Thursday, December 23, 2010

My poor, abandoned blog

I don't know what to say.

I have no excuse.

I still write blog posts in my head. I still get inspired.

I just don't feel like putting it to the screen.

I've thought of bowing out gracefully, ala my old friend SuperRaizy.

But I don't want to let it go. I feel like I'll be back. Really.

I still read blogs. Occasionally comment.

But the actual writing--well you see what's happened.

When I started the blog, I committed, in my head to writing two posts a week, with a goal of ten a month. I just like nice round numbers that way. If you look up my stats, you'll see that's just what I did--until this past April, when I took a month off after my father passed away.

I wonder about that connection. It's been 8 months since he left. In my day-to-day life you would not know that I am in my year of mourning. There are certain things I won't do until the year is up, but those are mostly things you wouldn't notice. And yet, I've been meaning to write a post about my father, one with pictures, one that will show the world who didn't know him just how special a person he was. But I haven't been able to do that and maybe, just maybe that is why I pay minimal attention to Calling Baila.

Or maybe that's not it. Maybe I'm just to busy with all the other things in my life: work, TWO book clubs, my crocheting chug, pilates, walking all over town because my car died and, oh yeah, let's not forget those other four creatures that live in my home. (Oops, Sorry Ozzy, five creatures. Sheesh I hate it when you read over my shoulder).

Whatever it is, know this: I'm not throwing in the towel. I love this blog. If the posts are down so be it. I know I'll get back to it on some sort of regular basis and when I do, I hope you'll continue to stop in.

Because you guys are what make blogging so much fun.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where everybody knows your name

The fires that have raged through the Carmel Mountains and Forest area are apparently coming under control. This has been a devastating blow to us. Thousands of dunams destroyed, millions of trees, wildlife, homes, and of course the highest price paid, the lives of 41 men and women.

When I heard about the 40 victims on the bus filled with prison guards that was on its way to help evacuate a prison because the fire was getting closer, I knew something that every Israeli knew, and feared. In a country as tiny as ours 41 is a huge number. No doubt many people would know someone who was connected to one of those killed.

One of the men killed in the bus incident was from a nearby yishuv (suburb). When I got to work this morning, I found out that the man killed was the uncle of one of the children I work with. The child's father is sitting shiva for his brother, who died in a horrific way and I will go to pay my respects at some point during the week. The men and women on that bus came from all over the country, from all walks of life, Jewish and not. We are a country with barely six degrees of separation. Another man on that bus came from a Yishuv called Ginot Shomron. We have several friends who live there--very likely they know this person, a 32-year-old father of five.

I guess my point is the connectedness you feel here. In a country that you can cross in six hours by car across its length, and probably less than two across its width, its impossible not to feel it.

It was only a week ago that Isaac and I traveled with friends to Zichron Yaakov--a stone's throw from where the fire took place. I do not know the area well, but my kids have hiked there and friends tell me it was a beautiful area of Israel, where mountain and sea came together. Here's a picture I found of the area, before the fire:

I can't bare to show you a picture of after.

May the families of the fallen find comfort, may the injured heal quickly from their wounds, and may our charred land recover its beauty.

And, G-d, please send the rains we so desperately await.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Preventing pre-marital sex in religious teens/twenties and other assorted dating and marriage issues

There's an interesting discussion going at A Mother in Israel regarding a trend where fearful parents are promoting the young marriage of their children (young being 19-22 years old, presumably ages where these young men and women are not finished with army service or university, and likely not yet in some kind of profession).

My eldest recently turned 17 and although I am not losing sleep over the issue yet (I lose sleep over other things at this point), I know that it is not far off. Whereas a few years ago it seemed like I was constantly busy with bar and bat-mitzvah, recently I have been going to more and more weddings and with G-d's Help, I expect to attend more and more over the coming few years. I have a number of friends whose kids are of the age.

Here's my question about this trend: What exactly are parents fearful of? Are they afraid their children will turn out to be old maids? Are they afraid their young children may--gasp!--be tempted to engage in pre-marital sex? Are they afraid all the good matches will be spoken for?

But why are they not afraid of their children not being mature enough to handle living with another person? To making adult decisions regarding building a life together? To dealing with adult problems? To making a decent living? Why aren't they afraid that they will have to support their young, married children--and very likely, grandchildren--for the foreseeable future? Why aren't they afraid that if they support the first child to get married, they need to support all their siblings in their marriages as well? Why aren't they afraid that the well will run dry?

I am very afraid of those things. We live a nice life, Thank G-d, and are very grateful for it, but I certainly can't afford to support my kids completely when they begin their married lives.

While I am on the topic, I have something else to rant about. When Liat came home this summer she told me that her friends in America were talking about their upcoming yearbook pictures. She explained that most of her friends were going to get their make-up done professionally, and that some of them were even planning on photoshopping their pictures because these pictures were going to be looked at by matchmakers; some would even go on their shidduch(matchmaking) resumes.

What is a shidduch resume you want to know? Well apparently it is a piece of paper that lists all of the essential items necessary to get married. First, from what I understand, the girl (through a matchmaker) sends the boy's family her resume. After the boys parents check things out and accept one, they send their son's resume to girl's family. If things check out there, the young people can meet for a date. Sometimes phone dates are recommended (the woman I know told me her son had one phone date that was limited to 45 minutes). The things on the resume are not things like "I enjoy romantic walks along the beach at sunset", but rather the yeshivas the kids went to, both in high school and for their year in Israel. I imagine physical attributes are included, perhaps stuff about the parents of the prospective couple. The woman I spoke to told me her son's resume was rejected several times because he stated that he may someday want to live in Israel.

I hope this trend doesn't come to Israel. It makes me want to throw up a little bit in my mouth.

Here's what I propose: how about letting our kids be kids? Why not let them hang out together in groups, go to movies, to the pizza place, bowling? When they get to university, why can't they hang out at the cafeteria together, laughing and teasing each other and setting each other up with their brothers and sisters? I'm talking about religious kids. Many of them will wait until they get married to have sex, simply because they were brought up that way. Some won't, it's true. But do we really all believe that no religious teenagers are having sex because we are tightly controlling when and with whom they get married?


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Some thoughts on my trip back to the old country

When I got off the plane at at Newark Airport in New Jersey, I thought to myself, "whoa, the air conditioning is really strong here", only to realize that I was outdoors, and that cool, crisp feeling was in fact, the weather. As Mazi and I chattered in the car on the way to her house, I could not help but notice the fall foliage the Northeastern USA is known for. The trees were beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red; it was spectacular scenery to start my trip with.

The old country is indeed beautiful.

It was a great trip. I spent quality time with my mother and siblings, watched my nephews run the whole tefilah (prayer service) for their bar-mitzvah and bonded with my niece over some shopping at Macy*s. I shopped Target, Walmart, Nike, Joyce Leslie, Kohl's, Macy*s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Costco,and Art Brown (for the beloved pen afficionado in my life). I saw my Venezuelan nephew and spent a day traipsing all over Manhattan. I laughed with old friends, my "people", picking up right where we left off three years ago. I ate at restaurants, walked, walked and walked more. I bumped into Ben the mailman, who not only remembered my name, but my girl's names as well.

By Wednesday, I started to think about returning home. Home to where my children were. Home to Isaac.

By Thursday, I was sick of shopping.

By Sunday, I was counting down the hours to get on that plane.

I think that ultimately you can go home again. At least for a brief time. I love that place and it will always be the home of my past, the home I was born in, the home that helped shape the person I am today.

But now I live in a place that I chose. And you know what?

It's good to be home.

(Special thanks to Mazi and Sarah who insisted I make myself comfortable in their beautiful homes. Which I totally did, and is partially the reason I gained two pounds on this trip).

Friday, October 29, 2010

In honor of Coffee and Chemo

I've read RivkA's blog almost from the beginning. She never failed to inspire with her humor, her honesty, her parenting skills, her love of Israel, her love of her husband and children, and her courage.

As a cancer survivor, I very much related to her battle. As the months and years passed I, and so many others, became increasingly inspired by RivkA. Through her brutal treatment she was determined to live her life. She continued to work, to play, to do the things she loved. She went camping with her kids only two months ago, driving them up North and spending two days in a tent with them.

