Movie Theater Birthday Party!

Time for another birthday party. Our son turned 10! Yes, it´s a big one. Two digits. He has been counting down for 101 days, so there was certainly no lack of neither expectations nor planning… ;-).

Birthday party preparations. :-)

Birthday party preparations. 🙂

As soon as he started talking about wanting to do a Movie Theater theme for his birthday-party, we were supportive. We liked the non-competitiveness of it, the togetherness. And it seemed like something we could do and control. We got to borrow a huge screen from a friend here in Jerusalem, we already have surround sound set up in our living room, and there has been a projector sitting in our storage room for a long time already.

photo 4-38

I found fun movie-theater themed things like popcorn-cups at a local store, and our son went ahead and designed little movie-theater tickets which served as invitations to his party.

birthday party

We chose Donald Duck movies to be shown at the party, because those are in general clean and ok with everyone, it is a classic that most people like, and it was less likely that kids would complain that they had just watched that movie.

Fun decorating the cake.  Thank you, tante Raggi for the non-stop! :-)

Fun decorating the cake. Thank you, tante Raggi for the non-stop! 🙂

It turned out they all loved it. And it seemed to be helpful that we kept bringing more and more food as well! 🙂 For this group of 9 children I made 6 large pizzas, and 7 bags of popcorn, – oh, and carrot sticks… And, of course, – birthday cake! We chose a really yummy chocolate mousse cake, and they ate almost the whole thing! Several came back for seconds! Growing boys!!

birthday party

It was such a joy to look over at the group of kids, and see happy faces, – and most of all such a content expression on the face of the birthday boy. At the end of the night, he said this was the best party ever! Now, I have to admit, – I think he has said that every single year at his birthday…

Make a wish...

Make a wish…

But I think for me, – this really is one of the favorites. We were never even close to a melt-down. In spite of all the excitement and all the expectations, everything just sort of went along relatively calmly. And for that I am thankful. It was a good experience in every way. Guests genuinely thanked for being invited, and also said it had been the best party ever… (It really is a kid thing, this “best ever”-thing…). I guess for them, life and everything, just keeps on getting better and better. 🙂 Not all bad, really. Not all bad.

birthday cake

Advertisements

Tu B’Shvat Sameach!

Here we are again at this tiny, little holiday, another new-year of sorts in the middle of the Jewish month, Shvat. The moon is beautiful these nights, I have been noticing. – I just LOVE how the moon and the months grow and get renewed together in the Jewish calendar.

gardening

So, – the name of this little holiday is “Tu B’Shvat”, which literally means “The fifteenth day of the month of Shvat”. It is also called “The new year for the trees”, and this really points to the meaning of the holiday. This is the day from which we start counting the fruit in relation to tithing, which of course was most relevant in the times when we still had a Temple to bring the tithes to. (But it is still the time of the year when we start counting the sabbatical year for the trees, which is coming up, actually.) We are in the middle of winter, the trees have all finished their fruit-bearing season, and it is too early for even the earliest ones to have started yet. So it is a good time to count fruit from.

gardening

This day is celebrated by eating lots of fruits of the trees, – in particular dried fruits as traditionally one did not have all that much fresh fruit during this time of the year. In particular we focus on the seven species, which my name (Te’ena=fig) is one of too. 🙂 (But still, I have to admit, my favorite is dried mangos. ;-))

dried fruit

Another very traditional way of celebrating Tu B’Shvat is to plant a tree. We have done that at times too, like the year when we planted the Almond-tree in our garden. And even though we don´t always plant an actual tree, we just about every year do some gardening in relation to Tu B’Shvat. And this year is no exception.

gardening

Since it is still so early, and we are hoping for more winter still to come, I didn´t want to make a too big investment in the garden yet, but the amount doesn´t really matter. A few new plants. A reason to start digging. Getting a little dirty. Doing something different. Enjoying working in the garden. Oh, it is all so so healthy in every way!

gardening

The children had a really good time with it. There was so much positive energy going around!

dirty knees

Another little tradition we have for this time of the year, is that we like to make a trip out in the mountains surrounding Jerusalem to experience some real nature, and see some almond blossoms. We have not made it out there yet, and the almond trees are actually far from blossoming, as far as I have heard. Hopefully we will make it out there one of those days, and when we do, I will let you know all about it! For now, – Tu B’Shvat Sameach! – Happy Tu B’Shvat!!

