Sunday, November 29, 2009

I made it through the night

Thursday night was a hairy one - with so many cookies to finish (1,025, to be exact, plus margin of error), sleep was not happening. But by 12:30 pm, all the cookies were plattered, wrapped, post-it noted to indicate table placement, and ready for transport.

Somehow, they look less impressive boxed up. There are actually four or five platters in each box,, but you can't really tell. And wouldn't it have been nice to take pictures of each set of platters as they were assembled? I guess that unless I get a photographer on staff, the pictures are going to remain amateurish and sometimes an afterthought. But it was a LOTTA cookies, in a LOTTA flavors, and from what I understand, they didn't hang around all that long at kiddush. Baruch Hashem!

One platter was assembled early for a Thursday pick-up.

Orange-cranberry-white chocolate cookies, thin mints, pecan pie thumbprints, chocolate crinkles, molasses cream sandwiches, chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookies, and linzer cookies.

This turned out to be quite the week for Cookie Creations - not only were our products enjoed in the yishuv, they traveled all the way to Neve Daniel via Kfar Maimon, and to Baka, to celebrate a bat mitzvah. Cool.

There is little to report on the rest of Shabbat, being that I don't recall so much. Friday night was a quick affair, and then I was dead to the world. Shabbat morning was a quiet davening, even though the shul was full. Shoshana and Steven were super kind and such good friends, and invited us for lunch, realizing even better than I did how much we needed it. We had a great time, then came home for a nap and the end of Shabbat.

That's all for now; and now we return to the old day to day grind.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Coolest moment ever!

For each of my three older children, learning to read always had an ah-ha! moment. That was when things started clicking, when the basic skills suddenly translated into fluency. I most distinctly remember Ayelet looking up at me in amazement, saying"Imma, did you know these books have stories inside of them?" (She was in Pre-1A at the time, if I recall correctly, so she can be forgiven for not knowing that all along.) That was that for her; we have not been able to get her to stop reading since. In fact, a harsh punishment for her has always been forbidding her to read. It worked pretty much the same for Shana and Dani, even though Dani has only now started to catch the reading bug.

But for Ariella, it hasn't been easy. We have concentrated on Hebrew reading and language, knowing that learning can be harder for her, so we did not want to dilute her Ivrit education, as that is the lingua franca. She has picked up some English, mostly from PBS (Bless you, Slingbox!), and she is progressing. But until now, her Hebrew reading was limited to a word or sound at a time. Suddenly, after Shabbat started this week, she announced that she wanted to read from the siddur - and she did! The first three lines of L'chu Neranina and various sentences here and there. When she pointed her finger at the bensching, we could tell that for the first time, she realized there was an actual connection between what she was saying and the words in print. It was a revelation, and we are very, very proud.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving thanks

We just got home from Leiah and Elliot's annual Thanksgiving/Anniversary party. They are celebrating 23 years of marriage, and giving thanks for all the good things that have happened this year. It's a wonderful opportunity to spend time with friends, eat lots of yummy food - especially Elliot's sweet chili and many varieties of stuffing (I was never much of a turkey fan; for my money, the president can pardon them all and the poskim made a error calling them kosher), and reflect a little on our good fortune. The hosts provide the paper goods and the main dishes, and the guests bring a side dish or dessert and a drink. One of the very special things they do at the party is collect money for various tzedakas that are meaningful for them. At this party, before you get, you have to give. Awesome.

And now I will return to finishing up this week's baking marathon.

Catch you later,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cookie Madness

This is the week I have been anticipating and dreading - the 1000+ cookie week. I am really fortunate to be baking for a bat mitzvah kiddush in Yerushalayim - someone who was in the yishuv for a simcha and enjoyed the sweets! They are the relatives of a friend, and since this is a small country, also the friends of a relative. In addition, I have regular Shabbat orders to fill. So my words will be short, but the feelings large - this is a big opportunity to spread the word and show off a great many varieties, according to the tastes of the bat mitzvah's mom, and a very large quantity. Even with intricate and exacting planning, the execution is a huge challenge. Wish me luck!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Out of order

