Saturday, December 31, 2011

Let's Just Call it Chocolate.

"There's something on my pants... I hope its chocolate." I said to Devin after a long day of traveling.

"Let's just call it chocolate and go to bed." My husband responded.

See, what we didn't want to evaluate was whether the crusty food-looking smear on right leg of my skinny jeans was indeed chocolate, or toddler vomit that had been there since the morning. Little Aviel had a bout of motion sickness on an inter-city bus ride to Ikea earlier that day. How gross to think that puke may have been lingering on my clothes all day long, but such is life as a mom!

We were dead exhausted by the time we arrived home. We left the house at 8 am that morning, took three buses to Rishon LeTzion, the home of Israel's Ikea (the one in Netanya burned down *gasp*!), and after a full day of shopping and three more buses, arrived home a staggering 10 hours later.

Into the wash my pants went, without a second thought.

What. A. Day.

It was a good day, but a long day that ended much differently than we had planned.

First of all, we had not planned on Aviel feeling bad on the bus. The poor guy was green and puny looking the entire long ride of the trip. Next, we didn't plan on losing his favorite "blue hat" at the bus station, and finally, we ended up making a totally different purchase than we had planned before we left, but such is life as an Ikea shopper!

Ikea is a unique place in Israel. If it wasn't for the humus served alongside our Swedish Meatballs, or the assertive chutzpa of Israelis in the checkout line, I might have forgotten where we were. Big box retail does not exist in Israel the same way that it does in America. No one stop shopping here. Most stores specialize in a few items and are fairly small in size. We have a some stores that sell a variety of product types ranging from baby needs, to clothes and kitchen appliances, but not many. One in particular I've nick-named "Walmart," although it is small enough to fit in the fresh produce section of an actual Walmart.

This phenomenon--the lack of big box--was a point of culture shock for me when I first moved here. I once bought a birthday present for a friend, but was at a total loss for where to buy wrapping paper. No Target in sight. Now, however, the experience of the big box has become overwhelming!

So many choices...

Products from floor to ceiling...

Beautiful things begging to be purchased everywhere...

Oy vey gevalt!

We entered the land of Ikea, collected our measuring tape, pencil, and mini spread sheet and headed on our way. Destination: New dining room table. After three years of sliding our round table (which only seats four) together with my drafting desk (which requires overhauling our entire office/design studio), it was now time to get a bigger table for our shabbat dinners. We had one in mind, but as we walked through the various show rooms, another table caught our eye. This one was the same size as the table we had initially chosen, but a lower price and much more versatile. After Aviel hopped on the couches for a bit, and a break for lunch, we were confident that this was the table for our family. Easy enough... We'd go get the product info for our table, pick out some chairs, and head home on our merry way.

Think again!

The wood stains of the chairs were all just slightly off from the table. Who would have thought? We pulled down chairs, assembled them at our table... changed table wood stains and assembled more chairs as we chased a increasingly growing-cranky-nap-deprived-toddler around the show room. Aviel eventually went to sleep in the Mai Tai, which gave us just enough quiet time to hear our own thoughts. We evaluated our options, did some calculations, and made our decision: four white chairs for our dark brown table, and four folding chairs to pull out when our table was set for more guests. This seemed like the best option for our desire to be hospitable in a small space with limited storage. What we didn't expect was to find that our folding chairs were sold out once we went to collect them downstairs. Oh the frustration! It was as if the world of Ikea was sucking us in, never to let us leave its abyss of products and endless choices. If we didn't make it out, I might be wearing puke for the rest of my life (because lets face reality... it wasn't chocolate), but at least we'd have a place to sleep, couches to pounce on, and an endless supply of ice cream--parve though it may be.

In our tired state, we decided to simply head home with the table and four chairs, which means we will likely be embarking on another Ikea adventure sometime this spring.

Next time, we're going to rent a car.


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Friday, December 2, 2011

Salt Dough Hand Prints`

Living away from family, we're always looking for ways to make sure everyone feels loved and knows how special they are to us during the holiday season. This year we decided to make a homemade Salt Dough Hand Print Ornanament after a friend, Joy, posted a great tutorial on her facebook wall. It was super easy and Aviel and I had a great time. We put on our play clothes and made a fun floury mess!

Here's the ingredients/materials as found on the link:

4 cups of flour
1 cup salt
Food coloring
Large Mixing Bowl
Water to moisten
cookie sheet
just a tad of oil
a small rolling pin or wooden dowel
a drinking straw
ribbon
a plate for a guide
paint *if desired


First, I measured out the flour and salt and gave Aviel the grand job of dumping them into a mixing bowl. He was delighted to help. Next, Aviel stirred with a wooden spoon while I slowly added the water. After that, came the fun part. We did a little hand kneading...






And we experimented with the wooden spoon and a rolling pin!





