Remembering and Celebrating!

When we celebrate the independence of the modern state of Israel, it is a serious thing, that is done in depth and width and with so many aspects to it. As a family we started the season by going to the Hall of Independence in Tel Aviv on Friday last week. What happened there in May of 1948 was very well known to all of us, but being in the room was a first experience, and we were all touched by it. Sitting there and watching the seats David Ben Gurion and his people sat on, as they decided on the final wording of the proclamation of independence. Listening to the recording of his voice saying it: – …a Jewish state, the state of Israel. We heard of what Golda Meir had tearfully said as she sat there and was part of it, and thought of all those who had been brutally wiped out in the holocaust just a few years before; – itย is all too late… But then there was the next thought, of the coming generations; – it is not too late for them.ย 

Independence Hall

As we stood there together and sang HaTikva at the end, I was really moved. Ok, I admit it, I amย always moved singing HaTikvah, but this was very special, standing right there, joining our voices to their broken and heavily moved ones from 66 years ago.

Sunday night this week started the day where we respect and honor the memory of those who have died for what we get to live, – the modern state of Israel. We remember both soldiers and terror victims, as they have all fallen for our freedom here. Oh, and there are so many stories, so many individuals. 23 169 to be exact. And as a people, we take a real break and think of them and actively remember them together. At 8 o’clock Sunday evening we all stood in one minute’s silence in their memory, and at 11 o’clock on Monday morning we stood remembering for two minutes. Let me tell you, a LOT can go through your head during two minutes. I am thinking of all kinds of stories, individuals, heroes, who have fallen. I am feeling with and crying with their wives, mothers, sisters… And I am thinking of my dear ones, thankful to have received my own soldier back home time and time again.

As our children get older, they get to take a deeper and deeper part of this remembering as well. Our ten year old son was more touched by it than he has been before. At school they have a place to honor the fallen ones from their school, and they are always remembered in the ceremony at the school. Most of them were graduates who later, in their army service fell as soldiers. Those are of course very tragic too, but there is one that the children can really relate to already, and that is Sivan. Sivan was still a student at the school, when she on a spring afternoon of 1997 went with another girl to buy some school supplies in Ben Yehuda. And there was a suicide terrorist with a bomb strapped to him, who blew the girls up along with himself. They both died instantly.

A Yom haZikaron photo from Facebook

A Yom haZikaron photo from Facebook

Then there was the story his teacher had told him this year. Of her father being a young soldier, scheduled to do a certain flight. At the last minute, another soldier came and said: – you just got married, I’ll do this flight. He never came back. Had he not done that… we all know what that would have meant for the teacher and so many others. I am sure this young air force soldier is one of those that she remembers as we stand in silence.

As the sun sets at the end of this very emotional day of remembrance, we enter into total celebration, of what these people fought and fell for, of the victory, of the miracle, of Israel!!! And really, – we know how to remember, but we also know how to celebrate!!! And one would not have been what it is, without the other. They are so connected one to the other.

yom haatzmaut

As you float through the streets of Jerusalem on this night, the overriding theme in your head and heart has got to be: AM YISRAEL CHAI!!! The people of Israel lives!!!

yom haatzmaut

The amazing joy! The crazy celebrations! The singing! The dancing! The togetherness! All the flags everywhere, on everyone and on everything!

yom haatzmaut

This year it was also a particularly beautiful night. We have such hot days that they can be hard to bear, but then what helps us bear it, is the knowledge that there will be a beautiful night. Not too cold, not too hot, just perfect for being outside together with everyone else.

yom haatzmaut

The fireworks were spectacular! Really, better than I can remember them from the past few years. So big! So overwhelmingly taking over the sky! So celebrating!!!

fireworks

We fell into bed, slept well, and woke up to continue the celebrations today. And what everyone does today, is barbecue. It does not make a difference that it is so hot no one really feels like eating anything big, – that is the tradition, so that is what we do.