Just wanted to point out that since I published some posts in an order different than the one I began them in, you may not have noticed that I posted two new entries, detailing the excitement of the end of Chodesh Irgun. They seem to have been placed after the one showing off my new style. Sorry for the confusion!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Look

I have changed my look! I guess I got inspired by procrastination - what I should be doing, I am not, so I use other tasks as an excuse. (Big job this week, lots to do, more on that later, but rest assured, very exciting.) I recently saw a very cute blog layout that was on Blogger, complete with a link to free templates, so I decided to go for it. Let me know what you think. I guess it is part and parcel of my theory that making aliyah, even more than any other big move, frees you up to reinvent yourself. Now the blog is reinvented... I want your input - if there are any problems or items missing, I would like to know that as well so I can fix the problem!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kadima, B'nei Akiva

This weekend marked the end of Chodesh Irgun, the month of B'nei Akiva madness. The month always starts off slowly, with a peula or two the first week, and maybe three the second week. Then things really kick into high gear, when the kids and especially the madrichim get worried that the dances are not going to be learned - each group does a "dance" performance on the last night of the month. So at that point, the peulot get more frequent and last later into the night, despite the best intentions of the madrichim, and the kids get tired-er and it just spirals.

After Thursday night's performance, the kids eventually trickled home. With no reason to go to sleep, as there was no school for them the next morning due to a generous miscalculation by the school administration, Dani and Pacey (who was sleeping over while his folks were away) watched a movie and got to sleep at a reasonable hour. Ariella was extremely jealous, since she did have school and thus lost out on the movie night. She had ample reason to be annoyed, frankly. The assumption that only the kids who participated in performing would be tired was sort of silly, since most have younger siblings who attended the festivities. Then again, the performers have been existing in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation for days... Ayelet came home, but did not go to sleep, resulting in much unhappiness all around on Friday. Shana headed out to join in the B'nei Akiva Cheraya Bet (high school age) painting of the walls around the basketball court. If B'nei Akiva likes anything nearly as much as lighting things on fire, it is painting any blank surface. She returned at about 1:30, when she could no longer hold a brush.

Friday was a rush of packing up cookies - sorry, no pix this week - and cooking for Shabbat. The cookie flavors were triple chocolate cookies, lemon glazed ginger crisps, chai sugar cookies, thin mint sandwiches, chocolate peanut butter brownies, and cinnamon squares. That was not exactly what I had planned earlier in the week, but blackouts tend to throw off your plans jsut a wee bit. We had company Friday night, Huda and Mark and four of five of their kids. Their older daughter stayed home sick, but their oldest son, who was supposed to be at a B'nei Akiva dinner, got one whiff of the delicacies being served to the kids there and headed over to join his family instead. We had a great time with them, and I got a wonderful greeting from their youngest daughter in shul the next morning. I love having 2 1/1 year old friends - they are so guile-less! After shul, we went to a small kiddush at Phil and Judy's to commemorate the 20th yahrzeit of Phil's grandmother. We spent a long time there, ate a lot of really delicious salads, and came home for lunch, sans Dani and Ayelet, who were lunching with their shvatim. Ayelet, as is her tradition, came home with a friend once the "meal" was over to eat lunch. We headed over to the Moadon to see the mud sculptures the groups had made - because the snif is currently under the construction, they can not paint the rooms, so this was a substitute for the usual activity. On a side note, my kids can't get over the fact that the quietest place on the yishuv - the library - is being constructed on top of the loudest place in the yishuv - the snif. Let's hear it for some mighty fine urban planning. We also checked out the walls of the migrash to see the paintings. Then we NAPPED - it was awesome!