Aviel wanted to "Taste! Taste!" the very salty dough! He played for a few minutes before I took the giant lump and separated it into six balls. The author of the original post only made three, but I was able to get a few more with the same measurements. I guess its just a matter of how big and thick you want each one to be!



I flattened the balls into what Aviel called, "Pie!" and prepared them for Aviel's little hands. This is the only time he became a little impatient. He wanted to continue to play, but this part took a certain amount of precision. We talked it over, then he let me press his hands into the dough. He seemed pretty satisfied after the first one and the rest went smoothly. I then poked holes for the ribbon, placed them on the lightly oiled cookie tray, and into the oven at 150F or about 65C for one hour.

Here's the final product...



All six, ribboned and ready to go!




And the nice glow.



The ornaments that I was happiest with were the ones where I made sure to really press the hand deeply into the dough, with special attention to each finger and the heal of the palm. The dough dries with a nice translucency in the light, so a deep hand print helps with the contrast.

We had such a blessed time making these together, and the sweet little hand print will be a keepsake for years to come! Let me know how yours turn out!

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Lessons in Line Drying 2

Oh how the rain makes laundry oh so difficult! I literally have to plan my washing around the forecast! Just a few days ago, Devin gave me a warning about afternoon showers, because it was quite sunny and warm in the morning. We had an appointment that afternoon, so I rushed to get the clothes off the line "just in case it rains," but looking at the sky, I threw another load in the washer "just in case it doesn't rain." It was a small load, so if it did rain, I could hang them on the indoor drying wrack. Fun logic, huh?

In response to my last post on line drying, a friend asked me what I do with Aviel while I'm hanging clothes. Most of the time, I try to time hanging so that Aviel is either napping or with Devin because the process involves me sticking my head out a window three stories up.

Here's an photo of my neighbors laundry in the building across from ours. I'm not a laundry stalker... I promise! I just want to give a clear sense of how this works for us!



Many families who have a merepesset (balcony) use that space for line drying, but those of us who don't, have lines on pulleys outside of our windows. Besides the occasional garment falling off the line, the system works pretty well. I just always want to make sure to keep my little guy safe.

The times that I need to take care of line drying while Aviel is around and Devin is not, we make clothes pin creatures and he works on pulling them apart while I hang. Sometimes I give him the pins as I pull clothes off the line, and my good little helper eagerly puts them in their basket.


I've been testing a few more drying methods outs, so here's my continued listed:

Go here for 1-6.

7. During the dry season, I can overlap edges to conserve pin. This is not effective in the rainy season because the cooler temperatures and higher humidity prevent that one overlapped inch from drying, and that's just annoying.

8. Pillow cases dry best with the opening down.

9. Drying takes longer during the rainy season, so I only plan to do one load a day.

10. Certain baby baby clothes can self-hang by taking advantage of their snaps. :)


Well, there you have it... the latest revelations on how to be the most efficient line dryer I can possibly be.


Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord, Messiah Yeshua whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24 NASB (italics mine)


Resource:
A Women After God's Own Heart

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Monday, November 7, 2011

(W)Holy Lentils!

This Southern Mama turned Israeli Ima has been experimenting with Lentils quite a bit lately! Why? Well, for one, they are super healthy, high in protein, fiber, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, folic acid, iron, and the most intestines-friendly legume according to this website. Also, since they are a traditional Middle Eastern/Israeli/Jewish food, they are readily available and affordable... not to mention very yummy.

Lentils actually appear in the bible in several places. They were in the stew that Jacob fed Esau in exchange for his birthright(Gen 25:34), David and his men ate them while hiding from Saul (2 Sam 17:27-29, 2 Sam 23:11), and they were part of the bread recipe the Lord gave to Ezekiel (Eze 4:9).

Lentils are a part of Israeli culture that I have been enjoying... and my family is reaping the benefits of a few creative endeavors. I've found that Lentils make a good addition to almost any rice dish, tuna salad, and of course... soups and stews!

After googling around web and comparing recipes, and taking inventory of what was in the fridge, I created quite a nice little soup. It was yummy enough that I was inspired to make a little stew the next week!

For the soup, this is what I came up with:

Ingredients:

• 4 cups (approximately) homemade chicken stock (seasoned with thyme, oregano, basil, bay leaf, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, carrots and celery)
• 2 cups water
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 2 carrots, diced
• 1 large potato, diced
• 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
• 1 cups dry lentils
• 1/2 cup spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced
• salt to taste
• ground black pepper to taste
• 1/2 tsp cumin


Directions

1. In a large soup pot, add chicken broth, olive oil onions, carrots, garlic, and potato. Stirring regularly.
2. Stir in lentils, and add water and tomatoes and cummin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve stir in spinach, and cook until it wilts. Season to taste with salt (and maybe a little more cummin!)