I can't say that I knew RivkA personally. We met at the Blogger's conventions, where I was charmed by her humor and we had some great conversations. We commented on each other's blogs and occasionally e-mailed each other with more personal questions or observations. And yet, I considered her to be a friend.

Some of my friends think this whole blogging relationship is just plain weird. They wonder why I talk to "strangers". They don't quite understand why I am so saddened by a death of someone who, in their mind, I barely knew. It's hard to explain to you non-bloggers. I don't quite understand it myself. But after blogging for some time, we find that the lines of our real and blogging lives somehow blur. RivkA wrote so honestly about her disease and her struggle that I feel like I did know her. I will miss her--I checked her blog daily, even before the last week. She posted almost everyday.

I wish I had the words to comfort RivkA's family. I wonder if they understand that besides all the friends they actually know, there are so many more that loved RivkA, that were inspired by her and share in the pain of her loss.

RivkA, your legacy lives in your words. You will stay on my blogroll for a long time to come and I will remember you always.

May your family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hey! How come I didn't get the memo?

Well, I've arrived here in America and while waiting for my sister, I've been doing what I do best--tooling around the internet. You know, catching up on my favorite blogs, facebooking, watching terrible TV.

And suddenly I see other bloggers reviewing Susie Fishbein's new cookbook. Not just one: Check out Mom, Hadassah, Batya and Miriyummy (a blogger I've just started reading and have to put on my blogroll).

What gives, guys? A free cookbook?

Sign me up.

I know Susie Fishbein. Well, not personally, but I have most of her cookbooks. She once did a cooking presentation at my friend Laura's house for our shul sisterhood, which was great fun, and tasty, too. Her first cookbook, The Kosher Palette was done as a fundraiser for Kushner High School in New Jersey; it was the first fundraiser kosher cookbook that didn't look like a sad eighth grade yearbook production. It was beautifully photographed, with great recipes, anecdotes and how-tos. It was a "foodie" cookbook and my copy is dog-eared with use.

It's interesting to me that Susie is using bloggers to market her latest cookbook. I feel like I'm seeing it everywhere. I've seen her on facebook and Twitter as well. Ah, the power of social media.

Maybe I'll go out and actually pick up a copy while I'm here.

Unless, (cough, cough), someone out there notices this free publicity.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Coming to America

Six months ago I dropped everything on Chol HaMoed Pesach (the middle of Passover) and ran to America to see my father who was extremely ill. That was the first time I had been back in the country of my birth since we moved to Israel three years ago. Because of the circumstances, I did not fully absorb the fact of being back in America, in New York City, the city I grew up in. I did take breaks from my father's bedside to wander the streets of Manhattan. It was springtime, the air was beautiful and crisp, the daffodils were everywhere and the tulips were pushing through thte softening earth. But I didn't care about where I was because I was busy being with my father for what turned out to be his last days....

Tomorrow night, I return. The reasons this time are bittersweet. First, I get to attend the bar-mitzvah of my nephews (2/3 of a triplet set) and, a week later I will attend the unveiling of my father's gravestone.

When I first made Aliya, I was once admonished not to call America, or New York "home". But, Israel, much as I loved her, did not seem like home in those first months. Everything was strange, from the house where we lived, to the products in the supermarket, to the way people drive here. Home was America, New York, Cedarhurst, in a little beige dutch colonial with green shutters. Home was shul on Edward Ave., friends surrounding me for a five-mile radius and work at 177. Home was seeing my mother, and my father and my siblings on a regular basis.

Now things have shifted. We've bought a home here. We are speaking the language. We have jobs here. And friends surrounding us for a five-mile radius. We are happy to be here, living as Jews in a Jewish country.

But I would be lying if I told you I didn't miss America.

Mostly, I miss my people, but I miss other things, too. I miss the changing seasons and pedicures. I miss being the one to make the joke at meetings (but I'm getting closer, I can feel it). I am looking forward to my visit, to hitting the shops and the restaurants and to seeing my people. I wonder how I'll feel wandering around my old neighborhood. Will Sarge at the candy store remember me? Have the stores changed? Will it feel like home?

For 40+ years New York was my home. Not to be morbid or anything, but there's a good chance that at the end, my years there will outnumber my years here (with G-d's help, NOT!). Living in America shaped who I am and what I think. She will always be a part of me.

Can home be two places?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Family meeting, Part II

I know all 5 of you have been waiting with bated breath to see what happened on no TV/computer day, but there really is not much to tell.

Were you expecting all peace, love, joy and harmony? Hours spent productively: doing homework, studying, cleaning rooms, helping mom put dinner together, engaging in stimulating conversation?

Not quite.

But I'll tell you this: At one point my kids were sitting at the table doing homework and talking to each other and laughing together. At another time, I caught a child reading a book. My biggest kid took a snooze on his Archie Bunker recliner. (We'll have to work on that one).

No, it was not all peace and love and joy and harmony, but you know what? It was quiet. It was relaxed, not rushed. It was bedtime at a decent hour for all of us. It was enjoyable. This was last Sunday, and in the following days, I was very firm about limiting the computer/TV time. And I found that it was a quiet, productive week for all of us.

We did have to do some tweaking with the schedule. Liat requested we move the day from Sunday, because she is still in touch with friends in America and that is the only day she can video-skype with them. So this week we're trying Monday--tomorrow. I am determined to see this through. I'll keep the five of you posted every now and then.

For those of you that wanted to know who said what in the last post, I've updated it. You can check it here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Family meeting, Part I

On Thursday night when the holiday of Simchat Torah was over, I called a family meeting.

The inhabitants at Casa Baila understand that these meetings are not usually good news. We are not the type of family that has regular formal meetings. The last one we had took place almost two years ago when Isaac lost his job and we had to tell the kids about the new austerity plan. No shopping, no eating out, no movies, stuff like that. They loved that meeting.

Now the kids know that, Thank G-d, things are good as far as work goes, but they took their places very suspiciously, wondering what I was up to now. Isaac himself was raising an eyebrow, as meeting was called unilaterally.

Here's the thing: Our family has become very addicted to the internet. For myself it's facebook, blogging (okay, maybe I'm not writing quite as often, but I'm still reading. Alot.) and downloading streaming TV shows. The kids are also watching TV online and facebooking. Isaac says he's working, but to be frank, I don't believe him. At least not all the time. So it's conceivable that on a given night you'll walk into the house and find Isaac and I on our lap tops, Liat holed up in her room on her computer that she bought with bat-mitzvah money, and Tali and Orli arguing over who's turn it is to get on (the loser watches TV).

A common sight for the modern family. But this is my family, and it's not pretty.

Now I've imposed some limits on all this. When there is school, the kids are limited to an hour of internet. But when there's no school (and we've just come off a three month vacation, with a week of school thrown in somewhere at the beginning of September) the number of hours spent in a sitting position is just mind-numbing.

I don't like it for myself. I don't like it for my kids. And I don't like it for my family.

So I started my meeting and told them how I felt. And I proposed this: one day a week (BESIDES Shabbat), we were going to be a completely computer- and television-free family. I didn't really care which day, but I told them this was a fait accompli.

I know you're as surprised as I was that the troops didn't jump up for joy and thank me for saving our family. Nope, they weren't grateful at all. Here are some of the reactions I got (I think it'd be a fun exercise to match the comment to the person who said it, for those of you who really know my kids), and my responses:

"I guess I'll be well-rested 'cuz I'll be going to sleep at 3:30 [when said-person gets home from school]" (I think you'll find things to do). [Orli]

"Look, if I need to do school work on the computer that's going to be a problem". (Not a problem, there will be special dispensation for school work, but understand that the work will be closely monitored). [Liat]

"Hey, I need to work" (Then stay at the office until you're done. One night a week you will come home to your family and be with us, not working on the computer). [Isaac]

"Does this mean we'll go out to eat at Burger's Bar, you know for the family to be together?". (No it means we will have to find ways to fill our time that are more productive. If it means doing something together like going for a walk or a swim, that would be great). [Tali]

No, the troops were not happy or grateful. But I felt I had to do something. I've thought about more strict restrictions--getting rid of the TV and not allowing them to use the computer for the internet at all, or putting some blocking software in. The fact is, I'm not willing to do that at this point, but felt I had to do something.

We chose Sunday, and yesterday was our first day without internet or TV.

