Sunday, January 30, 2005

Favorite Stores in Jerusalem

Follow these links to virtually visit two of my favorite places in Jerusalem:
Harmony Interior Design
and
Tollman's

Check them out.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Liberating Paris

I finished reading Liberating Paris the first novel by the award-winning TV writer and producer Linda Bloodworth Thomason this morning over a cup of Earl Grey tea (with lemon (for Vit C!), milk, and sugar). You may know her name. She created, wrote, and produced Designing Women, one of my all-time favorite TV programs. I heard an interview with her this fall with David Crabtree on WUNC. If you follow this link, you can hear the interview yourself. After hearing the interview, I was excited to get the book and dive in.

Well, I had to pack everything to move to Israel, work was crazy, and I was trying to make time to visit everyone. So, I didn't manage to read it before I left NC. I actually didn't have room for it in my luggage and I left the book with my mother. I thought that she would enjoy it.

She sent it back to me (un-read, I think) along with tons of other goodies for Christmas.

I have spent the past couple of days laughing out loud and tearing up at some of the stories in this book. Linda has something to say and her characters get her message across loud and clear. If you remember the character of Julia Sugerbaker from Designing Women, you'll know what I mean. Linda's characters are crafted from experience. I KNOW the people she introduces us to in this book - I grew up with them or they are parents of friends.

Now, the book is straightforward in its message. That's something that often turns me off in books. But Thomason has a way with words and humor that makes it all very charming. Her experience at writing entertaining television shines through this book. You are challenged a little, you're entertained a lot, and there is a happy ending. Even though the whole expressed is like a soap opera.

Here are some quotes:
They felt they didn't understand the world anymore or anything in it. This strange new place where rules took precedence of common sense and committees were formed to deduce things that children would know. Where people told all their secrets on national talk shows and appeared on the covers of magazines, not for their strengths, but their weaknesses. Where even criminals had no honor now, but just killed people just for the fun of it and destroyed things just because they were there...some had even switched off their television sets, giving up on of their last bridges to the outside world, because they could no longer comprehend the things that were on it, and especially not the girls that looked like Mary Tyler Moore but had semen on their faces. (A stab at Sex and the City!)

"The overriding message that one may take from all of literature is simply the idea that getting up in the morning is a remarkable act of human courage."


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Yes, We Have No Wax Paper...

We have no wax paper today...or tomorrow...or ever!

So, I was surfing the Martha Stewart website for ideas for our upcoming Valentine's Day party. I came across an idea where you place crayon shavings between sheets of wax paper and melt them with an iron. The result is pretty translucent pieces of paper. Then you can cut out hearts and other shapes to decorate for the holiday. What a fun idea! I went to the art store and bought crayons and an inexpensive sharpener. Then headed off to the supermarket to buy wax paper.

There ain't no wax paper.

I have looked all over Jerusalem. There just isn't wax paper here. People here are in love (and rightly so) with parchment paper or baking paper.

This is the thing. I think that I am "making do". It's kind of like living at camp. Where you hope in your next care package your mom will have sent you clean undies. In this case, I am hoping for wax paper. It would be different if I didn't know that there was such a thing as wax paper. Ignorance is bliss, right? But here I am in the Holy Land, the land of milk and honey, the promised land and I can't get WAX PAPER!

I know that they have it. I have purchased taffy candy here wrapped in wax paper. It's just not the clear kind. It has printing on it. But, I know that it's out there!

One more thing that I didn't know to bring. There will be a roll or wax paper in my suitcase when I come back to Israel.

Now, don't you all run out and send me wax paper. I will change my party activity plans. We're already decorating our own cupcakes. I just wanted everyone to know that I tried, I tried real hard. I just couldn't find wax paper.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Origami Therapy


There's a story that if you make a 1000 paper cranes that you will have a long and healthy life. I don't now if that is true. But I do know that making paper cranes is fun.

