A Spontaneous Half Marathon.

running

One of the fun fringe benefits that comes along with doing long training runs, is that you can spontaneously join a half marathon! That is what happened to my running partner (*a.k.a my husband) and me last week. Some time in the beginning of the week, we heard of a half marathon being arranged for early Friday morning. It sounded like fun, the only question was if we could get someone to take the children to school as we would be long gone by that time. Grandma up the road happily agreed to be that someone, – and then it was decided. We signed up, and showed up at the right place a couple of days later.

running informal half marathon

This was a very informal half marathon, and more like an arranged training run for the real marathon which will take place in a month. We ran through the same route as the half marathon will do then, which will also be the second half of the full marathon. It was really a lot of fun to run with a bigger group of runners. You feel the energy from everyone around you, and the joy of running is at its highest!  I normally listen to a podcast or music or something through headphones during my training-runs, but during a race I like to just be totally present and soak up every little bit of it, so I don’t listen to anything (other than the regular updates my run-keeper gives me).

running through the streets of Jerusalem

I enjoyed running through the streets of Jerusalem listening to the feet of all of us hitting the ground like little drum-sticks. I totally loved the Friday morning atmosphere; the Shabbat-flower stands on the street-corners, hearing people wishing each other Shabbat Shalom and so on.

running up the hills of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is built on a number of hills, a fact the people who designed this marathon-route did not want us to forget… We certainly had our shares of ups and downs, – which is part of the reason why the Jerusalem marathon has earned the name “a breathtaking marathon”…

At around the 18th kilometer we hit the hardest hill, which just seemed to never end. I used all my mental tricks, telling myself that I have done this many times before, I can do it again. And that no, my legs are not really all that heavy, I am light as a feather, – I am skipping along! Anyway, what worked the best, was thinking of the yummy cup of coffee that awaited me at home after a shower. The thought of sipping this cup of coffee sitting with my feet up, was enough to pull me forward, and there, around the corner, was another downhill before the last bit of uphill as we finished the race.

my motivation towards the end of the half marathon

my motivation towards the end of the half marathon

And this is the happy me after the race. Enjoying being done. The sense of accomplishment. Enjoying the thought that it was really a great experience.

done with the race

Quickly forgetting about that terrible hill around the 18th kilometer. Being excited about to the full marathon coming up. Thinking can I really do double what I just did… Deciding to think that of course I can!!!

Tu B’Shvat Sameach!

As if we did not have enough different new year celebrations in Israel, – we also have one tonight, which is called The New Year of the Trees. Being in the middle of the winter, it is a convenient time to start counting from now on the fruit that belongs to the next year. This was especially relevant during the time of the Temple when they brought tithes of the produce as offerings to the Temple. But even today there are times when it is very useful to know what fruit belongs to which year, as we still have a sabbatical year every seven years when we let the land rest, and this influences on what we do with the fruit as well. (*More about this when we actually get to one of those years! Bli Neder.)

dried fruit

The name of this little holiday is “Tu B’Shvat” which literally means “The fifteenth of the month Shvat”. We celebrate this day by really enjoying the fruit of the trees. Fifteen types, we are supposed to have!  (Because of it being the fifteenth of Shvat, you know!) This challenge is probably how the tradition came along of eating dried fruit and nuts as we celebrate Tu B’Shvat. In our days of course, there is an abundance of all kinds of fruits at all kinds of times of the year, but we know it wasn’t always like this, and dried fruit was probably what they had most of at this time of the year.

dried fruits

Anyway, – we enjoy our dried fruits and nuts, right along with our fresh fruits. We are so blessed! And this is an opportunity to show thankfulness to the Creator of it all who keeps on providing for all of our needs!

In my opinion,  the best way to eat dates, is to fill them with walnuts!

In my opinion, the best way to eat dates, is to fill them with walnuts!

Another very widespread tradition is to plant trees on Tu B’Shvat. This is of course a very positive and building thing to do, and adds to the zionistic focus of the holiday. A couple of years ago we planted an Almond Tree in our garden on Tu B’Shvat. The Almond Trees blossom at this time of the year, and the flowers come before the leaves on this particular tree, which makes it a unique and beautiful sight!