I'm going to tell you how it went--in my next post.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

And this is the blessing

I was struck today by several thoughts as I listened to the last Torah portion of the year. וזאת הברכה (V'zot Habracha)--"And this is the blessing". Moses, before he takes leave of his people, the Jewish nation, blesses each of the 12 tribes according to its national responsibilities and individual greatness.*

I was struck by the women in this tefillah (prayer) group. These are women who want to express their devotion to G-d and take the initiative to do something about it in a halachically respectful way.

I was struck by the last, and then the first portion of the Torah. After we got to the end, two women rolled the entire scroll back to the first portion (Bereishit-Genesis), which was also partially read. This is the symbolism of our cyclical lives, how the Torah never ends, it just goes on year to year, generation to generation. Long after we are all gone, this tradition will continue; there is comfort in that thought.

And finally, I was struck by Moses himself. At the very end of the portion, G-d takes Moses to Mount Nebo and shows him all of Israel.

ויאמר ה' אליו זאת הארץ אשר נשבעתי לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב לאמר לזרעך אתננה הראיתיך בעיניך ושמה לא תעבר

And G-d said to him, This is the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, saying, I will give it to your offspring. I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over to there.

All Moses wants is to make Aliya, to get to the promised land. He was the greatest prophet to ever live and for one seemingly small transgression he is given this huge punishment. I know there are many reasons, explanations, midrashim etc. of why Moses was not allowed into Eretz Yisrael. Whatever the explanation, it's one of those things I just can't make sense of--the punishment is just so much greater than the crime. And so every year when I hear this, I shed a tear for Moses for not being allowed to fulfill the one thing he always dreamed of; and am reminded of how priviledged I am because I was.

*(source: Artscroll Tanach, Stone edition)

Saturday, September 11, 2010


It's hard to believe that 9 years have passed since that black, horrible day. If I close my eyes I can transport myself back to that time, to the fear and the silence and the tears.

It ushered in an era that I don't think is over yet. And though the horrific events of the day briefly united us as a nation, ultimately it has torn us apart. How does America deal with terrorism? Do we react with force or do we try to engage our enemies? These political differences have created an ever-widening rift in the country of my birth. Indeed, these differences divide the people of Israel as well.

There are no easy answers to these questions. But just for today, I am taking the time to remember and to honor the victims, those who died trying to save them and all of the rest of the amazing people who came out to rebuild my broken city, as well as those who died at the pentagon and on Flight 93.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A new table, a new year and new gas masks

I vaguely remember getting up this morning, getting myself and everyone ready for school and work. Then work, where I thought I worked hard, but turned out to be the easiest part of the day. After that I went to visit a friend who was just released from the hospital following some surgery. Two more stops at two different supermarkets to find fish heads (I like the real thing on my Rosh Hashana table. It totally grosses the kids out).

Then Isaac calls me. "The table's going to be delivered between 2 and 4 PM". We had ordered a dining room set eons ago and Isaac's been calling the store daily to nag them to get it to us before the upcoming holiday (we were told it was coming three weeks ago). Great, I said. I'll head home (it was already after 2).

But first I squeezed in a visit to pick up gas masks for the entire family. That was fun. I also made a trip to the money changer, who for no apparent reason was closed. I got home at 3 PM to find no new table anywhere.

I baked a Better-than-Drakes Coffee cake, prepped my meat dish, marinated a whole chicken, made Mimi's stuffed turkey breast. Carol dropped by and chatted while I contined cooking. I went to get my haircut, where I bumped into my friend Lisa. She must live at Dani Mor, she's always there when I get my haircut and I only go twice a year. Come to think of it her hair always looks great.

I returned home to find no new table. It was now 6 PM.

I cooked the Carrots for Mimi's Morrocan Carrot Salad (not as successful as the turkey), made the sauce for the Morrocan fish we're having on Thursday, and set up the pumpkin soup.

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law arrived and I chit-chatted a bit with them, but then went back to work in the kitchen.

I called some family and friends in the states to wish them the best for the new year.

Still no table.

I blended the pumpkin soup with my handy-dandy immersion blender, got pumpkin soup all over my shirt, an opportune time for three men to show up with my table.

I really like the table. Of course I can't be 100 percent sure that it's the one I ordered because it's been so long I really don't remember any more.


Here's hoping that you and yours have many happy gatherings around your tables this year. That all gas masks gather dust, or dare I say it--are returned because peace reigns in the world (hey, a girl can dream).

And, always in my heart and prayers: Gilad. I hope this is the year you come home.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Three years and counting

I couldn't let the day go by without acknowledging it. Today we celebrated our third anniversary here.

I guess it says something that I thought about letting the day going by without a post. We're old hat here. "Vatikim", they call us--old timers. And when I look at my friends who just arrived last month and other friends who arrived less than two weeks ago I feel a little bit of that. I can answer their questions. Understand thier experiences. I know the joy and pride they are feeling now and can almost predict some of the other, more complicated emotions they are going to feel as they continue their journey.

And I hope they arrive at the moment I am enjoying now. The moment when it seems so natural to be here that they almost--but not quite--forget that the date is the anniversary of one of the extraordinary events of their lives.

As a family, we've gone through much. I still feel that my kids are my heroes. Liat, finding her place here and proving that teens can make Aliya (move to Israel)and maintain their academic excellence. Tali, who has thrived and matured and has an amazing circle of friends. And Orli, who you'd think was Israeli if you saw her hanging out.

I'm glad I didn't just let the day go by. I'm proud of what we've all accomplished here.

And I'm looking forward to more.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Woof! A report from Ozzy the wonderdog

Finally,it's my turn! That woman, my so-called mom, never gets off the darn computer. I mean, I know I don't have opposable thumbs, but these paws manage. You'd think she'd let me have my say every now and then. Well here I am, about to tell you the real story.

The past few weeks have been very, very difficult for me. First, they start bringing out boxes, which made me quite nervous. The boxes just sat there for a long time and nothing happened, so I start to relax. But every so often one of the big ones says to the other, "honey we really need to start packing", and the other one says, "Yeah, we should. Tomorrow". (You have never seen procrastinators like these people. How they ever get anything done at all is beyond me).

One day, a couple of weeks ago my mom, who you call Baila, starts to put things in boxes. She takes lots of breaks and mutters stuff under her breath. I don't quite understand what she's saying, but it doesn't sound very nice. As she's packing, I'm getting more and more panicky. This is bringing up some very bad memories.

We've been through this before.

A long time ago they started putting stuff in boxes. Then one day some people came and took everything away. Then they stuck me in my crate for 12 hours and put me a place that was really loud with no food and some ice. I was petrified. Still, I managed to hold it in for the whole trip. Really. I wasn't going to go where I sleep! A dog has got to have some standards. When they finally let me out, I found myself in a new place. There were no squirrels to chase and everyone talked funny. I was depressed for weeks, but then I realized how nice this place is. I learned the language, made some friends and I was feeling pretty good. And there are way more cats here than there were squirrels in that other place.

But now, again with the boxes. And slowly, but surely, they started to fill them up. Mom talked to me. "Ozzy," she said, "I don't want you to be surprised, so I gotta tell you we're moving. It's not like last time, we're just moving a few blocks away. There'll be some changes for you, but I think you'll like it there. I'm sure you'll see lots of cats there, too." All I really heard was "Ozzy, blah, blah, blah, blah, cats, blah, blah, blah". But I gave her that look where I look like I really understood what the heck she was talking about and she seemed satisfied.

The big day came and these big guys with long arms started to shlep things out of my house. They put me in the cage so I wouldn't be in the way. How insulting. Me in the way. These people are carting things out of my house and I'm the one in the way. At some point mom took me over to Monty's house. As she walked me there she talked to me again.

"Ozzy", she said, "Today is the day we're moving to that new place I told you about. You're going to spend the day at Monty's and tonight Abba and I will pick you up".

Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. "I'll show you", I thought to myself. I had a plan.

I trotted into Monty's house, went over to the carpet and promptly marked my territory. I NEVER do that in a house. NEVER. But desperate times call for desperate measures. My mom was really embarrassed and apologized to Ilana a thousand times. I had her right where I wanted her!