My Marathon Experience.

I did it! I ran my full 42,2 kilometers! (Actually it even said 42,52 in the end, and those extra 302 meters were not easy!) Those of you who have followed me from last year, may remember my so-so experience with the Tel Aviv marathon last winter. After a lot of forth and back it was postponed and then cancelled. I ended up getting together with a group of runners to just unofficially run our marathons anyway. And, well, it was not the experience I had looked forward to. It was really hot, I dehydrated, and let´s face it, – it was my first marathon. I finished it, but just barely, and I ended up walking much of the last 10 K. So, I took everything I learnt from there with me to my second marathon, – this time in Tiberias. And, let me tell you, – in comparison, – it was a WINNER EXPERIENCE!!!

Here I am crossing the finishing line, feeling like a winner!

Here I am crossing the finishing line, feeling like a winner!

I had trained in the months leading up, building up my milage. But really, last year, my training was even more focused with more speed training and cross training, so I may have been in better shape physically a year ago, but no doubt, with what I learnt last year, I was much stronger mentally this year.

The secret to success for me, was no doubt to start slow. I had divided the marathon into three equal parts, and the goal was to up my speed a little bit in each one. The first 14 kilometer I ran with the 4:15 pace group, and we ran a pretty even pace of 6 minutes per kilometers. I had a great time! It felt so easy! It was like I had all my energy still in the tank. So by the time we finished the first third of the marathon, it was like I had just done the warm-up, and was ready for the next 28, – which is just another long run! At that point I pulled apart from the group, and started passing runners ahead of me. It was much harder to keep a steady pace when not running with a pacing group, but on average I had a pace of 5:50 per kilometer for the second third of the marathon.

Here is my husband running the race, at a way faster pace than me.

Here is my husband running the race, at a way faster pace than me.

It was an out and back course, – we ran from Tiberias, around the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, to Kibbutz En Gev, where we turned around and came back. I think I was around the fifteen kilometer mark, when the first runners were coming back. They were the professional runners from Kenya and Ethiopia. We all called out encouraging messages to them as they ran by. But really, that was the big thing that was missing from this marathon, – there was hardly any crowd support! Now, I compare mostly to the Jerusalem Marathon arrangement, and here we have tons and tons of crowd support, which really means a lot to me. So, the few people that had come out in Tiberias, got a big “Toda” (Thank you) from me.

Because of the lack of encouragement along the course, I spontaneously took it upon myself to BE the crowd support. And with an out and back course, you have a chance to encourage all the runners, – first those who are ahead of you as they come back, and then the ones that come after you, after you yourself have turned around. I cheered everyone, and especially the women (there were only a little over 200 in total), and also the somewhat older people got heartfelt encouragement from me. Then there were those who started walking, – I just had to offer them some good words. And really, encouraging everyone, encouraged me too!

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee

It was a flat course, which was very helpful for planned pacing. It is completely different from Jerusalem, where it is so much harder to plan a pace, because it all depends on if you are going up or down hill! The weather was almost as good as it could be, with a cover of clouds but not rain. The only weather challenge, was a bit of wind at this second third of the course, but it could have been worse, and there were even times when we had the wind in our backs.

There were very regular water stations, where they gave out small water bottles, so I always had a bottle in my hand, – along with the fuel I had brought with me, my energy Chumps and pretzels. (I am considering investing in a fuel-belt before my next marathon.) They were giving out fuel along the way too, but I did not want to try anything new on race day. The only thing I took from them other than water, was a banana at around kilometer 35. It was just perfect to get that then, as I was really sick of the energy Chumps, and the pretzels were dry and hard to swallow.

Here is the only photo I took while running. It was too hard with all the things I was holding in my hands...