When I was working at the Museum of Life and Science (hey everybody!), I was working on a mathematics exhibit. In that project we were highlighting the math in the art of origami and other activities. I guess that's what got me thinking about these cranes.

Well, for the past couple of days I have been making about one crane a day. I am going to hang them up somewhere in the apartment as a growing art piece.

I would love to have some cranes from all over the place. So, if you read this blog and are ready for a little art therapy, make a crane and send it to me. The best instructions that I found on the web are at: http://www.sadako.com/howtofold.html. Do all of the folds except for the last part where you "blow out" the crane's body. That way it will stay flat and you can just put your crane(s) in a regular envelope. I'll "blow out" its body when it gets here. (Let me know if you need my address.)

You can make cranes from any kind of paper, but I've found that paper especially for origami is really top notch. It's already cut into a square and has a front and back. But you can make a crane from any square piece of paper. I think that it's easier to make a crane from a 6" x 6" piece of paper.

So, get folding! By the way, making a crane for the first time isn't easy. But you'll get the hang of it and will feel good.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Loves Tastes Like Toastchee Crackers

My mom sent me a package for Christmas. She included some precious cargo - Lance Toastchee Crackers. For those of you not in the know, they are a little piece of heaven. Nothing improves the quality of the day like a pack of Toastchee and Nehi Grape Soda. Thanks, Mom!

I think that it's very interesting that in Hebrew there really isn't a distinction between to love and to like. It's the same verb.

I feel like Oprah doing this, but I wanted to share with you all some other things I love/like that you can try out too. Some other favorite things like my mom's Sourcream Chocolate Cake, my grannie's biscuits, corn bread, and chocolate pie, and my aunt's macaroni and cheese, well, you just can't get those at the store!

  1. The Sonicare Toothbrush: Forget what you think you know about electronic toothbrushes. I have been using a Sonicare toothbrush for about 5 years on the recommendation of my dentist. I recently upgraded to an Elite 7500 model...wahoo! Anyway, you'll be amazed at how clean your teeth are. It makes trips to the dentist less painful. The dental assistant always comments on how little plaque I have...seriously. Yaacov is a convert too!
  2. Kiehl's Lip Balm #1: This is the absolute best lip balm in the world.
  3. Rosebud Salve: This stuff is also wonderful for lips and dry skin. It fixes everything and comes in the cutest little tin. I am out of it (hint hint!) right now. :(
  4. Jake's Ice Cream: Ok, to be honest, I have never tried Jake's ice cream. I AM friends with Jake and once witnessed him making crabapple jelly in a dorm kitchen at UNC! So, Martha watch out! If you're ever in Atlanta, Jake's is the place to go.

Ok, that's enough for now. I am bored. I'll update this as I think of things you should try to treat yourself!


Saturday, January 22, 2005

It's Sleeting!

I have been reading about the bad winter weather in N.C. all week. Well, we're finally getting a dose of our own here in Jerusalem. Now, it's been surprisingly rainy and cool here this winter. I thought that I was moving to the desert! Granted, I was swimming at the beach in the middle of November! It's easy to forget that though when you're cold.

Today we're having sleet showers. It has been really coming down. There has been some accumulation on the sidewalk, but for the most part it's been melting as fast as it's been coming down. There are a couple of snowflakes mixed in, but not much. There has even been thunder and lightening!

But it's cold though!

Our apartment doesn't have central heat. We have two small oil-filled radiators. The apartment is old and the windows are all single-pane. Basically, it's like having Saran Wrap over the windows! Actually, Saran Wrap probably would seal the air out better! In any case, we keep on our layers, wear socks and house slippers, and try to stay warm. There are two times that it's the worst. One is in the morning when you first get out of the bed and the other is anytime you need to go to the bathroom.