About Monty: We have an agreement. His mom, Ilana, loves me to pieces. She is always scrinching my neck and cooing with me. I find her to be kind of hot. But everytime she does that Monty lumbers over. He's jealous and then Ilana always says, "Oh, Monty, I love you best". Annoys the hell out of me. Finally, I just told Monty that I will tolerate him but I don't have to be friends with him just because our moms are friends. He got mad and I was kind of afraid because he really is so much bigger than me. But I stood my ground and now when we see each other, which is pretty often, we just ignore each other which is just fine with me.

It was a pretty miserable day with Monty. Ilana and all the others left us alone. I ate all of Monty's food, so that made me happy. I would have peed a couple more times on the carpet but it's not worth it if noone's around to see it.

When my people came to get me, they took me to this new place. Very nice, but lots of boxes everywhere and I don't like that at all. I found a corner and lay there. My new plan was to lay there all the time and look depressed so we could go back to the other place.

That plan didn't work quite as well. We're still here. There are alot less boxes, so I'm feeling a little better. There's a field down the block where they take me to, so I get to run around and have even chased a cat or two there. (I never seem to catch them, but it's the thrill of the chase I enjoy). Up at the new house there don't seem to be that many cats, but there are lots of pigeons. We're on top of a hill and I see them fly by all the time. The other day one even flew into the house. Boy, did I have fun barking at it. Mom wasn't as thrilled about that one as I was.

I guess I'm settling into this place. Change is difficult, but it happens in life. You learn to go with the flow, if you know what I mean. It makes me a better person dog.

Uh-oh, there she comes again. She wants her computer back. I'm glad I got a little time in to tell you what's been going on here at Casa Baila. Don't worry about me, I'll be okay.

And I bet Monty never posted on anyone's blog.

There we are looking like best buds. But you know the truth.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The view from here

Last week we moved from the rental we have been living in since we made Aliya to the apartment we bought here in Israel.

Isaac and I feel so blessed that we are able to own a little piece of this land of ours. As a constant reminder of our blessing, I get to look at this all the time:

With G-d's help we look forward to making many happy memories in our new home with family, new friends and old, for a long time to come.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Closer to perfect

For me, the most difficult thing about making this move to Israel is leaving the people I love behind. At first it was a huge void for me, a mourning of sorts. Slowly, the void turned into a little ache that I could wrap up neatly and tuck away. Every now and then (as in true mourning I now know) the ache rises to the surface.

It could be when I see someone on the street that bears a striking resemblance to someone I miss.

It could be a wedding I missed.

It could be followed by a visit which invariably comes to an end.

Sometimes when someone from America asks me how my Aliya is going, I answer, "if you were here, it would be perfect."

You know the challenges we've had here: the cultural and linguistic difficulties, the lice, watching my kids struggle, financial issues, the heat (Oh G-d, the heat). And yet, the feeling of accomplishing something I dreamed of for so long makes me unbelievably proud. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I will always have this.

Still, I miss my people. If they would all come here, life for me, would be as perfect as it could possibly be. Sure I joke about missing Target and good pedicures. And I would miss the places, but if the people were here, I think I'd miss them alot less.

Tomorrow, I get just a bit closer to perfect. I've known Carol and Stuart for over 25 years. You know the kind of friends they are, because I know you all have friends like this--the ones that drop everything for you before you even know you needed them to do it.

A story about Carol and me: We were both thrilled when we learned we were due with what turned out to be our youngest kids at the same time. Throughout the pregnancy we made plans as to what we were going to do when we started out maternity leave, before the babies actually arrived. We decided we would go see the first showing of Harrison Ford's new flick Air Force One. We must have also planned lunch, although I don't specifically remember that. Of course, on the first day of our leave I went into labor. I called Carol from the labor room to let her know. As soon as she picked up the phone, she suspiciously asked, "Are those beeping sounds [from one monitor or another] what I think they are? I will be very annoyed if you're canceling our date!"

Tomorrow, Stuart and Carol and their kids, Adina, Ilan, Gilad and Dafna (born three days after Orli) will step off that plane into the blazing Israeli sun. Like us, they've dreamed and talked about this day for years. Like us, they face many challenges as they settle into their lives. They will probably be dazed and exhausted. They will have days when they will have serious doubts about their decision. But like us, they have a clear vision of what they are doing and why. Tomorrow, the Katzes will have made it to the Holy Land.

And my life will be one step closer to perfect.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My weird summer

Liat is away in America. She's having a great time there, although I'm glad to hear she misses Israel.

Tali just left for camp for two weeks, after working at a "kaytana" (day camp). Now Orli's taking a two-week stint there. Orli has loads of friends in town and is busy with them and with Bnei Akiva, her youth group.

Last year, I'd get home from work, settle in a bit and we'd be off to the beach by 3 or 4 and stay there till dark.

This year my kids don't seem to need me to take them any more. They are managing on their own, thank you very much.

It's every parent's dream, huh? But I'm finding it a bit...disconcerting. Maybe even lonely.

It's not that I don't have what to do, or have my own peers who have similar schedules; it's just that--I kind of like hanging out with my girls. (Except for shopping. That drives me nuts).

The empty nest lurks...


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ORLI, WHO IS OFFICIALLY A TEENAGER TODAY!!! (Although who are we kidding, she's been behaving like one since she turned three).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Here's a really useful cooking tip

If the recipe you're working with calls for a jalapeno pepper, DO NOT think "That doesn't look very hot", and proceed to put one of the little seeds on your tongue. Trust me on this one.

(Yes, I did.)

Now that we got that out of the way, here's Abuelita's Eggplant Spread.

1 large eggplant
1 large onion
1 red pepper
1 hot pepper (the long green one was hot enough)
2 TBS. tomato paste
2-3 tsp. vinegar

Peel and cube the eggplant, salt it and put in a colander until it "cries"--liquid will drain out and the eggplant will be softer.

(I didn't rinse the eggplant, but I probably should have, it is a tiny drop on the salty side now).

Saute the eggplant in a bit of vegetable oil until it looks cooked. Abuelita (that's my mother-in-law) said to do it until it's "transparent", but I never could see through the eggplant, so at one point I said, "that's enough, you looked cooked".

Remove the eggplant and in the same pan saute the onion and the peppers without tasting any errant seeds.

When that's done, add the cooked eggplant, a bit of water, the tomato paste and the vinegar. Leave it on a low flame for a couple of minutes stirring frequently. (Or don't bother stirring it frequently, that's an annoying instruction).

It's a nice treat with crackers or to serve at the beginning of a meal with your chumus and other "salatim" (little salads that Israelis serve at practically every meal).

Now excuse me while I go ice my mouth.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A birthday, an interview and a mystery

I no longer live there, but I'd be remiss in not mentioning a very special birthday. America is 234 years old today and I pray that she will continue to stay strong. I am proud to be American--living in Israel does not negate that pride.

In other news, I was interviewed by Ilana-Davita. I love her blog and she has been on my blogroll from the beginning. She is doing a series on Israeli bloggers (now why didn't I think of that?) and I was honored to be included. You can read the interview here.

Finally a weird thing happened here at Casa Baila. We were away for Shabbat and when Isaac and I returned late Saturday night, we found that the glass table on the furniture was completely shattered. As in a gazillion pieces. Noone was home for the weekend, nothing else was disturbed, I didn't see a stone or anything near the table.

What do you think happened?

Ahh, and let me not forget--Haveil Havalim is up here. If you want to know what's happening around the Jewish blogosphere that should be your go-to place.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Can you miss someone you've never met?

It's June 25, 2010. That means Gilad Shalit has been held in captivity by Hamas terrorists for four years.

Here in Israel, I often hear a phrase spoken by a family member, mostly parents, to describe another family member; they will say about the person, "our ________ ". So for example, when a mother talks about her daugher Keren, she will often say "קרן שלנו" ["Keren shelanu"]--our Keren. There's something very poignant about that to me.

Me, I can't believe our Gilad has been gone four years.

There is another soldier, an air force pilot whose name is Ron Arad. Arad was captured in 1986, and aside from some correspondence in 1987, has not been heard from since.

That's 24 years.

While tooling around the blogosphere, I found this video on Lion of Zion's blog. The song is "Keshetavo"--"When you will come back". On that day, the singer says "נשיר ברון" [NaShir beron]--"We will sing with Ron". "Ron", Arad's first name, in Hebrew means joy.

I think the song is appropriate today, as we remember and pray for both Gilad and Ron.