My daughter's plate at our barbecue today

My daughter’s plate at our barbecue today

People fill up the parks from early in the morning to get the best spots (*read: the shady spots). We felt like quite the winners this year, when we, after sleeping in a bit, went jeeping with friends of ours. This way we could escape the crowds and get to see our beautiful country that we are celebrating today. And, yes, find a good and quiet and nice spot for our own big barbecue.

yom haatzmaut

I really enjoyed the ride in the car. In the beginning I was suggesting songs about Israel, that the children learnt in gan (preschool), because we have been singing them ever since on this day. But, no, now they informed me that they are much too old for those now. So we ended up sitting there singing Arik Einstein songs. Good times indeed.

yom haatzmaut

And as we drove down from Jerusalem, through Shaar HaGai, the old tanks standing there decorated with flags are again a reminder of those who fought and fell for what we get to live.

The decorated tanks in Shaar HaGai, photo from the internet

The decorated tanks in Shaar HaGai, photo from the internet

Along this road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, there is a lot of work going on to improve the road. We are always fascinated by all the large vehicles that work relatively constantly all along the road. Today, however, they were taking a break, and I totally LOVED seeing those too decorated with Israeli flags.

yom haatzmaut

This just goes to show that we are not only fighting for and defending our land, – we are BUILDING our land, our roads and everything!
yom haatzmaut

And just driving through our beautiful country, coming close enough to smell the flowers, and even catch the butterflies (yes, that was during the hike, not the actual drive…), is always a joy!

yom haatzmaut

Going with those particular friends has its fringe benefits, because they get us out relatively early, and therefore also back relatively early. So here I am, enjoying the shade of our umbrella in our garden, watching all the flags we have decorated with here. Not all bad, either. I always love it when all of a sudden there is some surprise free time that doesn’t have anything planned yet.

Our son has gotten into the snow-spray part of the celebration this year. (He did help clean the car afterwards...)

Our son has gotten into the snow-spray part of the celebration this year. (He did help clean the car afterwards…)

Anyway, – whatever I am doing, I am still celebrating! Happy 66th birthday, Israel!!! And, – thank you, God, for this wonderful modern day miracle!!

 

Pumpkin soup

November is here, and that means majoring on pumpkins, doesn’t it? I did not grow up eating a lot of pumpkins, so the pumpkin pies I make mostly for my American husband and for our son who also loves this. Pumpkin-soup on the other hand, is something my tastebuds can share a love for.

butternut squash

Last week I made this soup for our weekly Thursday Torah-study group. And afterwards I have been asked for the recipe, so I thought I might as well write it here on the blog. As with many of the things that I make, it is really simple and easy. The secret behind its wonderful taste, is a lot of pumpkin! Or a lot of butternut squash, or a mixture of the two, which is what I did the other day.

butternut squash

I start by cutting a couple of onions into relatively small pieces, and frying them in butter over medium heat, so that the onion pieces turn shiny, but not brown. Meanwhile I prepare the pumpkin or squash, – peal, remove seeds and cut into quite big cubes. Those pieces I throw on top of the onions, and then I just barely cover it all with water. The less water, the thicker soup, naturally. At this point I add salt, pepper and bullion, quite a bit of it to add good flavor.

Pumpkin soup

You cook it until the pumpkin pieces are soft, and if there is time, you let it cool slightly before mushing it with a mixer of some sort. I prefer a stick mixer, but a regular mixer works too, or even a food processor, but it is a mess having to transfer the whole thing. When it has all turned into soup, I add cream, which of course makes the flavor all the creamier and yummier (*this is a step that can be skipped and if you do oil instead of butter in the beginning, you have a parve soup). At the end you taste it and add spice to make it just the way you want it.

pumpkin soup

We had leftover soup for lunch today, which was perfect for our prince who was home from school because he was not feeling well. I am hoping we are all just getting mild cases of colds and flus now in the beginning of the season, so to speak, and that this will make us immune for the rest of the winter. One can always hope. And plenty of soup and good rest should help it too!

Free IKEA-visit and New Garden-couch.