***


Now that one was good, but the stew was birthright worthy indeed! It was thick and harty... exactly what you'd want to eat on a cold rainy Shabbat, cuddled up on the couch with your love and a movie! I hope this one will be a regular enough meal in our home that Aviel will think of it as comfort food. Here's how I made what we are now officially calling "Birthright Stew":

Ingredients:

• 4 cups (approximately) homemade lamb stock (seasoned with rosemary, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, carrots)
• 2 cups water
• 1/2 lb ground beef
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 garlic clove
• 2 carrots, diced
• 1 large potato, diced
• 3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
• 3 tbsp tomato puree
• 1 cup dry lentils
• 1/4 cup rice
• 1 tbsp rosemary
• 1 tsp thyme
• 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
• salt to taste
• ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

1. In a large soup bowl, saute diced onion in olive oil with salt and pepper. Add ground beef, chopped garlic clove, seasoning with a little rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. Cook the beef through.
2. Add lamb stock, water, tomato puree, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, ginger, rice and lentils. Bring to boil, then allow to simmer until lentils plump up. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

***

If any of you try one of these, let me know how it turns out! As we say in Israel, Bete'Avon (bon appetite)!


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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Adventures on the Bus

Riding the Bus! Riding the Bus! Aviel is riding the Bus!

...A little ditty I used to sing to Aviel, on the bus, when he was a small baby. Since we're pedestrians, riding the bus is a part of our everyday life here in Jerusalem. Though it has some difficulties here and there, its something I really enjoy!

The Egged Bus system (pronounced egg-ged) recently changed from using punch cards and monthly passes, to requiring everyone to have a special photo i.d. card. Because of this, we had to go to the Central Bus Station to get our cards made. I thought it might be a good opportunity for a little adventure... so here we go!


Aviel and I headed down to our bus stop on Hebron Road.




We ride the 71,72,74, or 75 into city center
.




Here we are... Aviel in the Babyhawk Mei Tai with his favorite "blue hat," and me with the backpack diaper bag, waiting for our bus.




Our favorite seat was available! I like to sit backwards just before the connection joint in the middle of the long bus. It has a little more leg room, and I feel better about Aviel riding in this direction for some reason! This is our view.



And here's a look at the front of the bus.




Its very common to see people reading their prayer books on the bus... an everyday space becomes sacred.



A few stops later, we picked up this guy! "Its Abba!!" (Aviel took this photo!)




Then Abba took this photo of Ima and Aviel. A baby in stroller takes an extra punch on the card, but a baby in a wrap rides for free! Aviel usually rides in the Mei Tai on my lap. Its so much more efficient than having to take the stroller along! We hop in and out with ease... sometimes needing just a little re-adjusting if he got wiggly!



We arrived at our destination: Central Bus Station.




This is the front entrance...




...And the busy terminal. Some levels are more like a shopping mall.


We walked through the terminal to the ticket counter to fill out the paper work for our new cards. Unfortunately, we pulled number 700 and they were only on number 400! After waiting a little while to see how quickly (or slowly!) the line was moving, we decided to leave! On the way out, someone shared that a booth for card applications was set up on Ben Yehuda Street, so we headed that way!

This time we decided to ride the new light rail, since its running for free as a promotion.



Here's a look at the new train stops.




And these are the tracks.




Here comes our train!


We hopped on and headed to Ben Yehuda Street. The Line was much shorter, although it still quite a wait! Fhewww! It was a long day, but we left with our new cards in tote!


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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lessons in Line Drying

My parents both love to iron clothes. Especially my dad. He loves ironing so much that when I was in middle school, I always went gym class with perfect creases in my t-shirt sleeves. On my dad's first visit to Israel, he couldn't believe we didn't have an iron. Then we washed and line dried a load of clothes for him.

"Man. I know why you don't have an iron!" He chuckled as he pulled his super stiff shirt off the line.

And its true! Line drying keeps your clothes wrinkle free. That's one of the great benefits of this highly ecological practice, but sometimes maybe our clothes are too wrinkle free. Items come off the line as if they were soaked in buckets and buckets of starch. Besides that, towels are not downy soft, and though whites may get whiter, colors can fade and blacks turn an icky browngreenygray. Ewww.

Line drying is not part of my life as a green living novelty. I don't do it for the nostalgia, or to be green-chic. Line drying is part Israeli culture. Its what we do in the everyday experience of this place. All of our buildings either have clothes lines directly outside of the windows or on the merepesset (sukkah balcony). We have a dryer (thanks Mom!), but we still line dry most of our clothes and linens because of the astronomical cost of electricity. It is simply part of life here.

In my ventures to become an efficient Titus 2 woman, one who is busy at home, it occurred to me that if I'm going to be line drying clothes as part of my normal household responsibility, then I should become an expert line dryer.

No more stiff towels and sheets.

No more clean clothes hanging in the rain.