After Shabbat came the final leg of the BA celebrations. The evening began with all of the kids parading to the migrash. The ninth graders did their daglanut - flag dance, which is less weird than my translation would make you think (if I can figure out how to embed a video, I will so you can see it - it's inexplicably moving, as it should just be silly, but it isn't!), and then the fourth graders were welcomed into B'nei Akiva. That was a truly sweet moment, as the ninth graders, on the cusp of joining the official named shvatim, made a tunnel of flags for the youngest members to walk through. It was just like walking through the rows of chayalim at the airport at the Nefesh B'nefesh welcoming, except the flags here were much bigger. Then the fourth grade groups did their dances, which were really well done, especially for such little kids. Kol hakavod to their madrichim! The evening ended with a mifkad of the entire yishuv. Signs indicating each shevet were all around the perimeter of the migrash, and we lined up with our respective age groups. It was a very moving experience, to see so many people who had been involved with B'nei Akiva in their youth in so many countries, now singing together the words of the songs we all knew - Yad Achim, Hatikva, and Ani Ma'amin. And those who were finding their first involvement through their kids, and even those who never learned the words, I am sure it was quite the moment for them as well. I am really grateful to B'nei Akiva for giving me the grounding in Religious Zionism, even if I didn't realize at the time that I was absorbing the values of Torah V'Avodah. Back then, it was just fun and something to do Shabbat afternoon.

The newest shevet received their name, Lehava, and things were set on fire, just because. Then the night came to an end for me and Ariella, but Shana stayed out to collect her new sweatshirts, Dani hung out for a bit with his friends and madrichim, and Ayelet went to a bonfire and barbeque for her shevet, returning home smelling like Lag B'Omer. Now Chodesh Irgun is finally over, in theory the kids can concentrate on learning in school (don't worry, Chanuka vacation is almost here), and I am sure we will have to twist Dani and Ayelet's arms to go to peulot, especially on Shabbat. But it was fun while it lasted.

B'virkat chaverim l'torah v'avodah,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Losing Power

Sometimes, I forget how dependent we are on electricity. But then HKB"H does something to click on the proverbial lightbulb, in this case, a purely metaphorical one. At about 2:39 today, our power went out. At first we thought it was a blown fuse, but quickly discovered it wasn't. Then we headed outside to find something out of a movie - one by one the neighbors emerging to investigate. Despite our suspicions, the outage was not caused by the construction vehicle working down the block. It bacame apparent that the entire yishuv had lost power. Then we found out that Modiin was also in the dark. Knowing that the blackout was widespread and not just our house, street, or yishuv, was oddly comforting. In any case, I was unable to bake - fortunately, the actual cookies were done, and I had only to bake the two types of bars I was making. My laptop was fully charged, so I used the opportunity to address my stack of invitations to the shul dinner. I raced through as quickly as possible, and it went well. I labeled, David and the kids stuffed and sealed, and then the kids sorted by street. But beyond that, the kids were bored; my efforts to convince them that there is lots to do when the power is out fell on deaf ears. "Did the frontier kids complain that they had no electricity and didn't have TV?" "Imma, they didn't know that they were missing, so it didn't matter, but we know!" Ahh, the power of logic. It slowly got darker and darker - for a good chunk of time, it was lighter outdoors than in, even as the sun was setting. At shul, mincha and maariv were davened outside. Finally, after a couple of false starts, the power was restored at around 5:45, and life could go on.

One bit of irony: we forgot to do the one thing we could have accomplished easily without power - have Ariella do her homework! No one thought of it until about 6, shortly after the power had returned, while we were giving the kids dinner, and just before we were supposed to leave for Part 1 of the weekend's B'nei Akiva festivities.

As I have mentioned before, Chodesh Irgun involves a performance by the various shvatim. This year, the performances were split over two nights, Thursday and Saturday, as to lessen the torment, I mean the lateness of the night. Dani and Ayelet's groups both performed admirably. There are no pictures because both dances were mostly in the dark: Dani's with a strobe, and Ayelet's with a black light. We are very proud of all their hard work. A couple of other groups were great, too. The 8th grade boys did a dance with garbage cans - including boys in the cans being wheeled around - and the 5th grade girls did a wedding themed dance. Their costumes were wedding gowns made of white sweatshirts atop a skirt made of paper tablecloth, puffed out by a crinoline made of white supermarket bags. Ingenious and adorable! And the whole evening was over at 8:15! It was a miracle. Of course, none of the big three had school the next day, so that was some serious bitul Torah. Oh well. The rest of the night was spent trying to make up for the hours of work I lost. In any case, the blackout was memorable.

