A little bit of creativity

These days my workload is somewhat easier than normal, and as I understood that, I immediately started making all kinds of plans for how I was going to take advantage of all this spare time! 🙂

flowers in the garden

What project should I hit first?! Maybe paint all the interior walls of our house? Cook and bake a whole lot and fill up our freezer-space? Get caught up on the years I am behind on the children’s scrapbooks?? Not thinking big projects or anything… Well, I have enjoyed some scrapbooking, and have done maybe 7 pages (about 700 to go…). I made enough meatballs and gravy for about ten meals, which will be convenient to have on busier days. And I have done some smaller painting projects, one of them being this wooden box that some neighbors had thrown out after receiving some fancy wine in it. It fits perfectly in this open shelf that we have in our bedroom.

white box

I have wanted to paint it white for a while, and now was the time. I love these types of projects! You finish them so quickly, and they are like “big”, – you really notice them. Think, less than an hour’s work, and what a result! So much better than, let’s say, – cleaning… You could work for more than an hour, and nobody really notices it. (It’s the type of thing that is most noticed when it is left undone…)

Anyway, – back to the box. I had these nice wallstickers that my mother in law had brought me from the States, and it was hard to choose which one to put on the front of the white box. So I put one on each side, and can just change it around whenever I would like to! 🙂 (Now of course, those baskets on the shelf above are begging to be painted white as well…)

white box

These are some of the little things in life that just makes me a happier person! No, they are not very deep, I admit that, but then again, if they add something positive to my everyday life, then maybe it will encourage me to add depth in other ways. 😉

Oh, and look at our blooming pomegranate tree just outside our kitchen window:

pomegranate tree

And we just noticed that for the first time we have almonds on our young almond tree:

almond tree

Oh yes, good things are coming, I can feel it! 🙂

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Imma, – what is a gas chamber?

This evening we entered the Day of remembrance for the victims of the holocaust. Those are special times here in Israel, where we as a people remember. Restaurants close, the TV-channels show holocaust-movies, the schools host ceremonies etc. And the whole thing starts with a national ceremony screened live on TV just after sunset. Along with the rest of our people, we always watch it, and this year we let both of the children stay up and watch it as well.

It is always a bit of a dilemma how much to expose the children to. They are just children, and you wish they could keep on living in a reality which did not include holocaust and all that it entails. But, they are hearing about it anyway, so it may be even more scary to have it all as a big unknown. And when they will have to be exposed to those horrific realities, wouldn’t we want them to face it safely here in our home with us right here with them?

Never again!

They have even started to teach about the holocaust in Israeli preschools now, and of course they learn about it in school. So we sat here, the four of us. All sets of eyes glued to the screen in front of us, as president Shimon Peres spoke, and as prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke, and most of all as the six holocaust survivors lit the torches in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered. Each of them had a touching story, so far from our own realities, but then again, so connected. The common thread was that they by a miracle had survived a killing-machine, and they ended up in Israel were they rebuilt their lives. One of them used these words to describe it: – I have a feeling that I lifted myself from the dust…

In the middle, one of the children asked: – “What is a gas chamber?”

Oh, where do you start… how do you go about even trying to explain this horrible nightmare to your little children? Which words do you choose? How do you explain it in a way that will not fill them with fear? How can you possibly go about this topic gently??

Then there are the stories of all the Jews who were collected and put into local synagogues, and then the doors were locked, and the nazis lit it on fire, and all the ones inside burned…

The ceremony ended with everyone standing and singing HaTikvah together, Israel’s national anthem. And as we stood here, the four of us, joining our voices in this song of Hope and Promise, I felt moved with emotions. The contrasts. The tragedies, and then the hope and rebuilding and life! Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel lives!!!

Am Yisrael chai!!!

If this was just something of the past, I think it would somehow be easier to deal with. But knowing too well that history repeats itself, and seeing the signs in our days, complicates it, to say the least. Netanyahu always touches on this in his speech. He described the Europeans of the thirties like this: – It’s not that they did not see, – it is that they did not want to see… The Jews did not want to have to cope with the consequences, as in having to pick up their family, leave their home and find somewhere else to settle.

