individual square orange dish - six cookies per plate - and then the five different flavors were set onto each table. It looked really cute, and I got lots of great feedback from the guests - they were all so nice, and it was great to get to know some of Lori and Seth's family. Here are some photos of some of the flavors and platters before delivery.

The orange is very fun and lively and worked perfectly with their color scheme. And it's a good thing, because I was told that not a crumb was left, so you want the plates to be cute if they are going to sit empty...

The other platters for the week looked something (not all identical - it was kind of a mix and match) like this:

Sunday night was the party for Elisha. It was a beautiful event at Neot Kedumim, a nearby Biblical nature preserve with a really cool hall - it is very rustic looking, with tent like blankets covering the ceilings. We danced very late into the night. Dani, attending his first bar mitzvah, had a great but very tiring time. David got a shout out in the bar mitzvah boy's speech - for translating his words into Hebrew, and for being his buddy. It was adorable.

Monday was recovery day - ha, ha, little did I know. The next two days are a total loss, so let's gloss over to Thursday, when Yosef and Binyamin, twin brothers and David's bar mitzvah students, celebrated their bar mitzvahs. They both lained at the shul, one laining and the other getting an aliyah at each of two minyanim. And then they (and we) partied on Thursday night, at a very fun celebration at S'dot HaAretz, near Beit Shemesh. The theme was, as you could guess, Noach, and they used the twin thing and the theme to great effect. We even brought home very cute souvenir photos of ourselves.

This Shabbat was a sad first - it was the first time since beginning Dvora's Cookie Creations that I had to turn down orders. I was just too sick to do a good job, and likely too germ-ridden as well. Let's hope this does not negatively impact the future. I guess there are just pros and cons of running what is essentially a one-woman show.

Because I had to bake something, especially as we were having guests for dinner, and it was Parashat Noach, so I made rainbow frosted cupcakes.

This was a frosting technique I had seen, and thought looked straight-forward enough, but never had the chance to employ. This is all a part of my grand scheme to have parasha-related foods every Shabbat - mostly desserts, of course - that has so far never made it many weeks into the year. I have a great many ideas for Parashat Noach, but somehow, something happens every year to make it difficult to do everything. But this idea worked, and was certainly cute.

Dinner was fun, with a family of new olim - the wife, Rahel, and I are old friends from Midreshet Moriah, but had not been in touch for quite a while. It has been really nice to reconnect. Then we went over to Shoshana and Steven's for their annual aliyah anniversary oneg. This year marks 12 years. Mazal tov! We had a good time, headed home, and collapsed.

Yosef and Binyamin did a good job of laining, though Binyamin had lost most of his voice and Yosef had also partied a little too hard. After shul was a lovely kiddush, and then we were invited to join the family and out of town friends for lunch. It was a good time. Suzanne, the boys' mom, has a wonderful eye for detail and a lot of creativity, so everything was great, from the centerpieces to the colors of the linens. Ariella went home with Rachel after lunch - she loves playing with older friends (one year in this case) and did not come home until havdala time, whereupon she wanted, but was refused, a movie night. Another time, girls!

On Motzaei Shabbat, Dani and Ayelet attended the opening of B'nei Akiva's Chodesh Irgun, which combines the ethos of Torah V'Avodah with a love for setting things on fire and brainwashing style sleep-deprivation. I keep reminding myself that this is an important part of integrating into Israeli society, and Hashem will watch over them. And at worst, they learn the love for wearing hokey shirts with shoelaces to close them. Just remember, we did not move here for the education, or the fashion... David and I went out to the mall for a bite to eat and a little alone time. We sat in Cafe Hillel, enjoyed cappucinos and a sandwich (David) and pasta (me), and were mostly just happy to be together.

And now we seem to have caught up. David is preparing for a trip Stateside, so he has been strengthening his upper body to deal with carrying the very heavy suitcases he must return with. No, not really. But even Ariella is looking forward to this trip ("So I can sleep in Abba's bed on Shabbat and he can bwing me fings fwom Amewica!!!"), as it has been a looong time since his last trip. I do not enjoy the single parent time, but it is certainly manageable, and I do like helping him unpack!

A wonderful sweet week to all,


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Resuming routine?