Hoping to keep the lights on,

Monday, November 16, 2009

All puffed up

I am feeling good about myself today, culinarily speaking. The day started with Ariella grouchily refusing to get out of bed. Then I told her that I would be walking her to school instead of Dani, since he had mishmarot (crossing guard duty) today. She leaped out of bed, cheered, and ran to wash up. Okay, that was not about food, but it was yummy.

Next, I made a very tasty tomato soup with very ripe fresh tomatoes. I got the thumbs up twice from David, which is high praise in my book. I was a little curious about how it was going to come out, since I had no recipe, just an idea of what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to come out. Fortunately, it really is delicious, and the perfect accompaniment to grilled cheese sandwiches. I had to explain to David the idea of dipping the sandwich into the soup, for the traditional combination. Somehow, he had missed out on that in his childhood. While we did not have homemade tomato soup, at least not to my recollection (feel free to correct me if I am wrong), we enjoyed canned tomato soup on a regular basis. It was really good, or at least it is in my memory. I feel like it is an iconic American comfort food, and even living abroad, I want that flavor memory for myself and my kids. I suppose by kids I mean the older two, as the younger ones won't touch tomato soup. Tomatoes are, if you were unaware, "gwoss." If you are interested, I am including the "recipe" - more like the method, since measuring did not happen.

Dvora's Can-less Tomato Soup

I began by seeding and chopping about a dozen fresh tomatoes. These were regular, possibly Beefsteak, tomatoes. (While I am well aware of the merits of Plum/Roma tomatoes, we just don't see them in the supermarket I frequent here. Back to our regularly scheduled program.) I chopped up two medium/large onions, about four cloves of garlic, and one carrot - chopped very finely. (Since the soup will eventually be pureed, the carrot was just for a little extra sweetness, and a way to sneak in a little more vegetables.) I sauteed the onions in a large pot, using a mixture of olive and canola oils. I added a little salt, and let them sweat a little more. Then I added the carrots and a little sugar and let things soften. I stirred in the chopped garlic, letting it cook just until it was fragrant. A couple of spoonfuls of flour were then added, cooking it, stirring, for a minute or two. (I needed to add a bit more oil to moisten the flour at this point.) I added in a couple of cups of warm water and mixed very well, scraping off the bottom. I poured in the tomatoes, along with whatever liquid had collected in the bowl, about 200 grams of tomato paste, and water to cover plus about an inch . To season, I added salt and pepper, sugar, and frozen chopped basil - two cubes. I could not possibly even approximate quantities of the other seasonings, so you will have to go for "to taste" and forgive me (especially you, Lori!). Start slow, as you can always add more seasoning but taking out is next to impossible. And that was today's wisdom. Let the whole mess simmer for about 45 minutes, until it is all tender. Use a handblender to puree the whole thing, or you can use a food mill and skip the next step. I did not really like the texture at this point - remember, I left the peel on the tomatoes, and did a cursory job of seeding, so there were a lot of "bits" in the soup. So I pulled out a handy dandy sieve and strained the whole darned thing into a large bowl, making sure to use a spatula to push everything through that could go through, and scraping off what was stuck on the outside. Then return the strained soup to the pot, or don't. Up to you. Adjust seasonings to make your taste buds very, very happy.

To serve, you could make yourself a delicious grilled cheese sandwich and dunk away, or sprinkle soup mandlen on top, maybe oyster crackers, anything else you can think of. You can also add a little milk to add some creaminess, cut the acid, and make the soup taste more like how my mom prepared the canned condensed stuff. If you want to fancy things up, you could add a swirl of heavy cream or perhaps a little chiffonade of fresh basil. Above all, ENJOY!

Last braggy item: Got a call last night to order cookies. The customer, also a friend, was telling me how her family enjoys when they order cookies. It's not dessert, she told me, it's an EVENT. One child brings in the platter, another unwraps, another reads the scroll listing the flavors and their descriptions to the family. (Funniest part: No one is allowed to eat any cookies until the table is clear, because apparently, "Dvora said no eating until everything is cleared off." That's her story and she's sticking to it. What power I wield... ) I loved how she described it, and it was exactly how I want everyone who eats Dvora's Cookies Creations to feel - like something special is happening, like it's a real treat, and someone really thoughtful brought/bought this wonderful gift!