May that day that we sing with Ron--and Gilad--come soon.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Summertime, summertime

It seems the hot weather is here to stay, and it's only going to get hotter. I think I'm learning to tolerate the heat better; still, the person who invented air conditioning should have won a Nobel Prize.

Of course in this weather, only the barest of shoes can be tolerated and we went sandal shopping (oh joy! you know how much I love shopping)* the other week. After two weeks the soles Orli's sandals were already splitting. After lamenting the poor quality (but still high prices) of shoes here, I stopped in the store on a lark to let them know. To my utter surprise the sweet girl there told me to bring them in, that the shoes in their store were under warranty.

How could they put such cr@#%py shoes under warranty? Never mind, I brought Orli back, she picked out another pair and we all walked away happy. I guess if I have to, I'll exchange the shoes every two weeks.

Tali chose open sandals with embellishments...

...while Orli liked the trendy gladiator style

And both come with a warranty! (Now I feel much better about the not-so-great quality)

For more summer pictures visit Robin's Summer Stock Sunday at Around the Island.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Is school over yet?

My younger two, Tali and Orli, attend the local Ulpana (girl's high school) here in Modi'in. Both of them are happy there, have lots of friends and are even learning a bit.

But this drives me insane.

School uniforms.

Now, I think school uniforms are fine. Certainly makes a mother's life easier and theoretically should cut down on the clothing budget.


The local ulpana's school uniform is a baseball jersey that comes in a variety of lovely and gruesome color combos with the school logo on the front and something else on the back of the shirt. It's not particularly flattering, but that probably is the point.

As you can imagine the girls just love wearing that uniform. Meaning they do everything they can to get out of it.

I insist they wear it, but I am met with resistance from....the ulpana itself.

As soon as the winter comes (which means, here in Modi'in you may need to don a light sweater), the kids are no longer required to wear them, because it's cold and they're wearing sweatshirts anyway.

Also, some teachers (like Orli's) are very strict about the uniform and others (like Tali's) aren't.

Finally, if you are tiny, big, skinny, fat, tall or short you may be excused from wearing the uniform because the shirt may not fit properly (which is such a load of...).

So I argue all the time with the kids about putting on their uniform and then drop them off at school listening to them say, "you see how many kids don't wear it".

When I ran into Orli's teacher the other day, she complained about Orli's lack of consistency. And I in turn complained about the school's lack of consistency (and felt much better after I did so, I might add). The teacher seemed just as frustrated as I was--because she knows she is strict about this and doesn't have the back-up of the school.

I mean if you have a rule, stick to it.

Which is what I'm doing now. Everyone wears their uniform, whether their teacher cares or not.

It's fun times in the morning here at Casa Baila.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What a way to make a livin'

Just some news from the work front.

I've now been 2+ years at my current place of work. I know how the place works, the politics. People know me and I feel comfortable there.

Professionally, I'm excited to say that the politicians have come to their senses and I will be receiving a license here in Israel. It should arrive within the next decade or so, but in the meantime I am working legally and can say my education, license and experience is recognized by the Ministry of Health.

I've been attending a Continuing Education course on Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) once weekly since January. The course was sponsored and completely paid for by my place of work. It was given by one of the top people in the field, worldwide, who lives here in little 'ol Israel. She has become a mentor of sorts. It was an amazing opportunity and I am very appreciative of it. It seems that after all these years of being a practising speech therapist, I am finally developing an area of expertise. I am debating taking this to a whole new level by getting even more training and then marketing myself to this niche here in Israel.

On the last day of the course I was asked to present an example of some treatment based on the theories we had been learning. It was to be presented to the other attendees as well the people in charge of organizing the course and the college through which some of the others got credit for. Of course I had to present in Hebrew. I was a nervouse wreck. I sped through the thing, knowing that had I presented in English I would have done a much better, thorough job. Still I got some Kol HaKavods [atta girl] and I just responded by saying thank you, rather than saying, "Oh but I was awful", which I was.

I guess that's the update. If any of you know anyone who needs some speech therapy in the Modi'in area, I'm your girl.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Be an informed person, like Danny

What did your teenager do today? One of mine practised Beatles' Songs on her new electric guitar. The other started packing up her room for our upcoming move. The third one went swimming with her friends. Good kids, all.

But Danny's parents must be really proud. Look what he did:

When Danny is asked by the media how he knows what happened (at about 3:38 minutes), he answered, "I'm an informed person".

You think you can no longer defend Israel? You can, if you are an informed person like this high school kid.

Monday, May 31, 2010

......and so the world condemns us. Again.

Though this is not a political blog, I can't help but comment on the events of today. I am aware of how the world perceives us and the truth is I am outraged by it. Today's tragedy was preceded by a clear intention to provoke and ambush the Israeli Navy; and resulted in the lynching of our soldiers.

Our army has a right to defend our country. Weapons smuggling into Gaza, run by Hamas, a terrorist organization, is not a secret. The Israelis told the people on that ship that their aid could be sent into Gaza after it was inspected. They refused. Here's a look at some of their "peace activists":

And this guy looks like a real humanitarian, no?

I received an e-mail from Rabbi Hershel Billet, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Woodmere, sent out to the community. I thought it described the situation quite well and he kindly allowed me to post it here:


As many of you may be aware, a major confrontation took place off Israel's coast
earlier today. We wanted to bring you the most up-to-date information from
JFNA's Israel office, for your background. We have summarized the major points
below. This is followed by additional facts and links to other important
materials on this incident.

* Early this morning (May 31), Israel Defense Forces naval forces
intercepted six ships attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

* The intercept took place after numerous warnings from Israel and the
Israel Navy that were issued prior to the action. The Israel Navy requested the
ships to redirect toward Ashdod where they would be
able to unload their cargo which would then be transferred to Gaza over land
after undergoing security inspections. The IDF stressed that the passengers
could then return to their point of departure on the same vessels.

* During the interception of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked
the IDF naval personnel with live gunfire as well as light weaponry including knives, crowbars and clubs. The demonstrators had clearly prepared weapons in advance for this specific purpose.

* According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to
break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent
activists holding pistols. These militants apparently grabbed the pistols from
IDF forces and opened fire on the soldiers.

* The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of reported aid to Gaza. Israel
provides 15,000 tons of aid weekly to Gaza.

* As a result of this life-threatening activity, naval forces employed
riot dispersal means, including, when they determined that their lives were in
immediate danger, live fire. According to initial reports, these events resulted
in over 10 deaths among the demonstrators and numerous injured.

* A number of Israeli naval personnel were injured, some from gunfire and
others from knives and crowbars. Two of the soldiers are moderately wounded and
the remainder sustained light injuries.

* All of the injured, Israelis and foreigners, are currently being
evacuated by a fleet of IDF helicopters to hospitals in Israel.

* Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that some of the participants
onboard the ships had planned a lynch-mob attack, using lethal force on the
boarding forces.

* The events are still unfolding. Israeli Naval commander, Vice Admiral
Eliezer Marom is overseeing the activities.

* In the coming hours, the ships will be directed to the Ashdod port,
while IDF naval forces will perform security checks in order to identify the
people on board the ships and their equipment.

* The IDF naval operation was carried out under orders from the political
leadership to halt the flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip and breaching the
naval blockade.

Other important facts:

* The provocateurs were organized by an Islamist organization that has
links to fundamentalist jihadi groups.

* The extremists brought small children on board knowing that they
intended to violate international maritime law.

* The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of what they said was aid.
Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week
to the people of Gaza.

* "We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats
of violence against us, they are going to have to forcefully stop us," said one
of the flotilla’s organizers.

* Using the Arabic term ‘intifada,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said
"We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies
across the whole world.

* Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said this week: "If the ships reach Gaza it
is a victory; if they are intercepted, it will be a victory too.

* Israel left Gaza in hopes of peace in 2005 and in return received more
than 10,000 rockets and terrorist attacks.

* Israel has said that it will deliver any humanitarian aid to Gaza, as it
does daily.

* No country would allow illegal entry of any vessel into their waters
without a security check.

* Earlier this week, Noam Shalit, father of Hamas-held Israeli soldier Gilad
Shalit, approached the flotilla's organizers asking them to take supplies to
Gilad. He was refused.

Just another day in the Holy Land.