Almond blossoms

Almond blossoms (Photo credit: RahelSharon)

This year Tu B’Shvat coincides with Shabbat, which just makes it all the more special! We have a good group of friends invited over for tonight, and are looking forward to sitting around the table and enjoy this double celebration with them!

Tu B'Shvat Shabbat Table

Shabbat Shalom and Tu B’Shvat Sameach to all of you!

PS. Just had to show you my special Tu B’Shvat Challah! 🙂

Tu B'Shvat Challah

A prayer for the road.

Today I made a trip to the coastal town of Ashdod, about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem. It was a work-related trip, and I do quite a bit of those, meeting new immigrants in various parts of Israel. Today I met six different families, and bought three washing machines, two fridges and one cooking stove, – as a help in their process of settling in the Land of their inheritance. I find it very meaningful to be part of this, as I am a strong zionist and really believe in the Jewish people returning to the Land of Israel and making their home here once again.

moments

As I start out on a trip, I have made it a habit to always say a prayer. And as in just about every other situation, there is a prayer to be found for it in the Jewish prayerbook! (Although, I just have a little card with it in the car.) I pray it in the Hebrew language, where I think it also sounds the most beautiful, but I thought it would be most practical to enclose an English translation here:

TFILAT HADERECH / A TRAVELER’S PRAYER

May it be Your will, Eternal One, our God and the God of our ancestors,
that You lead us toward peace, emplace our footsteps towards peace,
guide us toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush, bandits and wild animals along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to Earth. May You send blessing in our every handiwork, and grant us peace, kindness, and mercy in your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our supplication, because You are the God who hears prayer and supplications. Blessed are You, Eternal One, who hears prayer. 

I love the part where we ask Him to send blessing in everything we do, – that is what we set out to do really, bring blessing! A prayer somehow always manages to put everything into perspective! Because let’s face it, – who are we…?? And who is HE??? Then, if we place ourselves and our days and everything into His Hands and seek to walk in His ways, – it really does fill us with a deep sense of peace, no matter what.

coffee moment

Oh, yes, life is good.

The photos in this post are only somewhat related to the post, as they are taken as I came home from the trip, feeling sort of tired and having about a half hour before the kids needed to be picked up from school. I enjoyed my moments at home, and recharged my batteries for a full and lively afternoon. 🙂 (The cute cup and box were Hanukkah-gifts from my sweet husband!)

National Election Day

The build-up has certainly been there. It has even been quite exciting at times, it just has never really made it to this blog, as this is not a blog about politics. But this blog is about my life in Israel, and really, politics is part of that. Certainly on days like today.

My dad has always impressed on us the importance of voting whenever you have the right to vote, – it is more than a privilege, it is a responsibility! And now I am married to a man with the exact same attitude! I don’t know how many times he has updated his Facebook-status the last 24 hours, reminding everyone to get out and vote!!

Here we are in line to vote. And look who is updating his facebook-status! ;)

Here we are in line to vote. And look who is updating his facebook-status! 😉

We were hoping for a higher percentage of eligible voters to actually vote this time than in our last elections, so this was one of those times when we were actually HAPPY to wait in line! 🙂 And of course we have our children with us. (Yes, thankfully they are feeling better, to update those of you who have seen my recent posts.) They are of course convinced of whom they would have voted for, had they been able to vote! Our little cowboy says he will vote for Benjamin Netanyahu always, – at least until the day when he himself will run for prime minister, when he’ll have to vote for himself! 😉

voting for Netanyahu

Of course no party and no politician will represent my views one hundred percent, but I am convinced Benjamin Netanyahu is our best option for a political leader of our country right now. And for him to be able to really lead, he needs a strong party, so I am not one of those giving my vote to a small party that they hope will be there side by side with Netanyahu. In my opinion Netanyahu is what Israel needs in relation to our security situation and our economic situation, he seeks to bring unity and stability, and he has a real faith in the God of Israel and His promises to His people. I trust him.

voting

We really want to maximize on days like these, to teach our children what democracy is all about. The thought that my vote weighs just the same as the prime minister’s vote is quite something!! By voting, we are able to influence and build our country. The fact that we are voting this time for the 19th Knesset, is also quite amazing. We are such a young country! (And at the same time so ancient!!!) It is very exciting to be a part of it all!

voting

We are far from the only ones who bring our children to vote. There were plenty of other young families doing the same thing. This is really Israeli. The children are very much a part of everything. The command to teach our children, to bring our values and faith from generation to generation is something that encompasses all of life!