So I have now violated my cardinal rule of behavior - don't brag; it's repulsive. Forgive me, I can pretend I am talking to myself when I write. So pretend this was just a ruse to include a recipe and photo that are not cookie related. While I am asking for forgiveness, I apologize for the quality of my photography. It's bad, I know, but learning how to take better photos of food is next year's project.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sunday is the new Monday

I know I have harped on this particular subject, but if there is one thing that olim have a hard time getting used to, it is the lack of Sundays here. You are expected to just leap directly from Shabbat into the work/school week. Ah, if only that were true. Because no matter what you do, we all want to pretend that Motzaei Shabbat is a fun, relaxing evening. We want to make the weekend last just a little longer, and darn the consequences. So we let the kids stay up a little longer, let them watch just a few minutes more of a movie. Sometimes we will head out on a "date." And sometimes, like this week, David will go play basketball in the shul league, despite the fact that he is no longer Teimani. (More on that later.) So here are a few reasons that I no longer hate Mondays, because now the object of my resentment is Yom Rishon, which begins at havdala and ends late Sunday afternoon.

Things I hate about no Sundays*:

1. Making sure that all of the homework is done and signed and that the backpacks are packed.

2. Cleaning up from Shabbat, all the while knowing that the cleaners are coming the next day.

3. Cleaning up for the cleaners, knowing that they are going to be here SOON!

4. Knowing that a desperately needed Shabbat nap will cause great suffering on Sunday morning, thanks to the need to get a normal night's sleep on Saturday night. Allow me to remind you of the unfortunate equation: Afternoon nap = not tired Saturday night = going to sleep too late = waking up tired and grouchy Sunday morning = bad start to the week = bad week. And all from taking one little, much-needed, well-deserved nap.

5. Knowing that Sunday is almost always necessarily a laundry day, and I hate laundry more than I hate Sundays. What an unfortunate confluence of events.

6. The kids' heads are not entirely in school mode on Sunday morning. This results in grouchy waking, forgotten lunches, or today's special, Dani waking up and suddenly realizing that he had mishmeret Zahav (crossing guard) duty. This means (a) he needs to leave the house 20 minutes earlier than normal and (b) Ariella needs to be walked to school. None of this is problematic with proper preparation, but becomes sticky when discovered at 7:10 in the morning.

7. Sunday is unbelievably busy, what with swimming, math, tutoring, carpools, art... and the week is just beginning!

*Now technically, yes, I know we do have a Sunday. But I prefer to think of it as Yom Rishon, or sunday without a capital "S", because it is not the day that is enjoyed in the old country, with a shortened school day if there is one at all (can't say short when I live in a place where 2:30 is considered an extended day in elementary school!), a chance to stay in pajamas for a while, and a general sense of relaxation. There is rarely a general sense of relaxation here, which makes sense, considering where we are and who our neighbors are. Which is not to say that people are not relaxed here, because we are. It's just that on an existential level, we never back down from a state of heightened vigilance. But on the day to day, apart from checking the headlines far more often than most chutznikim I know, we live like regular folk, just cooler.

So on that note, I wish you all a wonderful week. This is the closing week of Chodesh Irgun, so I expect to see even less of my middle children than I did last week, for better or worse. There will be much paint, much dancing, possibly some mud, and little sleep. Should be interesting.

Shavua tov,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Keeping kosher in Israel

In theory, keeping kosher in Israel should be easy. This is the Jewish state, where the religious establishment wields some degree of power. Many laws that protect the kosher consumer, and many stores are certified by one kosher supervision organization or another, many of which are official state-run institutions. It takes some real work to find a supermarket that is literally not kosher; one chain, "Tiv Ta'am," carries pork and shellfish, but there is only one such store in our area. All the other supermarkets - and there are a large number - are under kosher certification. But the "regular kashrut" level is not acceptable to everyone, and there are many gradations. I have several customers who need a higher level of kashrut, either for themselves or for guests or extended family members. In America, that can translate to eating only the "heimish," or strictly kosher brands, with names like Gefen, Mishpacha, Liebers, or Manischewitz. (Won't even begin to contemplate the level of quality these families encounter in their gastronomic pursuits. No wonder cholent is a favorite kosher food!)