(Oh, and yeah, Jameel is the one to go to for up-to-the-minute reporting as the situation continues to unfold).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ode to Ozzy

Those of you who know me, or have been reading for a while know about Ozzy, our wonder dog. What you may not be aware of is how Ozzy came to be a part of the family.

It was a dark and stormy nightIsaac and the girls always wanted a dog, but I resisted. It wasn't that I didn't like dogs on principle; I just knew that the girls would be to young to care for a dog and with Isaac's long work hours, the responsibility would fall on me. I didn't want to be forced to run home to walk the dog or to clean up after it's mess at home. So I firmly said no, time after time. I did agree, though to dogsit for some friends; I thought this was a nice compromise, where the girls would get the experience of having a pet and I knew said pet would be going home shortly.

All was well, I thought.

But it wasn't good enough for them.

They -- all of them, the three girls and my husband, did not stop asking, cajoling, needling, begging, demanding, beseeching me for a dog of their own.

Still I said no.

And then, in November, 2005 when Liat was diagnosed with her Hodgkin's, of course the issue was resolved. There was no way we were bringing a new pet into a house where someone was undergoing chemotherapy.

Several months went by, and thankfully, Liat's treatment went as expected. After chemotherapy, she began a course of radiation.

And during that time the pleading started up full force again. "No way", I said. I was exhausted and traumatized after our experience with childhood cancer. I didn't have the strength to even think about it.

But Liat didn't give up. She got on the internet and researched different breeds of dogs. She decided she wanted a westie and kept on telling me how good they were with children and whatever other things the breed had going for it. I paid her no attention.

The last day of Liat's radiation treatment came and of course we were all excited about it. Isaac was taking the day off to accompany her to the treatment. As was customary, he called me as soon as it was over to let me know it went okay, and to let me know they were on their way home.

"But first", he teased, "we're going to stop and buy a dog."

"Hah hah", I snickered. "Sure. Knock yourself out."

When I got home from work, Nadine's car wasn't in the driveway. "Strange", I thought. "Where could they be?" Liat was exhausted from the radiation and needed to be home resting. A few minutes later, Isaac and Liat pulled up in the borrowed car.

Liat walked in with a huge smile on her face, followed by Isaac, who looked like he was coming home from the hospital holding a newborn wrapped in a blankie. He was beaming even more than Liat.

"What the--?", I said. When I peaked in the blanket, I saw a snout and two [sweet] brown eyes looking up at me.

"Very funny", I murmured. "You took the neighbor's dog to play a trick on me. I'm laughing inside. Now take it back."

"No, honey, it's not a neighbor's dog, he's ours. Meet the newest member of our family." And he showed me the receipt from the pet store he had bought (which was, by the way, way more than we could afford).

I put my face in my hands. What had he done? I felt Liat looking at me, expectantly. "I can't do this, Isaac. Take it back. Take it back before Tali and Orli get home and fall in love. TAKE IT BACK!!!"

Liat started to cry. "Abba", she said. "You said Mommy wouldn't be mad. Let's take it back."

I left them and walked into the kitchen. I was angry, upset. What now? I heard Tali and Orli walking in, their squeals of delight washing over me.

I felt myself weakening.

Isaac walked into the kitchen.

"Please", he said. "This family has been through so much the past few months. Don't you think a dog would help the girls? He will add so much to this family."

I was gone. Totally manipulated. How do you say no to a child with cancer? To her sisters who could not help but feel like they were taking a backseat, much as we tried to pay attention to them? To a husband who had been a rock throughout it all?

You can't. Say no, that is.

"I won't walk him", I mumbled.

"No", said my husband.

"And I won't clean up after him."

"Absolutely not".

"And if he gets sick, we will not pay one red nickel for medical bills for him", I added.

Isaac didn't answer that. But he was smiling, and tearing up at the same time.

In the living room, the kids whooped it up. They had heard it all, and knew victory was theirs.

Yesterday, we celebrated four years since that day. Four years of recovery, of growing up and moving on, of a gratitude that I feel every day.

I can honestly say that Isaac was wrong. I have walked Ozzy, cleaned up after him, ran home to be there in time for him. That dog has chewed up my good leather gloves, several pairs of swimming goggles, eaten stuff out of the garbage can and ripped our leather sofa to shreds.

But for the most part, Isaac was right. Ozzy has been so good for us. He is always there for us. He has healed us. He loves us.

And I say this unapologetically: I love him, too.

Happy anniversary, Ozzy.

Nope, not a Westie, but a Shetland Sheepdog. Liat fell in love with him as soon as she saw him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Feels like June in New York City

In NYC, it was a rite of passage.

Every year, without fail, an enterprising young person would somehow manage to get a hold of the Regents Exams a few days before the test took place. This person would then begin selling the exam. Many kids too lazy to actually study would buy the answers and then spend days memorizing them or figuring out how to copy the answers onto a pencil or the bottom of their shoe. Stupid kids for several reasons. One, if they spent all that time studying, they'd probably do okay on the exam; and two, if they waited until the night before the test, they could get it for free. (Don't ask me how I know that).

The thing was it always seemed to be a Jewish kid, often from a Yeshiva that stole the exam. Really embarrassing.

Here in Israel, starting in the tenth grade, the kids take what are known as "bagrut". These exams are similar to what the regents are in New York, a standardized exam designed to make sure the kids are receiving an education worthy of them entering a university in the future (as far as I know, you need to have a Bagrut Diploma in order to even apply). The kids are under a great deal of pressure this time of year.

Liat, who is in the 11th grade, is in the throes of exam season and is scheduled to take the 4-point Math Bagrut (the Bagrut work in categories of 3 to 5 points) tomorrow afternoon. Last night she got a phone call from her friend: the 4-point bagrut had been leaked, and it was unclear if the test would be re-scheduled. Liat had spent several days studying and did not want the test pushed off.

Thankfully, the test will go on, as scheduled.

Of course, Liat and her friends are concerned that the new test will be deliberately be made harder as a kind of "punishment" to the kids. But I doubt it. Once you've seen one integral/differential/inferential/sine/cosine/whatever you've seen 'em all, no?

I'm not exactly sure who is responsible for the leaked Bagrut, but I imagine it's also someone Jewish. Which Israeli leader was it that dreamed of the day Israel would have its first robbery so that we would be a "normal" country? Does a leaked Bagrut fit with that vision?

Good luck to Liat and all her peers tomorrow and throughout Bagrut season.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I guess you'll have to save it for next year

I didn't get to post my famous cheesecake recipe before the Shavuot holiday and for this I truly apologize.

I got this recipe from Dena Feldman, a colleague of mine from way back when. I didn't even like cheesecake in those days because it always tasted so...crumbly. She swore to me that this is the creamiest cheesecake ever, and I tried it for my first Shavuot with Isaac. He loved it and we've had it every year since, except for once. That year I decided to make a low-fat cheesecake. After the holiday, Isaac begged me, "Please. We only eat cheesecake once a year. Can't we have the real thing?" And it's been the good stuff ever since.

Of course when I moved to Israel, I had to make adjustments. This

became this

and this

became this

The variety of cheese products here in Israel is amazing and in honor of the holiday new products are always introduced. These substitutes work great and we've of course continued our cheesecake tradition here. Only problem is, because the holiday is only one day here, there is usually a leftover piece for us to pick at...

Here is the recipe, in both American and Israeli amounts:

Honey graham crackers (petit-bars work fine here in Israel)
453 grams (16 oz.) cream cheese--trust me, use Tempt-tee in the US and Napolitan here in Israel
453 grams (16 oz.) sour cream
3 eggs
1 cup of sugar (divided in thirds)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 191 degrees (375 in the US)

Crumb cookies and press them into 8 or 9 inch (no I don't know the centimeters) springfoam pan.

Whip cream cheese and sour cream, well--NO LUMPS! Add one egg and 1/3 cup of sugar three times. Add vanilla extract and pour into pan.

Bake for thirty minutes and then turn oven off. Leave the cake for an hour, and DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.

My cake always cracks and I'm okay with that. I know there's a way to prevent it, but the cracks don't bother me, I rather like them. You can always cover the cake with strawberries or caramel if you want. I've tried baking it in a water bath, but it came out the same so its not worth the effort, if you ask me.

I know it's to late for Shavuot, but hey, you can eat cheesecake anytime, no?