It has been a while since I last wrote a blog post. Here, anyway. And this is the only blog I have, so the other place I have written blog-posts is in my head. Like, – I was going to write about how much fun one could have without spending any money. Going flower-picking, or rather, picking wild herbs like rosemary or lavender, in our case. Or, going biking, if you already have the bikes, that is. Or just hanging out reading books or playing games. Or going to IKEA.

Fun 2 shekel IKEA ice-creams!

Fun 2 shekel IKEA ice-creams!

Yes, we did that the other day, when we had errands to do around the country, and one of them was something my husband had to do near IKEA, and the kids and I decided to wait for him in the nicely air-conditioned IKEA for about three hours! Without buying anything at all, other than cheap meals for the kids!! They had a GREAT time! We had so much time at every place, the playroom, the movie-place, the shop itself, the restaurant, – everywhere! The children said, – this is so much fun, it is like we LIVE at IKEA! ๐Ÿ™‚ And then they asked; – Imma, do we have to pay to get into IKEA??? – No, I answered, – normally we have to pay quite a bit to get OUT… hehe… ๐Ÿ˜‰

watching a movie at IKEA, while eating the ice cream.

watching a movie at IKEA, while enjoying the ice-creams. Nice life.

And, what I have looked forward to showing you is this new garden-couch or bench-thing that I made out of our old baby-bed!

garden couch

I just put it up with only one of the long sides, and the mattress placed high up, painted it white, sewed some new pillow-cases for it, and walla, – I have a whole new look on my terrace!!

my terrace

It made me SO happy, – and the whole thing was totally free! How satisfying! Reusing everything! (*By the way, if you want to do this yourself, also get some type of strengthening for the seating, because of course, most of us are heavier than babies… I found some pieces of wood that others had thrown away, that I just added on top of the support that was already there, and now it is nice and strong.)

The other night, just as we came home from gymnastics and baseball practice, we got some big drops of rain filled with dust, which equals mud, and we quickly brought our “new” garden furniture inside, and found that this garden couch works very well as a bench at the end of our dining room table too! How convenient!

garden couch inside

I even found another good use for the one side-piece of the bed that there was no use for here, but I will show you that in another post. Haven’t painted it white yet. It is such a blessing to be able to renew the look of one’s home by just using what one already has. Really makes me happy!

To be. To be alive. How wonderful!

To be. To be alive. How wonderful!

Summer has most definitely arrived in Israel, and we enjoy beautiful candle-lit evenings outside. Like, right now, I sit here on my new garden-couch. Candles and wine on the table in front of me. Nice Life.

Hamentashen

There is no doubt about it. Purim is in the air. And it is a happy, crazy type of atmosphere. Today the kids went to school in their pajamas. Every day this week they are dressing up in some type of different theme. Tomorrow they are going as someone from the movies. We have one Pippi Longstocking and one James Bond. Very different choices, very different kids.

Here at home we have costumes and masks and face-paint all over, so there is no forgetting that we are in the month of Adar, and that Purim is right around the corner. And, we are enjoying Oznei Haman, the Purim cookies maybe most commonly known as Hamentashen. Their Hebrew name, “Oznei Haman” literaly means “Haman’s Ears”, so that is what we are eating for treats these days…

oznei haman

I thought I’d share my recipe with you here, if you wanted to try them out yourselves. They are really pretty easy to make, but it is somewhat time-consuming as each one has to be made in several steps individually. Anyway, it is totally worth it. The homemade ones are so much better than the store bought ones, and just think of the lovely smell it spreads around the house!

My recipe is quite big, and makes about 150 cookies, which will come in handy, because you want to make sure to have plenty to fill your sweet Purim gifts for your neighbors and friends. But if you want to, you can just cut everything in half and make a smaller batch too. ๐Ÿ™‚

OZNEI HAMAN

Dough:

600 grams butter

300 grams sugar

3 eggs

the peel of two lemons

2 teaspoons vanilla

900 grams flour

1 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons baking powder

Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Then beat in the vanilla and the lemon peel. In the end fold in the flour, yeast and baking powder. (I never quite understood why the yeast is there, and you could probably skip it, but I have always added a little bit of it since the recipe asks for it.)