Most of the time here in Israel, that means that all the ingredients have to be Bada"tz or OU supervised, which covers about 97% of my ingredients (where that particular number came from, I don't know, but it sounds about right). But this week, a customer who is making a bar mitzvah needed to feed guests who most likely would not accept the OU, so all of the ingredients had to be Bada"tz. That was quite the challenge - anything that contained molasses or corn syrup was out, as were any exotic flavor extracts, as I didn't have the inferior super-kosher varieties on hand. Also did not have much in the way of mehadrin fruit, except for lemons, so my first flavor was glazed lemon cookies. Then I made coffee and cream brownies, sugar cookie ganache sandwiches, chocolate pecan fingers, and cherry oatmeal crumble bars.
I also had a cool thing happen this week - and it's all thanks to Facebook, so shout-out to the world's number one social networking website. And a little shout-out to David, who calls it Tushbook and will have no part of it. Someday he will join the rest of us in the 21st century. On Wednesday, I received a call from a woman who lives in the southern part of the country. She and I share mutual friends on FB, so she had seen my page ("Dvora's Cookie Creations" if you have not yet seen it! And you can even see it if you are, like David, not a member - just google us and it will lead you right to the page.) and always wanted to try the cookies for herself. Since she was going to be in the area on Thursday, she was wondering if she could pick up an order then. And who am I to disappoint a devoted fan?! It was great to meet her; in fact, we definitely recognized each other from college, so it just goes to show you how completely small the Jewish world is.
In any case, she got a a slightly different assortment, which went unphotographed - in place of the cherry oatmeal crumble bars, she received red velvet sandwiches - which my children wanted more of, so that was good - and ginger crinkles, which I tried rolling in demerara sugar instead of plain old granulated. It gave a slightly stronger molasses flavor, and a whole different kind of crunch. I wanted to make sure her platter had a special look. I find the more round cookies, the more impressed the customer. In any case, I hope she and her family enjoyed! So check it out, the Cookie Creations have now gone national. Next up, the world (cue evil laugh...).
Until next time, same bat time, same bat station

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Homecoming

Lest you think I have fallen off the face of the earth, here I am to reassure you. I survived the ridiculous week, and David made it home in one piece. He arrived Thursday morning, lugging two ginormous duffel bags, which he had purchased at Amazing Savings. Sigh. Anyway, he needed the new bags because our old ones had really had it, and because he was bringing home a lot of stuff - mostly clothes for all of us, because, as you must know, children who live in Israel who do not have the opportunity to shop in America must go naked. It's really a shame. No, no, I am not being sarcastic. But, anyway, on the few trips David does take, we like to take advantage of the awesome online sales and stock up a little. Ayelet was the most in need, as her shoe size does not really exist in Israel in women's shoes. She definitely needed an import, or she really would be barefoot or wearing men's shoes, and there is truly not a hint of sarcasm in what I say. And that was not sarcastic either. Hope you can tell the difference. I am so much more straightforward with audio.

Because the rest of the week preceding David's return was so wacky, I had not had a chance to do any baking, or even much prep work. On Wednesday night, I went to an open house at one of the schools we are considering for Dani. I was impressed, and happy that I went, but also tired from getting home late. On Thursday morning I had to run to the paper goods store that I frequent for business needs, to get a particular item for one of the week's orders. Orders this week were also late in coming, so the quiet week I thought I was going to have turned into a very busy and pressured Thursday. It all worked out okay in the end, but it was a little hairy there for a moment.

One thing I did discover from being up late Thursday was that Ariella was coughing. A lot. Continuously. So really, it was no surprise when she woke up at 6:15 and came down to the kitchen (where I was already at work putting platters together) and announced that her throat and stomach hurt. She was really rather jolly, until about 2 p.m., when she started burning up with fever. Motrin did the trick, but only briefly, and then she was burning up again, well short of the time for another dose. When Shabbat started, she still seemed okay, though warm, but well enough to eat two bowls of chicken soup and her favorite "matzah balls." (Don't know where she got that from, unless it was Chanuka on Planet Matzah Ball, because we always call them knaidlach!) We had a nice time at dinner, which included Shana's friends Michal and Netanya, who joined us for Shabbat all the way from Beit Shemesh. Hopefully, we only embarrassed Shana an acceptable amount. In any case, we would have had a good night's sleep, except for the return of the matzah balls, at about 2 in the morning. Nothing more fun than cleaning up vomit on a Friday night. We then tried to give Lola some more Motrin, which also made a return appearance, about two minutes later. Fortunately, that was all the barfing that took place that night.