In our days we have a huge threat hanging over us from Iran. Do we see it? Or maybe we don’t want to see it??

May we all have learnt something from the past, and do the right thing this time around!

I like “gradually”…

Friday afternoon… The prince and Abba are out on a baseball game, one as a player, one as a coach. Both having a good time, I hope. The princess is visiting at a friend’s house, social bee as she is.

balcony

And here am I, fresh coffee in the cup next to me, a nice, new magazine to read, feet up, the house smelling like granola (which is baking in the oven). Mmmm! Life is good! We have an invitation to some friends’ house for shabbat dinner tonight, so here I am, having an afternoon off! (Of course, the first part of it I spent doing half of my “to-do-when-I-have-a-chance”-list, but that just gives me an even better feeling now! :-))

snack tray

This whole week has been spent gradually getting back into regular everyday life, with the emphasis on gradually… I really like “gradually”, I have decided! The first real day back to work, I first went for a long walk with a dear friend in the streets of Jerusalem, – always a treat.

Jerusalem streets

The next day I took a break in the middle of my work-day and went out to meet another good friend at a coffee-shop, where I had this lovely shake:

anti aging drink

And do you know what it is called?? Anti aging… Recommended to me by the waiter. I didn’t have much of a choice after that.

The afternoons have been good with the children. The teachers have been considerate (maybe they like “gradually” too?), and not given too much homework, so we even had a chance to go for a half hour swim yesterday.

pool

The pool was the only livable place really, because all of a sudden the temperatures hit 35 degrees celsius in Jerusalem. That is hot even in the summer, let alone in April, when we are in no way acclimatized to such heat! Anyway, the pool, combined with sweet, cold, yummy water-melon did the trick once again.

pizzas

Being the week after Pesach, where we are all craving chametz (nothing gradual there…), I decided to make a pizza night out of our weekly Torah Study Group. We all enjoyed it, – and yes, there was plenty.

flowers

Wishing you shabbat shalom from Jerusalem!

 

On our way back to everyday life

Here we are, at the end of yet another day. It has been a good one. This is the first day after the Pesach-holiday, and we are on our way back to everyday life. The children were still home from school, so we are not totally back to normal yet, and it is kind of nice to take it gradually like this.

We tried to get up relatively early, and even set our alarm-clocks, so as to get somewhat used to it before we really need it tomorrow, – and also we went to a circumcision-party for the baby of some friends of ours this morning, and did not want to get there too late.

I ran over to our local grocery store before breakfast to pick up some flour, because now that Pesach is over, we can bring chametz/leaven back into our home. So, I made us fresh pancakes for breakfast. It is alway a hit, and especially today when we had been without that type of food for a week.

pancake breakfast

Pesach has been absolutely lovely. I have so enjoyed all the special moments together with family and friends. But then, when we move back towards normal life again, bring back our regular dishes, our regular foods, – that is really, really nice too. I sense a certain relief even. We made it. We did it. Now we came out on the other side.

Today is the day when we organize our home back to its normal state after Pesach. We move dishes around, and we buy the groceries we had to finish before Pesach, and cook and bake and restock our kitchens with chametz. For us, it is also the day when we finish the children’s homework. Because, when the teachers send them home for almost three weeks on holiday, they apparently only  give them a vacation from the actual school-hours, not from the homework, – where the parents end up in the teacher’s position. (Teachers out there, hear my cry: – Why…??) It is not that we don’t see the importance in the children learning stuff, – we have taken them to a good amount of museums during their break, and given them plenty of learning experiences. I just fail to see the point in these extra work sheets that somehow end up being left till the last day… Anyway, – we did it, finished those too.

running and biking

And then in the late afternoon we went out on a really fun outing, where the kids were on bikes, and my husband and I ran alongside them. We did a 10 K on a beautiful relatively new bike path along the old Jerusalem train tracks. It was a positive experience all around, and we all came home very happy and super motivated to repeat this another time in the near future. Then we had fresh rolls for dinner. Yes, – we are loving our chametz. There is no denying it.