No more sun bleached line through the middle of my favorite dress.


I'm experimenting, researching, and taking notes; and here's a few things I'm learning:


1. Check the weather! In the summer this is not such a problem because of the dry season, but in the winter rainy season... I need to know when its going to pour and plan my laundry efforts around the forecast.

2. Hang colors and darks, inside out, in the morning or evening to avoid the midday sun. This helps with the bleaching problem. This also means that I need to know how long all of my wash cycles are, so I can plan out my mornings!

3. Shirts should go upside down to avoid marks from the clothes pins. Nothing worse than getting all dressed up and realizing your shoulders have little clothes pin imprints.

4. Denim drys better waste up.

5. Socks dry better ankles down.

6. Don't wash more clothes than I have clothes pins for! Thank goodness for indoor drying wracks when I forget and fill up the washer to maximum capacity!


I'm still working on fabric softening, but I'll let you know when I find a fix!


My clothes lines... They are accessible through our bedroom windows.


Resource:
A Women After God's Own Heart

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sukkot Adventures

Sukkot was such joyful time for us this year! After spending nearly nine months out of the country, we were so blessed to be home to celebrate the fall Holy Days!

Last year's post about Sukkot explains a little about rich meaning behind this feast, and shows Sukkot from all over the city. Make sure to check out that post if you'd like to know more.

However, I will share a few things I learned through my thesis research about the meaning behind the words used to describe Sukkot in the bible. Often times this holy day will be described with words such as "tabernacle" and "dwell." I did an exegetical study and found that tabernacle means "temporary dwelling" and actual word used for dwell is "to abide with," as in "to keep covenant." The root for both is sometimes used for "to marry" or "to lie with intimately." Yeshua dwelled temporarily on this earth, and He dwells in our hearts today. We are His living tabernacles - His temporary abode until He returns to the earth. He is a fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham, and He is our bridegroom. Knowing this makes the physical embodiment of the Sukkah such a special place!

This year, we did a lot more celebrating with friends who we greatly missed while we were away. We had several barbecues in family homes, and at way more food than is probably healthy! We also took a little stroll to see the Sukkot around town.

We started in City Center...



Most restaurants in City Center have Sukkah set up outside so guests can keep the Mitzvah (command or good deed) to eat in a Sukkah.


This was a cute little Sukkah in front of an ice cream shop.



This is a big sukkah near the court house. It might be the equivalent to the "town square Christmas Tree" in America. They had a stage set up for concerts and fun! Lets go inside...


The festive interior with traditional decorations and tables.



Then we headed to the Old City and passed through this Sukkah on the stairs.


There was a little party happening here. Big Sukkah... loud music and singing.


Aviel fell asleep on the walk!




We saw this little Sukkah on the Southern Wall Excavation Site.


This is a Yeshiva called Aish HaTorah (The Fire of Torah). Its right across from the Wailing Wall. The Office I worked for designed a garden, yet to be constructed, in the front. See the Sukkot on the roof?


The buildings adjecent to Aish, with some nice bamboo (Aviel says "baboom").


The Temple Mount Rabbis were in this Sukkah blessing passers-through.


Here's how festivities looked at the wall.



And we saw this little one on the way out.



International Babywearing Week (yes, there is such a thing!) fell at the same time as Sukkot this year. I had to mention it because you all know how much I love babywearing. Here's Devin wearing Aviel in our Babyhawk Mei Tai on our walk home. Yemin Moshe, the oldest neighborhood outside the Old City walls in the background.
***

A few days later, we headed back into City Center for the big parade! We arrived at our destination before the parade passed by, so we took some time to play in a swimming fountain in Yemin Moshe.


Aviel is checking it out



This was sort of a spontaneous visit, so we didn't arrive with his swim trunks. Since it seemed like too much fun to pass up, we decided to go diaper swimming. I'm giving a few instructions before we get in.


The fountain was full of orthodox kids. This was sweet little boy, checking out the Lion with Aviel.


It started to get chilly but when I asked him if he wanted to get out, he said "No way!"


So we played a little longer, even with some shivers! "Brrrrrrrr!"

Eventually we made it out, changed into warm clothes (which I always keep on hand for Aviel because we go from smoking hot days to really breezing evenings this time of the year!). Then we headed Karen Ha Yesod road for the parade!


The parade opened with soldiers. These are from a border patrol unit.



They had this water proof, bomb proof tank truck.



Intrigued by the giraffe!



Tourist groups from all over the world marched in the parade and handed out goodies from their nation. Here's a group from China.


And Angola



Now we're on the look out for Sabba and Savta (Hebrew for Grandpa and Grandma). We knew this was their group because of the colorful kites!


Here they are! They stopped to say "Hi" and give us a few goodies before continuing on their merry way!

Thank you for celebrating Sukkot with us this year! Maybe next year, you can join us!

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