On Shabbat morning, David went with the kids to Josh and Ariel's, where we were potlucking with them and Seth and Lori. It was a very full house - Ariel had three Michlala girls and we had Shana's two friends, although Lori's son Dov was in yeshiva, we were still an extra four. But without me and Lola, I am sure it was much quieter and more boring. Ha.

Ariella continued to run a high fever throughout Shabbat. We took her to the doctor Sunday morning. He ruled out strep immediately (and that's why I am lacking the medical license, because that was my first thought), and thought her lungs were a little funky, but not too bad. We made an appointment for a follow-up the next morning. By the time we came back on Monday, her lungs were clear, her fever was gone, and her desire to do homework had vanished completely. Thank God she is back in school, and everyone else seems to be healthy, pupupu, if a little tired from lots of tests (just Shana and Ayelet, let's be honest; Dani is not the king of homework) and Chodesh Irgun activities.

So, this week's cookies. One of the platters was for a Shalom Zachar in Modiin, from a family member who had visited the yishuv over the summer and had been gifted with cookies.

It featured chocolate caramel teddy bears, and blue and white cookies, to honor the "zachar," and the week's flavors: chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookies, cranberry-ginger-pecan cookies, mint brownies, blueberry bars, red velvet sandwiches, and linzer cookies.

Here are a few cookies ready for their close-ups:

Red velvet sandwiches - the classic cupcake/cake in a cookie, filled with tangy cinnamon buttercream.Cranberry-ginger-pecan cookies, featuring two kinds of ginger and a white chocolate drizzleBlue and whites - really cute and yummy.

And that was the week that was. Stay tuned for more, as we are already into the new week's baking!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Too much thinking

Can you tell from my last post that I am not getting a lot of sleep this week? This one will be a lot more down to earth. So here is a short summary of my misadventures thus far this week:
1. Ariella accidentally spilled hot cocoa on my laptop, causing the mousepad to short out and go crazy. Fortunately, it seems to have recovered/dried out overnight.
2. She followed that up by pouring half a bottle of sweet and sour sauce on her dinner plate last night, after hearing me tell her that she was not allowed to pour it herself. Then I stood up to get something, and that, as they say, is the rest of the story. Suffice it to say, she went to bed at 6:40 last night.
2. Our instahot seems to have died during the night. Not the first time this has happened, but a yicky way to start the day - making a cup of coffee, only to discover its utter coldness. We are hoping for a repeat performance of t'chiyat hameitim in a couple of weeks.
3. Tried to leave for the supermarket, only to discover that I could not lock the door. After a major league panic - my husband is not here, and I can not lock the door, so I can not leave the house for two days!!! - I finally figured out that the bottom hinge was coming apart, and was lucky that Binyamin, local hero, took my call and was here to solve the problem within minutes. Also lucky that he now knows me as "Dvora, ishto shel hagabbai David." - Dvora, David the gabbai's wife. Unlucky - I could not fulfil his wish to become a Cohen.
4. Discovered water leaking through the wall in David's office. I cleaned up and let him know - apparently, this is a problem that he thought was fixed. Guess you can't actually know unless it rains, which it had barely done for a long time.
5. According to the Water Authority, the Kinneret is up 7 centimeters since the 29th of October. Chasdei Hashem, indeed!! Okay, not a misadventure, but the water is making life a little topsy turvy, and definitely worth a mention. Still, yay for rain!
6. Joined the masses of parents who were surprised by the cold weather and did not have long sleeve uniform shirts for the kids. Made a quick trip to Cabesa, got shirts for both Lola and Dani, watched the logos get ironed on, dropped Lola at gymnastics and Dani at a friend, and was home in under 25 minutes.
7. The girls all wore rain boots today, and Shana even wore a winter coat today. Rest assured they will be in sandals by Shabbat.
8. Trying a new baking recipe today - I am sure it will bomb. But why not try?
9. I am hoping for psychic powers to convince the laundry to fold itself. So far, no luck, but several candles have spontaneously lit themselves. Yeah, yeah, just joking.