Israel needs a strong back! :)

Israel needs a strong back! 🙂

As I am writing this, we are sitting here in front of the TV, where they are telling us what it looks like will be the result of the elections. And what can I say… So far it doesn’t look good. Netanyahu will most likely still be our prime minister, but his party, Likud, is weakened. A new party with a former TV-personality as its leader is coming up with a huge amount of votes. That is democracy for you, I guess. And really, on days like these, I am proud to be part of the only real democracy in the Middle East! During the whole time leading up to the election, there has been advertisement encouraging us to vote, and there has been a substantial section said in Arabic, to make sure our arab population is also included and encouraged to take an active part in our democracy. There is no place like Israel!

Sick Day x Two

And then there were TWO sick kids enjoying the comforts of home.

sick day

Meanwhile I am eating C-vitamins in various shapes and forms in order to prevent that I will be the next one down. So far so good.

C vitamins

We have had a cozy day with more rest, DVDs, hugs, books, comfort and so on. And I was even able to get some planned computer-work done in between the shifts! Thankful for a home office with a door to it! (The background noise of Wallace and Gromit would just not be all that helpful to the efficiency-level… ;))

And outside it was such a beautiful, beautiful day! So spring-like it almost made me want to clean my windows. (Almost, that is, only almost.) What it really made me want to do, was go out for a nice walk or a run, but here I was, pretty much stuck inside caring for my patients. One thing was to turn on a DVD and close the door to my office, quite another thing would be to actually go out for a walk, just for the pleasure of it. In the end I went outside to sit on the balcony for half an hour. Very enjoyable indeed. Fresh air. Afternoon sun. Knitting. The good life.

knitting outside

I must have been blessed with a good amount of knitting-time lately, because, look, my winter-pillow is done!

Setesdalgenser-pillow

And now I am working on some fun colorful socks.

knitting socksTomorrow is national election-day, so it is a day off from school and work anyway. And I hope everyone feels better at least by Wednesday. Even with all these comforts of home, my dear little ones do prefer health and every day life, and so do I.

Make a Personal Pillow with Text.

My father in law had his birthday a few days ago. So again we were faced with, – what do we get him for his birthday…?!

I must say, I think women are a hundred percent easier to buy gifts for than men! One could just get a nice cream or shampoo, candles and napkins, vase, teacups or cookie-jars, – the list is endless! Not so with men.

And I like getting people gifts, something that will show them that we thought of them, that we appreciate them, care for them. But, – what to get??! It’s not easy! For this man in particular, we normally get something related to wine, as that is something we know he likes. We have gotten him cool wine holders to display his wine-bottles, nice wine glasses, fancy wine openers and so on. But let’s face it, – how many of those can one man have??! So I was really hoping to come up with a more creative idea this time around. And wouldn’t you know it, -during one of my runs, a creative idea for a gift for my father in law came to me! *Another good reason for running! 😉

The idea was a personal pillow with the text: “There is no one like GRANDPA” in Hebrew written on it. This is how it came out in the end:

personal pillow

And considering it was quite quick and simple, I thought I would share the steps for making it. 🙂

Start by cutting your material to fit your pillow. I basically did it almost three times the height of the pillow, so that it is partly doubled over in the back. (Too bad I forgot to take a picture of that before I gave it away!) It basically means that where the opening is, there are two layers of cloth so that a strip of the inner pillow will not accidentally be seen. And it is very convenient to have an opening, so that you can take the pillowcase off to wash it easily. Leave an extra few centimeters around the edges for seams.