Here is the only photo I took while running. It was too hard with all the things I was holding in my hands…

So, during the last third of the marathon, kilometer 29 – 42, I did not hold back anymore. I allowed myself to give it all. The feeling of control of my pace in this marathon, was part of what made it such a great experience. I had energy in the tank and was able to pace myself and speed up and down as I thought most helpful at the time. During this last third, I was still feeling quite strong, but here there was actually a little bit of hills (nothing compared to Jerusalem, but still a climb that you feel after having ran for over 3 hours…). So, on average, I was not able to increase my pace from the second third, like I had hoped to. But considering the elevation, I am happy that I was able to keep 5:50 also here.

The cup of coffee I was dreaming of during my marathon.

The cup of coffee I was dreaming of during my marathon.

It felt good to just keep on passing people. I would look up ahead and find a person I would tell myself to catch up with. Then when I got there, I would choose another one and so on. I was able to do this because I had started so slowly, so I was just catching up with the people who had ran a faster pace all along. But it is amazing what this does to you mentally. It is encouraging to feel that you are doing well, and so you feel stronger just as a result of it, and it helps you keep a positive attitude.

Here is my husband again, in the last kilometers of the marathon.

Here is my husband again, in the last kilometers of the marathon.

Obviously this last third of the marathon was the hardest one. No surprise there. People say the real marathon only starts at 32 kilometers, up until that point it is all just warm-up… I think it was around the 35 kilometer mark that I was starting to feel what is my biggest challenge when it comes to running, – my stomach. It was not happy with all the bouncing and pounding, in combination with being fed these energy chumps which is a sugary type of very concentrated energy and tastes something like wine gums. Then after 39.5 kilometers, I felt as though all of a sudden one of my toe-nails fell off, and it did not feel good. Later I found out it wasn’t quite as bad, but still it was disturbing along with this stomach issue which by this point was something that had to be balanced very carefully. Now you look around, and every runner is like a quiet zombie in a trance just focusing on this forward motion.

This is me towards the end. Quite pale... But at least smiling...

This is me towards the end. Quite pale… But at least smiling…

Every kilometer-mark was a very welcome sign. 40… 41…. By this time there was a bit of crowd support. I remember someone calling out that there was only 800 meters left, which helped me gather up the little bit of energy that was still to be found, and speed up so that this became my fastest speed of the whole marathon. I kept on looking for the finishing line, where was that red gate?? And then finally, I rounded a corner, and there it was! It felt wonderful to run underneath it, step on the right mats, lift my arms, smile to the cameras, – and be done! Running the whole thing and finishing strong, was my goal. The time was not outstanding by any means, but I am happy with my 4 hours and 10 minutes. I ran my race. For me, the way it worked out for me to run this race was the victory. (But for whoever is interested, I was the hundredth woman to finish, and came in number 46 in my age group, placing me in the first half in both groups.)

My dear husband who finished this marathon in less than 3 and a half hours (he is amazing, I know!), waited for me at the finish line. We got some pretty cool medals, in the shape of the Sea of Galilee. As we walked around a bit together afterwards, we were stopped by several people who said they had appreciated my encouragement. One asked what was my finishing time in the end, and upon hearing the answer, said that if I had not talked quite as much, I could probably have done it in less than 4 hours… Oh, well, that can be my excuse, then!

Us with our medals. :-)

Us with our medals. 🙂

We all have our rewards that we look forward to as we finish our marathons, and my husband had been looking forward to a good, fresh Tiberias falafel, so here he is getting it:

Falafel in Tiberias

I could not eat much, as my stomach was still settling. We got some good carbonated energy drinks, which was just right. And then, I was looking for a quality cup of coffee, which I found and enjoyed:

Coffee in Tiberias

We drove on to Kfar Tavor, about a half hour drive from Tiberias (but longer this time, because of the traffic), where we stayed with some really good friends, who also had been taking care of our children as we ran the marathon. We had a very nice weekend with them, making this an absolutely perfect marathon weekend away.