It would be nice to say that everyone and everything is getting back to normal. But let's be honest, what exactly is normal? The kids are back in school; that's a good thing. We are entering another round of simcha-palooza, which will keep us out a few nights this week. Dani had two, count 'em, two peulot from B'nei Akiva that kept him out much later than we would have liked. (Apropos of nothing else, hearing Ariella pronounce "B'nei Akiva" in her little naturally Israeli way absolutely makes the heart sing.) I still can not wrap my mind around Shana's school schedule. Not only is it still in flux, but my brain keeps tricking me into remembering timing from last year! Ayelet is away on her tiyul shnati, which takes on the same pattern every year: she starts out panicking because her stomach hurts, gets over it, has a great time (yay!), and then comes home beyond exhausted and cannot hold it together. Well, maybe this year will be a deviation from the norm. And normal is not a term that can extend to the weather, either. We have resigned ourselves to the fact that "autumn" does not really exist here - no foliage tours to see the changing colors, no "sweater weather" this time of year. My older girls have ordered both sandals and boots online. They may need both within a short time span. There is rarely an in-between. So, instead, we are expecting a sharav - a heat wave - for a number of days. While NJ is expecting temperatures in the 40's and a noreaster, we are preparing for the 90's and praying for rain, in the most literal of senses.

Baking this week is extra fun for me - in addition to regular orders, I am making dessert for our friends' Lori and Seth's son Elisha's bar mitzvah Shabbat. I plan to platter a little differently for them, to add eye appeal on the tables. Hope it will work... I am making ten flavors, Lori's favorites, and I know some of Elisha's too. I will photograph a sample layout, b'li neder, as these Shabbat events never allow me the opportunity for on the spot pictures. And now it's back to the oven.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Credit where it's due

I can't believe that I am at this point in my life, but my two oldest girls have become real help in the kitchen. This erev chag, Shana and Ayelet both rolled stuffed cabbage, Ayelet made carrot kugel, knaidlach, and roasted potatoes, and Shana washed the lettuce, made salad dressing and popcorn cauliflower, and plattered all the cookies. They also did a bunch of vegetable prep, despite not loving it. I don't think we would have made it to yom tov without them. Can't believe I am saying this either, but I will be sad when they go off to school this Friday morning. The girls are both quite entertained (and made not a little incredulous) by the fact that I told them that I knew very little about cooking and baking when we first got married. They should definitely have a leg up. I do also have to give credit to my friends who follow recipes for cooking - without you, my girls would not have a plan to follow, and they would just be asking questions that I could not answer well. I have taught them the beauty of the "eyeball," but it just ain't that easy. They are getting there, though...

Also, thank you to Dani for walking Ariella to and from school every day. It makes our lives much less complicated, and he is becoming quite the responsible big brother.

I should thank Lola for wanting to help more than anyone else. When she was home sick a couple of weeks ago, she was by far the best grocery unpacker in the family. She also constantly volunteers to wash dishes and fold laundry (I have clearly done something wrong as a parent to warp her this way!). Sometimes she can even actually do these things. A challenge for me a s a person who just wants things done quickly and right, but I try not to squash her.

Thanks, y'all.


Chol HaMoed, continued

And so Chol HaMoed continued on, lots of quality family time, lots of fun. No really, for the most part, I do mean that sincerely. On Wednesday, we headed to the Table to Table "gleaning." Table to Table is a food rescue organization that runs a number of programs to feed the needy. The one we attended, Project Leket, involved going to a kibbutz near Rechovot and picking fruits and vegetables from fields specially designated for this purpose. We spent a couple of hours picking butternut squash and had a surprisingly good time doing it. All the kids got really involved, and were extra happy because a number of families we are friends with were there, too. In fact, it kind of felt like most of the Anglo Olim population was there, or at least anyone who came in the last ten years. We saw old friends and acquaintances we had not seen for months or even years. And the kids had a good time with their friends, and we were even doing a mitzvah. Of course, after we finished picking, we headed up to the fun part of "Family Fun Day." A sukkah was set up, along with vendors selling food. There was a ginormous screen showing the Ice Age movies, which caught the attention of many a child. Ayelet wanted to know if we could buy one of those for the house... There were also inflatables (mitnapchim) that Dani and Lola had a great time on. After a few hours of fun, we headed for home. On the way out, we were gifted with t-shirts from Table to Table. Awesome!

After we ordered in Burgers Bar and enjoyed a healthy dinner, David and I headed to Yerushalayim to my cousin Viggy's home for a cousins get-together for our Bubby's yahrzeit. It was great to see Viggy and his wife, Chaily; we had not met her before, as they just got married a few months ago in the States. She is very sweet and we hope they will come here for a visit one of these days. Two other cousins, Sara Malka along with her husband Dovid, and Estie, were visiting, so it was great to see the cousins we had not seen in such a long time. My sister Aviva was there too, though she did not bring her baby, who I was hoping to see. I totally get that as a mom, but as an aunt I am a little sad. Cousins Shmuel and Brenda, who live down the block, rounded out the group, along with all of their kids. It was a fun evening, and Dovid gave a nice d'var Torah that incorporated what he had learned about our grandparents. I have once again been negligent in taking photos of cookies, as we brought two platters of lots of flavors, that seem to have been gobbled up, thank goodness. You don't want to short change relatives on the cookies!