Next work on your text. Mark off where the center of the front of your pillow will be, and get started on writing. I just write with a permanent marker through some letter-shapes. (Tip: Always keep a piece of paper underneath to protect your table.)

writing on pillow

To help protect the writing and keep it from being ruined when getting wet or during a wash, it is recommended to iron it with a hot iron. (But even so, I think one should be careful when washing it, especially the first time. I recommend washing it by hand.)

ironing permanent marker text

Now is the time for the actual sewing. First sew a zigzag-seam around the edges of the whole cloth, to keep it from loosing threads and coming apart. Then sew a nice double edge at the edges that will be on the back of the pillow. (*Hmm… Didn’t take any photos of this part either. My confidence level with the sewing machine still needs to grow a bit, I guess.) Next, you pin the whole thing together inside out and sew the sides together. Turn it back to the right side, and walla, – you have your own personal pillow case! Stuff it with a comfy pillow and you have a nice and personal gift!

The receiver of this pillow seemed to like it, which is of course very rewarding when you have made something for someone. The children also brought him beautiful paintings that they had really invested in, – and that were highly appreciated.

personal pillow with text

P.S. Of course you can add more to the pillow as far as different fabrics or lace or something, but I wanted to keep this one simple, and in that way more masculine.

Sick-Day for Princess.

We had a lovely Shabbat, with dear friends and family. But unfortunately it became clear that our little princess was not feeling well, and most of Shabbat afternoon she spent resting on the couch.

princess sick day

So today she is enjoying a home-day. I really think she is enjoying it, doing a real movie-marathon, watching Dora and Pippi Longstocking and all of her favorites. And of course she is provided with her favorite snacks to go with it. Not all bad. Especially when the symptoms of her throat ache are calmed down temporarily by neurofen.

I am enjoying having her home, and adjusting my schedule to do more friendly activities, such as granola making. (*Looooving the homy smell it spreads all throughout the house!) I am again very thankful for my flexible schedule, which allows for such adjustments. 🙂

homemade granola

But now I am stepping out for a little bit, as I already had an appointment to buy a cooking stove for a new immigrant here in Jerusalem, through the benevolence program I work with. Will be back shortly! 🙂

My Carrot Cake Recipe.

carrots

I love when healthy stuff comes on sale in the supermarkets, and lately one of our local supermarkets has had a great sale on fruits and vegetables. One of the vegetables that are sold for basically “give away” prizes, are carrots. It makes you feel like you have to buy the quota of three kilos every time you are there! So, – I fill my fridge with carrot-bags, make carrot-soup and carrot-salad, cut up carrot-sticks to go with just about any meal or as a snack in between, – and I make carrot cakes, which is what this post is going to be about.

carrot-sticks

And here is another thing my mom taught me; – when you make a cake, you might as well make two. It’s the same amount of work and dishes. And you can always freeze one.

carrot cakes

So, here comes my recipe for two carrot cakes:

 TWO CARROT CAKES

6 eggs

(whip these on medium speed for about 8 minutes)

300 ml. oil

(add gradually, whipping on high speed until evenly blended)

500 grams sugar

10 grams salt

(Gradually add the sugar and salt, whipping at medium speed.)

320 grams flour

5 grams baking powder

3 grams baking soda

12 grams cinnamon

(Sift these four dry ingredients together before adding them to the rest)

500 grams grated carrots

100 grams chopped walnuts (optional)

(Fold in the grated carrots and chopped walnuts)

Pour the batter into two round pans, and bake at 175 degrees Celsius for about 50 minutes.

Cool before adding cream cheese icing.

My Cream Cheese Icing is a quick whip-together of about 60 grams butter, 200 grams powdery sugar, two teaspoon vanilla and two boxes of cream cheese. (This is enough for two cakes, but if I freeze one, I freeze it without the frosting and only make the frosting for it afterwards.)

two carrot cakes

I highly recommend making two. You can always bless a neighbor. But if you insist on making only one, – just cut all the ingredients in half and you will do just fine!

ENJOY!!!

Another Long Run.

Today and last Sunday have been our coldest running days so far, but then again, – they have been so much better than the days in between, that I am certainly not complaining! (*On some of those in between days I was very thankful to be able to run inside, because the exercise I got outside those days consisted of igloo-building and such…) Today though, I must admit that I felt my toes and fingers freeze during the first couple of kilometers, but soon enough you heat up until you start sweating in spite of it only being a few degrees above zero.