The bathroom facilities are in two separate rooms. One room is the shower and sink (tiny!) and another completely separate room is the toilet (even smaller!). We have an electric heater in the shower room to keep us from turning into popsicles when we get out of the shower. But there is no heat in the toilet. Both bathroom rooms have rather large windows compared to the size of the room. The windows open up to the utility porch with the washing machine and other odds and ends. They help our apartment from smelling too stinky!

Basically, the toilet stays COLD! Seriously, it's like being outside. Every time I sit down in there, it takes my breath away. Maybe a different kind of seat would help?...one that uses batteries to warm it up or something. I think that we're just going to keep going with what we have for now. Spring isn't too far away, I hope!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Winter!


Whoa!

These pictures are from the recent surprise snow in North Carolina! They appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.

It's better if you work together!

Still Life


I just finished reading Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland. I enjoyed it very much. In the past couple of novels, I have been able to pick out some quotes to share, some words of wisdom from the story. This book begins in the present and tells the history of a particular painting through the centuries. Vreeland takes us into the lives of all the previous owners. It's a fun ride. She crafts her story in a way that is subtle and blended like the painting she describes. There aren't too many passages with overt messages. She gets her point across through the actions of the characters. She doesn't preach.

I probably have read more in the past couple of weeks than I have in years. One of the things that has occurred to me is that all of the characters in these stories have an inner life. The wonderful thing about books is that we get to learn what characters are thinking (and sometimes the why). I can more fully imagine the inner life that everyone has. Just walking down the street you can imagine all of the different things people are thinking. Now, if you're me, you think that they are thinking about you...judging you. But whatever they're thinking about...it's theirs. Little pearls of thoughts tucked away that only are shared with friends and lovers...and then only sometimes.

I did cull one passage form the book I wanted to share. "...much of living is repetition and separation, that buttons forever need re-sewing no matter how ferociously one works the thread, that nice things almost happen."

Monday, January 17, 2005

I Guess We're Staying

Yaacov and I bought a new car today. Here's a picture of it.


Our New Car! (except we got a RED one)

It's a Peugeot 206. Yeah, I know what you're thinking- a Peugeot?! It's a French-made car. It was the most popular selling car in Europe last year. We looked at various Hondas and Toyotas. There's a Toyota here called a Yaris. It's a neat car. But the Peugeot 206 rides closer to the ground and seems to be more fun to drive.

Don't be fooled by the picture. It's small, very small. That's OK here in Israel. Most cars are very small. There aren't many big trucks on the highway either.

I don't know about all the bells and whistles of our particular car yet. Yaacov did the talking (Yeah, it's scary, I know! Especially considering the POS he was driving in the States!)

I already know the Hebrew words for gas, water, and I think oil... I learned the word for "to change" the other day. So, I am well on my way to helping take care of our new vehicle.

Parking is a BIG challenge here. I have to practice my parallel parking. The situation is even worse in Tel Aviv. There's a joke here that once you find a parking space in Tel Aviv it's time to start looking for an apartment. I miss the wide open expanses of pavement at Wal-Mart and abundance of parking. But maybe with our new, little, zippy car making space won't be such a bother.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

In Her Shoes

My friend Jenn sent me the book In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner for Christmas (thanks, Jenn!). Anyway, I was reading yet another Oprah's Book Club selection at the time, Back Roads by Tawni O'dell. After finishing Back Roads and a previous Oprah selection, I was ready for a book that didn't leave your head spinning from the horrors of poverty, incest, love lost, etc. You know those Oprah picks. They're good for you, but after a while, geez!

Jenn to the rescue.

Now, I was a little skeptical of In Her Shoes at the beginning. I guess I like to think of myself as a literary snob even though I know in my heart of hearts that I haven't read nearly enough to qualify. The cover illustration was a drawing of two high-heeled and well manicured pairs of feet. It was like a snap-shot of what goes on under the table on an episode of Sex and the City. Since it was a gift, I felt compelled to give it a try. And you know what, even though it's not Faulkner, I had a great time reading it! It was refreshing to be entertained without being outraged or depressed. It was fun to care about the characters and to get involved in the story without lingering emotional attachment. It was light and funny. The perfect anecdote to the two previous books. Did I mention that it had a happy ending where everything works out?!