Hoping for a more boring day tomorrow.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Stream of consciousness

So many thoughts rattling around in my head - where to begin?

First, it's raining again - hurray! No really, we are very happy. I did end up driving Dani and Ariella to schoool today because of the pouring rain that began to pound about 30 seconds before they were to leave for school. Luckily, Shana and Ayelet had already boarded their bus and did not get soaked. Also lucky, I did not have to get out of the car, so no one noticed that I was wearing pajamas with a skirt and rain jacket thrown on top. Ariella was very disappointed when she got home, because not a drop fell in the ten minutes it takes them to walk home. She was desperate to use her umbrella. I promised her that as soon as it started raining, she could go outside with her boots and umbrella. And that is exactly what she did - as soon as it started to rain, she went out and marched/danced up and down the path from the front of the house to the back, having a grand old time until the lightning and thunder started, at which time she came inside, we made some brachot, and everyone was happy. Sadly for us, we missed the beautiful rainbow that graced the sky briefly this afternoon, as it was not easily visible from our house.

Next on my mind, where is autumn? We literally go directly from summer to winter. Can't figure out why some people in Israel name their child "Stav." Perhaps they should try "unicorn" or "mermaid" or some other mythical creature....

My sister Adina forwarded me, along with my sisters and parents, an article from the New York Times by Jonathan Safran Foer, adapted from his upcoming book, Eating Animals. Thankfully, it is a little less self-indulgent, at least in style if not substance, than his novels. He talks about his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, and how she loved to feed her grandchildren. His grandmother was very much like our Bubby Sara, who also never sat down at the table, because she was too busy making sure everyone else had enough to eat. Making sure others were well fed was an expression of love, and a little bit of revenge. Hearing about his grandmother made me think of mine. That much of the piece made me smile. The rest just made me mad.

At the end of the article, Foer recounts how his grandmother would tell him about her experiences running and hiding during the war, while he would eat. At the end of the war, she says, she was so starved and emaciated that she feared she would not live. A generous farmer brought her a piece of meat, but she would not eat it, because it was pork. Even to save her own life, she would not eat something that was not kosher, because "If nothing matters, there's nothing to save." I can not quite wrap my mind around the fact that Foer uses this as part of his rationale for being a vegetarian. The same guy who says he loves calamari, but won't eat it because of his elevated moral code - a code of his own making. Not to sound corny, but the Torah is my guide. Sure, there are gradations: different people keep mitzvot differently, and that's all okay as long as it is within the bounds of halacha. There is black, there is white, and, yes, there are shades of grey. You can go above and beyond, and more power to those who can do that. But there are also red lines, lines which can not be crossed, because if they are, perhaps there really is nothing to save. To stray so far from what is permissible, and to claim superiority? Just annoying. I keep the mitzvot to the best of my ability, and I trust those who came before me, the scholars, the heroes and heroines of our history. We stand on their shoulders, and we are so much smaller. Striving to come close to them makes us who we are and who we can be. It is a challenge to accept that there is much that is bigger than you in this world, and yet still love and appreciate that fact - to feel small and empowered at the same time.

I guess I can just be grateful to my grandparents, both my mother's parents, who were Holocaust survivors, and my father's parents, who grew up in America, at a time when maintaining Torah Judaism was a tremendous challenge (which is not to say it has become easier in the most essential of ways). They all made decisions to believe and observe, and that's the road I follow. It links me to them, to my history, and to my people. I often say that I can't imagine what life would be like without religious observance - but the bottom line is, I do not want to know. I know my life is richer and happier for it. It matters - our lives matter. I would not give that up, and I wouldn't change a thing. I am sad for those who don't have that feeling. Part of that richness is certainly living here, in our land, and part is what led to being here. I am truly lucky - but then, we don't believe in luck, do we?

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