Thursday was another Yerushalayim day. We parked in town and walked to the Kotel. It was crowded in the Rova, but not crazy packed. We davened mincha, got some refreshments, and then hiked back to the car to head to Har Nof for a late lunch in Saba and Savta's sukkah. The Katsmans were there too, and fun was had by all, except perhaps by the downstairs neighbor who had all the kids playing on her head. Makes me glad not live in an apartment building, where the delineation between indoor and outdoor is a little blurry. Here, it is nothing outdoors from 2-4, no questions asked.

Friday was get ready for chag day, and then it was Simchat Torah. Reports to follow...


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Moadim l'Simcha

If one day of chag instead of two is not enough to convince you, how about an extra day of Chol HaMoed? Can you say "Vay-cay-shun!"? On Sunday, we joined together with Ariel and Josh (credit with the idea!) and Lori and Seth and headed to Gan HaShlosha/Sachne, a national park up near Beit Shean. It was a beautiful day, perfect for swimming in the warm spring water and barbqueing. Lucky for us, the whole country did not have the same idea. We made great time on the way there, and found a perfect spot in the shade. The kids had a great time in the water, and especially with the Blacher's inflatable boat. The boys and girls group took turns using it. We were impressed with Josh and David's grilling abilities - sorry, mangal abilities. It was just a beautiful day in a beautiful spot, and a good time was had by all. The traffic on the way home was a little heavy, so we went a different way, basically driving parallel to the Jordanian border and then crossing through the country. I was nervous about the route, but it was fine. We drove kind of high into the mountains, and had an amazing view of the towns far below. We could also see the lights of Jordan very clearly. What stuck out, though, was the length of the stretches where there was nothing. It is amazing in a country this small, how there can be so many areas that are "the middle of nowhere." We arrived home exhausted, but happy.

On Monday we took the kids to Machane Yehuda. While some people frequent it for regular shopping, we have not been there since 2000. We had a fun time, bought lots of goodies, and generally felt very Israeli. We did not, however, buy a still gasping fish out of water. We walked into town for lunch, and then headed home.

Today, Tuesday, was arts and crafts day. I took the kids to the creamics painting place in nearby K'far Rut, and we all enjoyed maing projects. Here's hoping they all come out in the end. Later David and I took Dani and Lola with us to Rami Levy, and had a relatively smooth shopping experience. We later barbequed in the sukkah, and now we will see where the rest of the week takes us.

Moadim l'simcha to all!


V'Samachta b'chagecha

One day of chag. If anyone wants a compelling reason for making aliyah, here is one. One day of chag. Not two, and absolutely not three. (To be completely forthcoming, Rosh Hashana is two days, and can become three, and other chagim can become two, but that is the exception, rather than the rule. I knew I was a vatika - old-timer - when the thought of two day Rosh Hashana was exhausting and not old hat.) There is very little yom tov fatigue; that is, being tired of chag before it even starts, dreading the second day before the first even begins. You can enjoy it while it lasts, and then you blink, and it's over. Our chag was really nice. Getting ready was a little hairy, as this was the first early Shabbat since changing the clock. But all the cookies were baked and distributed, and the food was ready with plenty of time. We had Tamar and Jeremy over for dinner. The kids were all very excited about sukkah hopping - the younger set, anyway - and the visitors started to arrive before we were finished eating. Ariella went with Avital and her parents around the neighborhood, and didn't return for nearly an hour and a half, well and truly sugared up and totally happy. Dani and Ayelet each went out with friends, and Shana hung out in our sukkah with some of her friends. David and I headed to Elliot and Leiah's for an oneg in honor of their fifth son, Hillel's, bar mitzvah. It was a fun evening, and it is always nice to chat with friends in the beautiful weather, and to make a bracha and enjoy some treats in someone else's sukkah. Mazal tov to Hillel and the whole family!

Shul on Shabbat/Sukkot morning was packed, and a lengthy davening. Still, as I always say, we finished before 11:30, which is better than many American shuls on a regular Shabbat. We went out to lunch to an "old-time" family in the yishuv - they are among the first 70 families, who each have a number to designate their arrival. The wife, Leeba, was my babysitter back in Silver Spring when I was in about first grade, and David has been working with the husband, Joel, on shul stuff. We had a very nice time, and were even able to squeeze in a nap, despite the early ending of Shabbat.

On Motzaei Shabbat, I had to put together an order for a Sunday evening party - Arica and Lisa's mom and dad are both celebrating their sixtieth birthdays this year, and since all of their daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren are together, they were celebrating now. They got a cookie platter and a birthday cake. Hope they all enjoyed, not just the goodies but being together. Mazal tov, ad meah v'esrim.

Next up, chol hamoed fun...

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