Here are some highlights:

This retiree is nervous about asking a lady out for a first date...
Come on, old man! he told himself. He'd been in a war; he'd buried a wife; he'd watch his son become a Rebublican with a Rush Limbaugh bumper sticker on the back of his minivan. He'd survived worse things than this.


"Don't think," said Mrs. Lefkowitz, drawing herself up to her four feet eleven inches and whacking at the ground with her cane, narrowly missing Ella's left foot.
"There is no think, only do."
"What?"
"Yoda," said Mrs. Lefkowitz, and began the laborious process of turning herself around.
"Let's go."
(Yeah, I could use a little bit of Yoda's advice from time to time too...only do.)

(Here's how I feel about learning Hebrew)
Take poetry. For Maggie, reading anything from the simplest sentence on up involved a sort of detective work. First, she'd have to sound out and decipher each individual letter of every single word. Once she had them individually, she'd have to string them together, nouns and verbs and the gaudy baubles of adjectives, and read it over and over again before she could extract the meaning, like a chunk of walnut tucked into a gnarled shell.

Reading is fun!

Thanks, Jenn!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Get Your Passport

I know that some of you want to come and visit me in Israel. Here's some advice. If you don't have one already, it's a good idea to go ahead and get a passport. It's easy to do. I think that just about any post office in the U.S. can help you with it. However, it takes time for them to process the passport. So, it's not something that you can just do overnight. Looking forward to seeing you here!!!


Monday, January 10, 2005

Hoppin' John

In the Southern U.S., it's tradition to eat Hoppin' John to bring good luck and lots of money for the New Year! Yaacov and I were sick last week, so I just got around to making this dish yesterday. Last year, I made it too and invited our neighbors Ingra and Ron over to share in our good luck. I'm not sure that it turned out as well as it should have last year. I think that Yaacov developed some taste aversion to it. He was really not excited about me making it this year! He said that it was like medicine...he didn't want to eat it, but he would because he knew it was good for him!

What's Hoppin' John? Well, it's black-eyed peas served over rice with a green vegetable on the side. In the South we usually serve collard greens or turnip greens...yum! The black-eyed peas are supposed to represent coins and the green vegetables represent dollar bills (Is the money in the U.S. still green?!). The rice is supposed to bring abundance in the New Year.

Well, you HAVE to make the black-eyes peas with some kind of pork. I'm talking about simmering the beans with bacon or a ham bone. This is not a problem in N.C., the pork capital of the universe. But in Jerusalem, it's a challenge. Both religious Jews and Muslims do not eat pork. Believe it or not, I found a supermarket that sells pork in the heart of Jerusalem! It's not your regular Piggly Wiggly. It's a Russian market. I found it through the advice of a friend. It's tucked away on Agrippas St in the pedestrian mall. Well, there were about 15 people working in this little market and about two shoppers the afternoon that I stopped in. All of the prices and signs are in Russian and a few are in Hebrew. I looked around and finally saw the Holy Grail-a big hunk of bacon ready to be sliced. I got the whole thing sliced. The lady that sliced it for me put the slices on the scale, but didn't put the "heel" of the meat on until after she took it off the scale. That was friendly and nice. It was a little difficult to communicate because the folks there only spoke Russian and Hebrew...two languages that are stumping me at the moment. I left the market in a very good mood...I came, I saw, I got my bacon and headed home. (I think that trying to ask for a ham bone would just be pushing it!)

The Hoppin' John turned out great this year. Here's what I did: I cooked a slice of bacon and a piece of the "heel" in my new Le Creuset pot Yaacov got me for Christmas. The I added chopped onion and garlic and sauteed them in the bacon fat. When the onions were clear, I let the pot cool a little and added the beans that had been soaking overnight. I added some chopped carrots and celery and simmered the whole thing for about two hours. I combined a little advice from my grandmother with a little advice from Bill Smith at Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill.