playing kids

I am so very thankful! … and I think I will sign up for the Jerusalem marathon coming up in about two months… 😉

Blueberry Muffins Recipe.

blueberry muffinsWe are in the final days of the countdown for the Tiberias Marathon, and one of the things we are focusing on these last weeks is Carboloading. I quite like it! The truth is, I am loading carbs all year around, but right now it is something that is really considered the right and smart thing to do, so it takes on a whole new meaning!

blueberry muffins

Last week I made four large rich lasagnes for our weekly Torah study group. Well, – I guess not everyone else is carboloading, so needless to say, – we have been eating lasagne ever since… Other than that, I have heard that rice is supposed to be a very good carb for this type of carboloading, so we have had several rice-dishes too. And then there is the granola, the bread rolls, the muffins, the pancakes, the scones, the cookies (wooops…)…

blueberry muffins

Anyway, – this post is going to focus on muffins, and specifically on Blueberry muffins, which happens to be my favorite type of muffin! Let me start with a photo of the first step. Blueberry picking:

blueberry picking

We pick our blueberries in Norway in the summer, and then bring them frozen back home to Israel with us, and enjoy them all winter long, mostly in the form of blueberry muffins. I even remember us talking about and working out how many muffins those blueberries would make, as we picked them!! Anyway, – of course you can buy them frozen from the supermarket too! It is just not quite as fun.

Here is the recipe of my very favorite blueberry muffins (and believe me, I have sampled quite a few!):

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

(makes about 12 large size muffins)

Ingredients:

370 grams flour

(feel free to combine white and whole wheat flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

150 grams light brown sugar

80 grams soft butter

1,5 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

150 ml buttermilk

5 teaspoons vanilla extract

90 ml oil

2 cups frozen blueberries

Sift together flour and baking powder, and set aside.

Cream together the sugar, butter and salt.

Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and oil together. Then add this mixture to the butter-sugar-mixture in 2 to 3 additions.

Add the flour and salt and mix as little as possible.

Finally fold in the frozen blueberries. It is helpful that they are frozen, as their juices make the whole muffin-batter go purple otherwise!

(At this point, I strongly recommend to eat a spoon of batter, – it is almost better than the muffin itself!)

Fill your muffin-tins and bake for about 30 minutes in 190 degrees celsius.

Then, – ENJOY!

blueberry muffin

I like to make a double batch, so that I can put some in the freezer. It is so convenient to have them there, – to pop in the microwave to enjoy as a snack next to your coffee, – or to take a couple of them with you in a ziplock when you are going to be out and about for a while. It is also always a hit when I bring a batch of these to our women’s group meetings.

blueberry muffins

Tried and true yumminess.

Beautiful Jerusalem days.

All of a sudden I had a little break from blogging again. And the hardest bit about picking it up again, is the thing of, – Where do I begin? How do I explain my absence? What are my excuses?

photo 1-62

So, I think I will just leave that part blank, and jump right into giving you a post of photos of wonderful Jerusalem! We have had some absolutely beautiful winter days lately.

Jerusalem

Sharp and cold air, clear wintery blue sky, a sun that is not frying you the same way it does in the summer… I love it!

Jerusalem

Also, because we did have some rain, the gras has turned green! Always such a positive and optimistic process. A sign of life!

photo 2-49

I am in my tapering period before the Tiberias marathon right now, so I am holding myself back when it comes to running distance. Believe it or not, but this can be a bit of a challenge.

Jerusalem

I have dealt with it by replacing some of the kilometers I would have run, with walks. And the nice thing about walks, is that there is even more of an opportunity to stop and take pictures! 🙂

Jerusalem

I just love Jerusalem! The uniqueness of the Jerusalem stone facing just about everywhere. The old fashioned look with all the arches. It is hard to really pinpoint and explain, – but there is certainly a very special atmosphere in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem

And let´s face it, – everyone is looking towards Jerusalem! Be it for faith reasons or political, historical or cultural reasons. It is the center of the world in so many ways.

Jerusalem

There is no arguing about the fact, – there is no place like Yerushalayim!

Jerusalem