I'm no longer in contact with Dena, but I'll always remember her fondly for giving me the best cheesecake recipe ever.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gotta be in it to win it

Two and a half years into our new life here in Israel, the "firsts" are fewer and further apart.

But today I had one.

When I first moved here, a cashier at the supermarket asked me if I was interested in a lottery ticket. "Sure," I answered, already counting my shekels, "how much?"

"Forty shekel", she answered.

"Forty shekel???", that's like ten dollars. There was no way I was going to pay that. My gambling days were over, I sadly thought....

And yet, the lottery here is a popular business. Lots and lots of people play, and there are stands all over the city. I can even hum the jingle of the radio commercial. Surely if it were that expensive, it wouldn't be so widespread.

So today, while shopping, Isaac and I stopped by a stand and asked how it works. Turns out it's very similar to the New York City lottery. All you is need is about 6shekel and a dream.

Wish us luck.

(This could be us in a couple of days).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

In the past month...

...The European economy has taken (another?) nosedive.

...all of a sudden everyone's worried about Israel and her nukes, rather than another unnamed country whose name starts with I and ends with N

...a terrorist event was thankfully averted in Times Square. And, oh yeah, surprise, surprise guesswhodunnit? ash cloud covered most of Europe, stranding thousands and causing the loss of bajillions of dollars to the airline industries. country commemorated Yom HaShoah V'HaGvurah (Holocaust Day), Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and celebrated Yom Ha'atzmaut.

...I have appreciated the love of my husband, my kids, my family, my old friends in the US and my new friends in Israel, in a way I haven't done in a long time.

...and I've missed blogging.

It's good to be back.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Taking some time

My father, Moshe ben Akiva and Devora Breindel passed away on 24 Nissan (April 8) at 2 a.m.

I was at his side and it was one of the most painful and astounding experiences of my life.

Judaism has its own specific laws and practices regarding mourning. Today, I entered the Shloshim period. As far as I can tell, there are no specific laws or recommendations about the use of Facebook or blogging during this period, but I have decided not to post until the Shloshim period is over. I need the time for reflection and recovery, to turn inward. The joy and interactions of my virtual world do not seem appropriate at this time.

Before I take leave, I wanted to thank you all for your support, good wishes and prayers for myself and my family at this time. It's a modern, hi-tech world, and I have received many "virtual shiva calls" through the blog, Facebook, e-mail and SMS. My friends enveloped me with their love as they met me at and then took me back to the airport, escorted me to the cemetery, fed me, came to visit me in New York and at home in Israel, cleaned my home, and shopped for me. I will always be grateful.

I have much to say and will be back after the Shloshim. In the meantime I wish you all the best of what life has to offer you: good health and all the time in the world with those you love.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Having my sandwich and eating it too

On Thursday of last week, I got the call that over the holiday my father had taken` a turn for the worse. I was lucky enough to speak to the doctor who was at my father’s bedside. He described my father’s symptoms, explaining that he was a “very, very sick man.” When he started to talk about intubation, I knew that I had to go.

I called our travel business friend Stuart, who put me on a 1 am flight to JFK. It was 11:30 PM. By midnight I was at Ben Gurion. I kept it together until I reached the check-in line. No one was there and when I ducked under the line separators the woman-who-asks-you-if-you-had-packed-a-bomb yelled at me. And I promptly burst into tears. She felt terrible and then told me (after asking me all those security questions) I could go right through. Which would have been helpful, except that I was the only one left checking in at that point.

It was an uneventful flight, thankfully. I wasn’t sure exactly what the plan was when I got to New York, but I thought I would take a taxi straight to the hospital and then figure the rest of it out. But when I got out, to my utter relief, my friends Nadine and Carol were there to greet me and help me sort out my plan for Shabbat. They took me to Nadine’s home where I showered while they bought food for me for Shabbat. Then I was driven to the hospital by Stuart.

Is there anything in the world as sweet as friendship?

When I finally got to see my father, after 2 ½ years, it was devastating. He was inert and barely stirred at the sound of my voice. He did not open his eyes. He was thankfully, not intubated, but was one step away from it. A doctor explained to me that since my father had not left any instructions as to what to do, and since neither had the next-of-kin (that would be my mother), that by default he would be intubated if the medical staff felt it was necessary to keep him alive. When I asked if there was any possibility of my father recovering from this illness, or if there was any way of knowing what his cognitive functioning was like, the doctor said he did not know yet. Some tests were being performed that could help answer those questions, but it could be some time before we had any results and my dad may require intubation first.

I spoke to my father’s Rav, who has been our family Rabbi all my life. He promised to get back to me with some answers. I knew that my mother, who never watches shows like Grey’s Anatomy, had no clue where to begin with all this, and that my father would have wanted rabbinical guidance.

I stayed with my father for several hours. I arranged to stay in an apartment maintained by the Satmar Bikur Cholim over Shabbat. I then went to take my stuff to the apartment, and get it ready for Shabbat. And when I returned to the hospital, the nurse told me my father had awakened and was speaking. The relief I felt was enormous.

Oh, he was still “very, very sick”. But when the nurse asked him who I was, he answered clearly, “my daughter”; and when she asked my name, he said, “Baila”. I cannot describe to you the joy this gave me. Now, no matter what the future holds, I know that my father knows that I dropped everything to see him.

It’s been a few days now. My father seems to be getting stronger. When the doctor asks him those are-you-oriented-questions, it goes something like this:

Sir, do you know where you are?

I’m in the hospital and I want to go home.

What year is it?


Who is here with you?


And I feel liked he aced the master exam.

It’s not easy or fun to keep vigil. As he gets stronger, he gets more demanding (“No, Daddy, you can’t have matzah”) and at times belligerent. He’s been in a bed for about 4 weeks now and I think he’s going stir-crazy.

I can’t say I’ve always been the best daughter in the world. But as I sit here, knowing I’m doing the right thing, hoping that it maybe starts to make up for who I’ve been, I can honestly say there is no place else I’d rather be.

(Update: I wrote this a few days ago, before I had internet access and could post it. In the interim, my father has taken a turn for the worse and is, in fact intubated. Your prayers would be appreciated. His hebrew name is Moshe ben Devora Breindel).

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vacation musings

G-d, I love vacation.

The seder turned out to be really fun. After a few tense-filled teenage/parent moments, everyone settled down to a good time. This year we had my sister visiting from the states, Abuelita (Isaac's mother, who usually does a large chunk of the cooking) and Marta and co. Marta's daughter brought some Pesach riddles to the seder and at lunch we had Charades and Taboo, courtesy of Tali and Liat. Both meals were really enhanced by these games. Food was great, too, and we are no longer starving.

Last night my sister did her own private seder as she observes two days of the holiday. That was a first for all of us. We did not sit with her, but I didn't turn the computer on until she was done. Liat did sit with her, but I'm not sure if it counts if she was reading the latest Jodi Picoult book. Orli did read the Mah Nishtana for her.

We have lots of fun activities planned for the intermediate days. Today we are going ice skating in Tel-Aviv, but until it's time to leave, I'm having a lazy day. House is clean, leftovers or matzah and cream cheese for dinner and I-am-lovin'-it!

What are you all up to over your vacation?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Here's a yummy, easy, one-bowl Passover recipe

Pesach Blondies, that I got from my friend Ruthie Sharon Z, who got it from our friend Sharon Z. Ruthie.:

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup regular sugar
4 eggs
1 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup potato starch

chocolate chips, as much as you can stand (I used the whole bag)

Mix it all together, fold in the chips, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and VOILA!

If you make them today it won't make it to the seder--just warning you.

Okay, mine don't exactly look like these....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Something cute I saw in the local paper yesterday

ועדת השמות העירונית דנה השבוע בבקשה חריגה לאחר שדיירי בניין מספר 9 ברחוב אב בשכונת הכרמים פנו אליהם בבקשה להחליף את שם הרחוב. לדבריהם הקונוטציה השלילית הנובעת מהקישור בין מספר הבניין לשם הרחוב פוגעת בהם. בוועדת השמות הוחלט ללכת לקראת התושבים ולהמליץ על שינוי השם לרחוב ט"ו באב.

The Modi'in Name Committee discussed an unusual request this week after the inhabitants of building # 9 at Av Street in the Carmim neighborhood asked them to change the name of their street. According to the inhabitants, the negative connotation between the number of the building and the name of the street is troublesome to them. It was decided by the committee to honor their request and to recommend changing the name of the street to "Tu B'Av".
(Source, here).