Instead of collard or turnip greens, this year we had spinach. The spinach I bought doesn't look or taste like spinach I had in the U.S. This spinach had broad, fuzzy leaves. But chopped up and sauteed with a lot of garlic, it tasted great.

Yaacov and I invited our friend Demetri to share in our New Year meal. We all cleaned our plates. I've still got lots of beans left though...just in case we're not feeling lucky.

The next cooking challenges: corn bread, broccoli casserole, and buttermilk biscuits.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bad Weather


The weather has been really stinky here for the past several days. It's been cold, rainy, and gross! Yaacov and I have both been sick with this strange virus. We didn't have any congestion, but we felt like we had been hit by a truck. We've both been recovering all week. Staying inside was good, because the weather outside was so bad. Seriously, it rained a TON and the wind is horrible here in storms.

I was walking back from ulpan yesterday and there was an older man in front of me carrying his open umbrella. There is a pay-parking lot beside the ulpan with a booth where a guy operates the gates to let cars in and out. Well, right as the guy was walking in front of one of the gates, it started to go up. It caught the guy's umbrella and lifted it up. It really gave the old man a start! For a second or two it seemed like he couldn't decide whether to hold on to the umbrella or to let it go. He let it go, of course, and it flew across the gate area. He was so pissed! It was really funny! They have those gates every where and they all have these really funny stickers warning you to watch out. I'll try to take some pictures of a few.

I walk past this same gate almost every day. It is the epitome of part of Israeli culture. There are about three guys that help operate the parking lot every day. The parking area probably doesn't have more than 50 spaces. But it takes that many guys to run it. Well, from time to time the arms on the gate don't work. So, cars have to back out of the entrance and go in the exit and vice versa. It looks like that the arms get damaged from time to time. I don't think that cars break through them or anything dramatic like that. It's probably crazy Israeli drivers that don't watch where they are going and run into them or trucks that try to squeeze through. Anyway, the arms fall out every once in a while! And I've noticed that they've been getting shorter! One of the guys just goes and pushes it back in! The lot fills up quickly. They "make" parking spaces in the median and on the sidewalk! A line of cars forms at the gate waiting to park. They sit there, honk, complain, and block the road like they are the only people on the planet.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

It's the Thought That Counts

Yaacov bought me a copy of the January issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine for Christmas (along with some very wonderful other things). I have been flipping through and really get pleasure from looking at al the neat ideas. Each time I read the magazine, I find something that makes me say, "Why didn't I think of that?!" or, "Neat!" It's inspirational.

Inspirational not motivational. Of course putting all of those great ideas to work for you is another big leap. In the US I would get motivated once in a while to actually DO something I saw in the magazine--many of you remember the Chinese inspired bedroom and dark chocolate fondue, I am sure. In Israel, it's another story. I am not sure where to find all of the things I see in the magazine. Where to find wicker baskets?...parsnips, ...gingham ribbon? I am learning though.

I think that "Martha" does a great job of putting thought into the everyday. It's like everything is touched with love. Some people think that she's obsessive and a perfectionist. But what is too good for yourself, your family, or your friends? Now sometimes we don't have money to buy all the fancy things. This is where she shows us how to be economical. (I also enjoy Budget Living magazine!) It's not the amount of money you spend or give. It's the sentiment. I hope that in 2005, I can tell and show you all how much you mean to me.

I recently received gifts from family and friends for Christmas and they all did a wonderful job wrapping and preparing. It was so nice to open the packages and see all the little wrapped items. I could tell that they all worked hard and put thought into what they sent. (Plus they spent a lot of money getting it over here!) It makes you feel good to know that you mean enough to someone for them to give a little bit extra-time, effort-to you.