There is a time for everything. And now seems a very good time for some everyday life kind of time.

 

My Tzimmes Recipe

I mentioned that I wanted to give you my Tzimmes-recipe, so here it is! I have already made this dish twice during this Pesach, and am still enjoying the leftovers.

Now, before we get to the recipe, -we find ourselves before yet another erev chag. And you may be asking yourself how come I all of a sudden have time to sit and write a blog-post in the middle of the afternoon before a holiday evening. (Because of course we are hosting again, – there will be ten of us around the table tonight.) The answer is, – my husband has volunteered to prepare the meal for tonight! Yes, he even chose the menu and wrote the shopping list! Be encouraged, – we are seeing miracles in our days!!

cooking

I still made the dessert and the soup, and will do the salad and of course the table-decorations, – we don’t want to go totally overboard. But again, – he is making the main dishes! And we are all excited about it!

Back to the Tzimmes. This is a traditional holiday side-dish which I make just about every Pesach and Rosh Hashanah. It definitely falls in the category of comfort-food with it’s mushy-ness and sweetness in spite of not being a dessert. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do:

Tzimmes

TZIMMES

Lots of sweet potatoes

Some carrots

As many sliced apricots and prunes as you would like

Cinnamon to taste

Some orange juice

Possibly some honey

Peel and slice both sweet potatoes and carrots. Then you cook those together. There should be maybe 80 % sweet potatoes, and 20 percent carrots. After they are done, you pour out the water and put the carrots and sweet potatoes in a baking dish. Add apricots, prunes and cinnamon to taste. Add the orange juice, and honey if you want. Mix it all together. Taste a spoon of it, and add more of whatever you think will improve the flavor! 

This is a very convenient dish to just keep hot on the hotplate, or you can heat it in your oven if you’d like. I love eating this next to meat and gravy and mashed potatoes. That tastes like a chag (holiday) to me!

Chag sameach, everyone!

The wisdom of asking questions

Asking questions is something that is very encouraged in Jewish tradition and culture. We see this already in Abrahams relationship with God, – he asks questions, and it is acceptable and encouraged. You want to raise your children to be critical thinkers, not to just receive and accept whatever they are told without thinking for themselves.

Kite flying during chol hamoed Pesach

Kite flying during chol hamoed Pesach

We have an eight year old and a ten year old here in our home, – and boy, do they ask questions! Of all kinds! Our daughter will very often at night, when I have prayed with her as she is going to bed, quickly turn to me saying: – Can I ask you something? And of course, I say yes, as I am trying to prepare for the coming question. Often it is just something little, like: – What are you going to do now? Where are you going to be? How long do you think you’ll stay up? But then all of a sudden she asks: – Imma, do you believe in hell?? Eh…. good night and sweet dreams to you too!

And then the other day, she was wondering: -Why is water wet?? We actually googled that one, and found that many others had asked the same question, and the answer is that “wet” is how you describe the feeling of water. So there you go! You’re welcome.

the kite high up in the air

the kite high up in the air

Now at Pesach the whole thing of asking questions is part of our rituals. There are standardized questions that we all ask and answer, and we hear about different types of children, of whom the saddest type is the one who doesn’t know to ask. This year we talked about the fact that somehow the one asking the question may in certain ways be wiser than the one providing the answer. I gave the reasoning that the one asking the question is openminded and ready to learn, while the one answering, may have more of an attitude of “having arrived” and not seeing the need to keep on moving forward and learning. Then one of the children added; – and the one giving the answer, may even have the wrong answer…

So, people, let’s keep asking questions. Let’s keep thinking and seeking and learning and growing! It is OK to come up with answer too of course, as long as we keep an open mind to learn more about the subject.

Enjoying Pesach

The weeks leading up to Pesach are always very much influenced by the fact that they are the weeks leading up to Pesach. In addition to work and all the normal parts of life, you take on this huge project of sorting through all your belongings and cleaning every little corner in your home. This culminates in the cleaning of the kitchen which comes at the end of it all, – there you scrub your pots until they look brand new, and the same goes for the oven (I am SO thankful that my husband takes care of those parts!).