For those of you not understanding this, the residents who live at 9 Av street are uncomfortable with having an address commemorating the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, Tisha (9) B'Av. This is the anniversary of the day the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) was destroyed. Their request to change the name of the street was honored and it will be now be called Tu B'Av Street. Tu B'Av is the 15th day of the month of Av on the Jewish Calendar, and is a much happier day for us.

Items like that in the paper just tickle me.

Wishing you all a great week.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

When my pet name reduces me to tears

I received a phone call several days ago that my father had fallen and was taken to a local hospital.

My father has not been well for some time now. It's not a specific illness, but rather a general sense of non well-being. A touch of high-blood pressure here, a fall there, a heart thing somewhere else. Over the past, say 10 years, he has been hospitalized on a number of occasions, most of the time for a couple of days and always returning home and back into the fabric of his life with relative ease.

But this time, the phone calls have had more of an urgent tone to them. Thank G-d he is stable. But he is not recovering as quickly, isn't cooperating at the hospital and according to my mom and siblings is at times disoriented.

Herein lies the obvious dilemma for someone like me. Some who made the decision to move thousands of miles away from aging parents.

I guess it doesn't really matter at what age you move to Israel. Even if you are young and your parents are fine, eventually we all age. And if your parents haven't followed you to Israel at some point you will have to deal with their aging from a distance.

It's hard to watch from the sidelines. I am lucky I have siblings who are there who can advocate and care for my parents, and I know it must be harder for them. Maybe they even wish they lived thousands of miles away. They are figuring out ways to be with my father as much as possible as they navigate their own lives. With the holiday looming, this means two days of my father possibly being alone if he is not released--and it does not seem likely at this point that he will be...

All I can do from here is worry. And feel guilty. And try not to annoy my siblings by being a know-it-all from far away.

When this started, Isaac told me I should consider "hopping over there for a few days". But that is not so simple. I know some people have the resources to fly in and out for a couple of days to check things out, but we don't. That, and everything that needs to be done to get ready for Pesach. I have to decide if it's a true emergency, if it's imperative that I am there. There will likely come a time when it is, but I'm thinking this isn't it.

But when I spoke to him and he said, in a weak voice, "Hello, Bailkaleh" using the pet name of my childhood, I have to wonder if I'm making the wrong call.

Because you never know.

My father's name is Moshe Ben Devora. He could use your prayers.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Finally, swedish meatballs

Today, to celebrate our (18th! [bah]) anniversary, Isaac and I left the girls in the dust (literally; we had them sweep and do the sponga) and took a trip out to Rishon L'Tzion, which recently acquired the newest branch of Ikea.

(Sometimes I think Israel is looking more and more like a Long Island mall. Between Gap, H and M, Ikea, all that is missing is Old Navy and Target.)

The place is huge. Since Friday is Israel's Sunday, it was packed. This is after all, the time of year when people are busy cleaning their homes for Passover. This has nothing to do with being religious; the non-religious clean just as zealously as the religious. Everyone not only cleans, but paints, repairs, buys new towels and shower curtains and adds new touches to their homes, large and small in honor of the upcoming chag (holiday). And so we joined the horde of people converging on the store.

Ikea, as you may know, offers babysitting with a fun-and-saliva-and-other-bodily-excretions-filled giant ball pit. Unfortunately, lots of parents didn't take advantage of this so there was lots of whining from little ones as the big ones admired wooden hangers for 6 shekel a piece. Most of them didn't find it at all helpful when I suggested the service. Oh, well.

I enjoyed the models where they showed how you can fit a whole apartment worth of Ikea stuff into a home the size of 22, 35 or 55 square meters (230-600 square feet). Makes the place we bought look huge by comparison.

We didn't go for any serious buying. Isaac wanted a feather pillow to replace the one that is falling apart; he loves that pillow and stapled it together, but I refuse to go near it, as in change its pillowcase, because everytime I do, the feathers fly everywhere. He found one and is testing it out even as we speak. From the sound of it, I think he'll be happy with it.

But the highlight of the day was visiting the massive cafeteria and eating those KOSHER swedish meatballs. As Isaac and I sat there, reminiscing about the Plainview, LI and Elizabeth, NJ Ikeas we had visited in the past, we both felt amused at the self-satisfaction a little 'ol meatball eaten in an Israeli Ikea could bring.

Shabbat Shalom, have a great weekend!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tips for getting ready for the biggest, most annoying Jewish holiday of the year. That would be Pesach/Passover.

If you actually thought you were going to get that here you obviously are not a long-time reader.

I mean, seriously.

But there is a method to my Pesach-Prep madness. (And it is madness, trust me). A couple of weeks before the actual holiday (like yesterday, in this year's case) I figure out when the kitchen is going to be changed over from Chametz to Passover. I then work backwards. I'd give you the details, but to be honest, it's really not that effective.

One excellent thing that got us started this year: Isaac saw a vacuum cleaner on sale and bought it. When he came home, he immediatedly took it out of the box and spent hours vacuuming behind beds and sofas. Which is why I encourage him now to buy any home appliance he wants to.

I am clever enough to write a list every year at the end of the holiday of things I do and don't need to buy for the next year's holiday. (Gila, who inspired this post actually keeps all her lists and has a kind of time capsule of all her previous Passovers). I don't have lists for previous years, but the list contains things like, "Buy another pan for dairy" and "Don't need another turkey baster, you already have three". One memorable year, I think it was after 9/11 and I thought the world's end was imminent (I still do, actually), I titled the list "Pesach, 2003. If we make it till then."

Back to the list, delivered to you exactly as I wrote it last year:

Pesach 2010, Be'ezrat Hashem (G-d willing--I see I'm still not taking chances)

Need: 1 sharp knife for dairy
1 measuring cup
a milk pitcher
(our milk comes in bags, not containers)
ONLY 1 potatoe starch
2 bags of ground nuts
3 containers of oil
3-4 bags of matzoh meal.


(uhm, yeah, we do. We broke all our chametz glasses early this year and had to take the Pesach ones down).
wine glasses. You buy them every freaking year.
sucra-lite yellow poison packets for coffee.
cake meal
alumininum to cover sink.

I helpfully added this to myself:

Baila, don't be such a dumba** next year and read the list BEFORE you shop.

And on the side, an addition from Orli:

Don't forget to buy Orli lots and lot of clothes for Pesach.

Which reminds me how much I hate taking my girls shopping.

What's on your list?

(If you really need some Passover tips, you'd do better, here).

Yachdus is hosting Haveil Havalim here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What's been playing on the radio

As a Shabbat/weekend present, I'm leaving you all with this song that's been in my head. Orli and her friends love this guy. Apparently my taste in music is the same as pre-teenage girls. Sophisticated, I know.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Happy birthday to moi

If your a blogger, you probably understand this:

You'll be driving somewhere, or sitting on a bus or train, or laying in bed, when all of a sudden an idea for a post comes to you. You start writing the post in your head, sometimes even finishing it.

The problem is, of course, when you sit down at your computer and try to access that information stuck in your brain.

I had a birthday today and I had a post stored up there somewhere in the gray matter that was both witty, yet bittersweet, poetic yet sensible.

But then our internet went down. As in, kaput, a problem with the line somewhere outside that not even Isaac could fix. And with the internet being down, that meant my American phone line was down.

And now I don't remember that great post that was in my head.

I do have to admit that the numbers are starting to feel big. For this I'm grateful, truly I am. I just wish I still had that young, dewy look.

Several years ago, while still in the US, my madrich (counselor) from my year in Israel happened to be in town and called to say hello. He asked how old I was and I said, "38-rapidly approaching middle age", to which he said, kindly, "Lots of people don't make it to 76; I'd say you're no longer approaching the middle age mark", thereby forcing me to remind him that he is ten years older than I am.

But he was right--now I'm in the throes of middle-age (my kids wouldn't agree, they just think I'm old). In some ways I really feel my age in terms of the life experiences I've had. In other ways, I still feel really young and vulnerable. I don't know enough about the world to be the age I am, you know?

It was a good day, quiet without the internet. Gave me time to think. In Israel, there is a very sweet tradition in which the birthday person gives out blessings to those around her.

My wish for all of you is that you, too, celebrate many, many happy birthdays with those you love...