It is best to let the dough cool before shaping the cookies. Anything from an hour to overnight is good.

Poppy seed filling:

200 grams poppy seeds

the peel and juice of one lemon

raisins and chopped nuts

lots of good jam

some water

optional : sugar (I normally don’t add sugar, but I really put a LOT of jam.)

Cook the filling over low heat for about an hour. Taste and adjust along the way.

And then there is the option of filling them the way I did the ones in the photos here, – with Nutella. Simple, easy and delicious!

making Purim cookies in the midst of Adar-joy!

The way you make them, is to roll your cooled dough out flat on a floured surface. Stick out round shapes with a cup or something. Put a little bit of filling in the middle of each round, and fold them closed so they end up in the shape of a triangle in the end.ย 

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes at 180 degrees celsius.

oznei haman

ENJOY!!

Rosh Chodesh Adar

There is no moon to be seen in the sky these nights. We are at a new moon, which means a new month in the Jewish calendar. And this is not just any month, – it is the month of Adar! And as the popular song goes: Mi She Nichnas Adar, Marbim be Simcha! – When Adar begins, our joy increases!

Purim

What are we so joyful about in Adar? Most of it is probably linked to the holiday that is celebrated in the middle of Adar, – Purim, where we celebrate that the evil Haman did not succeed in carrying out his plan to kill our people. It is all written in the book of Esther, for those who need to be reminded of the details, it sure is quite a story!

The excitement in the house was great when we brought our “Purim-box” out of the storage-rooom yesterday. We have these types of boxes for all the holidays, and the kids (ok, me too!) just LOVE when we bring them in once a year. I wish you could hear the shouts of joy as they go through the content and are reminded of when they made that and who gave them that and so on and so on.

Purim

The Purim box has a lot of stuff related to dressing up, like face-paints and wigs and masks and that type of stuff. The truth is our kids like to dress up all year around, so we actually have a box of dress-up-clothes easily accessible in our home, but it all goes one step up around Purim. Good times!

Rosh Chodesh Adar, or rather that last day of Shvat, is also “Yom Ha Mishpacha” – “Family Day in Israel. It is what used to be “Mothers Day“, and in our modern and politically correct times has become ” Family Day”…. Either way, – it is all good. We are happy to celebrate family any day! The kids brought sweet gifts and cards, and my husband bought me a beautiful plant. I am one blessed mother, and I have so much to be thankful for!

making Purim cookies in the midst of Adar-joy!

And we went out and got what we needed for the kidsยดPurim costumes this year. Our boy is going to be dressed up as a cowboy, and our girl as the little mermaid. Cute ones! Pictures of this will come later, when the fine-polishing of their costumes is all done… ๐Ÿ˜‰ The photos in this post are from last yearยดs Purim, when they were dressed up as a pirate and Pippi Longstocking.

A very good Chodesh Adar to you all!

Another blessed Shabbat.

Here in Israel we are rejoicing over a very good start to our rain-season this year! This is the best beginning of the winter that we have had in over twenty years, as far as rain goes! This past Friday was one of those days when it just felt like the skies were open, and it just POURED big time! Thinking it was going to stay that way, I prepared hot chicken soup and hot apple cider for Shabbat, and we brought out all our puzzles to enjoy during this rainy Shabbat. And yes, Friday night was perfect in a warm home with comfort food and family fun with puzzles.

English: Wailing Wall from the Tankizyya

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But come Shabbat morning, and the weather had cleared up quite a bit. It was still very cold, but the wind and the rain had moved on. So, as we say in this family, – there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes, – we put on good, warm clothes and walked to the Western Wall, the Kotel. In the Women’s section, one could notice that a lot of the regulars had decided to stay home on this cold morning, so those of us who did make it out, were blessed to get the best seats, – all the way up close to the Wall!