Seeing the bridge from a different angle.

Seeing the bridge from a different angle. (And do you see the snow there in the left corner??)

The patches of snow are now pretty tiny, and it would not be true to call them white patches, because really, most of them aren’t white anymore…. But still, there was plenty of evidence to be seen from what now has earned the name “The Storm of the Decade” along our route. There were broken down roadsigns, lots of big branches that had fallen down, and quite a few broken umbrellas… (Really, – who takes an umbrella out in a wind-storm?!?) And the snow that was still around did make me happy, in spite of it’s dirty state. Seeing a grown up man going over and kick a little pile of snow, just because he could (and who knows when the opportunity will come around again), made me smile.

running past broken branches

running past broken branches

As we are building up our milage, and gradually increasing the length of our long runs, we tried out a new route today, which took us up to French Hill and Ramat Eshkol, the areas I used to live in when I first came to Jerusalem, and also the area we lived in during our first years of marriage. It had been a while since I had been back, and it was quite nice to see the streets I would walk through when I was a really fresh Jerusalemite, the place where I mailed off the invitations to our wedding, the corner where we would buy our Shabbat Flowers, – there were so many sweet memories popping up all over!

Our training for our first full marathons is going pretty well. We are having fun with it, and are really enjoying doing the long runs together. Now that we are running longer than the half marathon distance, I can feel it becoming more challenging. While this is natural as it of course is getting harder, I feel that it might be mostly mental. The feeling of that I have never ran this far before, sort of works to drain your energy. I am listening to running podcasts as I run (again warmly recommending marathontrainingacademy.com), and was reminded that the training is 90 % mental, and then another 10 % mental… hehe. But the perspective that I am really taking away from the podcasts I listened to today, is the attitude that we don’t have to run, we get to run. What a privilege to be able to run, to have the health to run, to be able to take the time to run. I am very thankful that I get to run!

Imagine running through the Old City of Jerusalem as part of your route! I feel privileged!

Imagine running through the Old City of Jerusalem as part of your route! I feel privileged!

Enjoying the last bits of snow.

Considering the fact that we are far from spoilt when it comes to snow here in Jerusalem, we don’t let it go unnoticed that there still are some white patches out there. My husband just came in from taking out a bag of garbage, and with a big smile on his face he said how nice it is to still see bits of snow! And I really enjoyed my walk to get some milk at the local grocery store, for the exact same reason, – these white patches of snow really add a lot of joy to our lives! A white patch of snow still left on some rosemary bushes.

A white patch of snow still left on some rosemary bushes.

Friday was another snow day where all Jerusalem children got an extra day off from school. We didn’t really get a new snowfall, but there was enough left on the sidewalks to make it slippery, and in order to prevent people from falling and getting hurt, we got to stay home and have another snowball fight instead… 😉 We were all happy with that!Getting Abba pretty good! Getting Abba pretty good!

My pink princess and I did a nice walk together and bought shabbat-flowers. On the way she several times stopped and exclaimed: “Oh, it’s sooo beautiful! I just have to take a break and enjoy the view!” And really, this was the day to enjoy the views, because now that it was not snowing any more, it was easier to look across to the hills around us, like here to the fields of our neighboring kibbutz.

snowy view

And what kinds of flowers did my princess help me choose for this Shabbat? Of course, – pink ones!!!

shabbat flowers

Today, on Shabbat, we walked to the Western Wall, and there was still a little bit of snow left in the Old City and by the Kotel itself. But it was noticeable that our neighborhood is higher in altitude and therefore had more snow.

Snow at the Western Wall

Snow at the Western Wall (Photo credit: ForestForTrees)

Next time we have a real snowfall I would really love to get all the way down to the Old City. We walk these distances regularly, but in deep snow it takes longer and is colder, something you notice especially with children. (And taking the car is just not an option as neither the streets nor the cars are prepared for it.) But think of such unique views! And the pictures one could get! Definitely, next time I’m there. May it be soon…