My husband using a blowtorch to clean an oven-rack.

My husband using a blowtorch to clean an oven-rack.

Then I boil everything, – utensils and pots and anything metal. Glas gets to stay, but anything ceramic gets removed and replaced by our Pesach-dishes. All of this we do in order to remove the leaven from our homes. And as I work on it, I try to think of what this symbolizes, – the removal of sin and pride and everything bad from our lives, our hearts.

And then Pesach arrives, and you decide that it is all good enough. The last day before Pesach was devoted to cooking, – in my sparkling clean kitchen and my almost new pots! (And somehow after that it was not all so sparkling clean anymore, but at least there was no leaven…)

Our Pesach table

On erev Pesach we sat around our decorated long dining room table and enjoyed one of the most special evenings of the year together with dear family and friends. I sat there and just soaked it all in. The sights of the candlelight flickering on my children, the sounds of the singing of these familiar and traditional songs, the depth of the content of what we were reading together. I am glad that a Seder Meal takes a long time. Just think of all the preparations that have gone into this! You wouldn’t want it to just fly by!

Our family ready to enter the holiday of Pesach. :-)

Our family ready to enter the holiday of Pesach. 🙂

By the time the festive meal was served, we were all quite hungry, – so I got tons of complements on the cooking! This is the way to do it folks, – starve your people before feeding them, and they will love your food! 😉 We had the traditional chicken soup with matzaballs, then we had turkey breast and beef, both with their own gravies, mashed potatoes and tzimmes (*which I think was the most popular dish, so I might write a separate post with its recipe), and of course salad and all the parts of the seder-plate, of which of course the sweet charoset was the one that most was eaten from. A good friend brought yummy desserts, one forrest-berry mousse cake and one chocolate mousse cake, – yum and double yum!

Pesach

In the weeks leading up to Pesach I had late nights sorting and cleaning, and I kept waking up really early thinking of what project on my list I was going to try to get to before I was starting work that day. And really, I am the type of person that enjoys that type of thing too. I really really enjoy the results, tidy cabinets, the thought of that I know what I have and where I have it. And now after Pesach arrived, – I have slept soooo well! Long nights, relaxing mornings. No thoughts of what I have to accomplish, – just enjoying time with family and friends. It is lovely!!! There certainly is a time for everything.

Pesach at the pool

We have had good friends from out of town staying with us, and have really enjoyed hanging out with them. Be it over long breakfasts or by the pool in the afternoon or watching a movie in the evening. We also got together with a lot of our friends here in the area for a fun barbecue picnic in a large park here in Jerusalem. Lots of fun! The children get to run around playing with various balls and kites, or just roll around in the grass, while the adults get to sit on picnic blankets and enjoy good food and fellowship. (The kids of course eat too, – but quickly…)

Pesach picnic

Today we have had a wonderful time touring the land together with my in-laws. We visited Shilo and Psagot in the beautiful hills of Samaria. The views of these terraced hills are just breathtaking. And the thought of the depth of history of what has been going on out there is amazing.

Where the tabernacle stood

Where the tabernacle stood

The Tabernacle was in Shilo for 369 years after Joshua brought the Israelites into Israel. So this was the place were the people came to for worship, like they came to Jerusalem after the Temple was built.

a model of the altar that was in the tabernacle

A model of the altar that was in the tabernacle

It was in Shilo, for example, that Hannah came and prayed for a son, and later brought Shmuel there to serve God in the Tabernacle.Pesach trip

They have very well done movies in both Shilo and Psagot, and they have as a common theme that they want to connect you with the Land.

photo 1-83 Once you connect with the Land, it will connect with you. This is an amazing process, and I witnessed it happening in my children today.

The view towards Jerusalem from Psagot

The view towards Jerusalem from Psagot

It was a real privilege to be out there as a three generation family. We are so blessed!photo 3-67

I am glad Pesach is not over yet! I am planning on making the most of every moment of this holiday of freedom and redemption!

Pesach trip