Papers with prayers and wishes that have been ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I felt so privileged sitting there praying, looking up at the huge stones above me, and at the cracks next to me stuffed full of prayers written on notes. Those notes were soaked wet from all the rain that God has blessed us so richly with lately. I felt so deeply rich who got to sit right there and pray in anticipation:

ื•ืชื—ื–ื™ื ื” ืขื™ื ื™ื ื• ื‘ืฉื•ื‘ืš ืœืฆื™ื•ืŸ ื‘ืจื—ืžื™ื. ื‘ืจื•ืš ืืชื” ื”” ื”ืžื—ื–ื™ืจ ืฉื›ื™ื ืชื™ ืœืฆื™ื•ืŸ

May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in compassion. Blessed are You, HASHEM, Who restores His Presence to Zion.

Then later, we got to hear the whole Torah Portion read right there, including the very exciting words:ย I am Josef!ย Those words carry within them the anticipation of the coming of our Mashiach, and He will say:ย I am the Mashiach!

Today, Sunday, is the tenth of Tevet, a fast day in the Jewish year, and I just listened to a very inspiring lecture about this day by Shira Smiles. She said that we have to live every day in the anticipation of the coming of the Mashiach, of the awaiting redemption, which she called ืฆื™ืคื™ื™ืช ื™ืฉื•ืขื” –ย TZIPIAT YESHUAH! The expectation of Salvation, of Yeshuah!ย 

Wow! Isn’t it just so exciting to be alive??! To get to live and work towards such a wonderful hope! To get to be a part of something so much greater than ourselves!

For the love of candles!

candlesHanukkah may be over, but winter is most definitely still here, which means it is still a very good time to light candles, – lots of candles! I love candles! They just bring with them a special sort of relaxed atmosphere. There is something alive and beautiful about them. Somehow candles encourage us to enjoy the moment, don’t you think? And hello, – they literally LIGHT up our world a bit!

candlesI can be found to light candles even in the middle of the summer. Here in Israel we have warm and dark summer evenings, and to then sit outside in the garden with a few candles, is a very nice experience! But there is no competing with how perfect candles are in the cold and dark fall and winter! To me, they add to the quality of life! So, yes, I go through a fair bit of candles during a year. But I am not a person to waste stuff, and in this post, I want to show you what I do with the left-over wax from large candles like the big one featured in the pictures above. I keep the left over bits of wax in zip lock bags in my large candle drawer, and once a year I melt the wax to make new candles from it. (This activity is ideally done during Hanukkah, but this year we just weren’t able to fit it in, and anyway, it was nice to have something fun to do the day after Hanukkah too!)

By the way, this is a GREAT way to use broken Hanukkah-candles too! Anyone who has put candles in a few hanukkiot night after night, knows how easily they break, especially when children try to “help”.

So, step one, – collect all your left-over wax from old candles.

left-over wax from old candles

left-over wax from old candles

Step two, – prepare the moulds, cups or glasses that you would like to make your candles in. Glue a piece of wick to the bottom of the mould, and tie the other end to a stick on top that will keep it in place. (At this point I also added various flavors and smells to my candles, but in retrospect I think the oils would have mixed better had I added them straight to the melted wax.)

moulds prepared for candles

Step three, – put the wax in old empty cans in boiling water, to heat and melt.ย Be careful not to let the cans fall over and get any water in them. It is helpful to use a pot that just fits your cans, and stay nearby to help keep them upright.

melting wax

Step four, – pour your melted wax carefully into the prepared moulds. I didn’t get any pictures of this part, as I naturally needed both hands to pour… But I did get a photo of my children dipping candles into the colored can of wax, and thereby changing the color of their candles and giving them this handmade kind of look. (By the way, this is what I want to do to simple hanukkah candles before hanukkah next year! Writing it down here to hopefully help me not forget…)

candle-dipping

Here are my new and homemade candles at the end of the night:

homemade candles

It is such a satisfying thought that all this fun and beauty comes from stuff that could have easily ended up straight in the garbage! Now I am going to enjoy those candles without feeling that I have to save on them, – because they are bonus anyway! And some I will give away as gifts. I love to give something that I have made, – no worries that someone else will bring them the same thing, right?!

coffee candle

Here is a picture of our breakfast-candle:

breakfast candle

Fun stuff!!!