granola bar dilemma and other rebbitzin tales

Some of my biggest challenges happen in the supermarket. Will they have the fish that I want? Will the lines be unending? Will I have to see people I really don’t want to see? Will people who don’t want to see me have to endure the sight of me?


Yesterday, I was trying to get through the store aqap, but I was stymied in the granola bar aisle. I usually purchase some bars of some kind for travel. But I end up feeling all Goldilocksy–some are too soft, some are too hard, and, to be honest, I haven’t come across the just right ones, but I was looking to see if there were any new options.

I noticed someone who I know in the next aisle over on the phone and we waved. I figured that would be safe enough and I wouldn’t have to talk to him. But of course, a few minutes later (while I’m still Buridan-assing over the granola bars) he comes over. He says to me, “I’m sure you hear this a lot, but your husband is amazing.”

Actually I don’t really remember what he said exactly, because I don’t want him thinking I really know why he’s saying it, so I’m trying to feign ignorance. That’s not really hard for me. I don’t really know why he thinks that, but I also probably know enough, only because of the amount of phone calls back and forth between them. So I play along.

“Thanks. I just stand back and let him do his magic.”

Which is true. But yes, we all know that magicians need their assistants, so I guess sometimes I do assist behind the scenes. I’m so happy to let him be in the spotlight.

And then I shared my dilemma of the granola bars and he wished me good luck with my search.

A few minutes later, we caught up again in the next aisle.

“What did you decide?”

“To make my own.”

And so I did.

Banana Oat Bars from

Makes one 9×9-inch pan

2 large, very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates
1/4 cup chopped nuts — such as walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans
Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9×9-inch square baking dish with olive oil or butter.

Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl. Mash very thoroughly until no large chunks remain; the bananas should be essentially liquid. Stir in the vanilla, if using. Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the salt, dates, and nuts.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly with nutmeg or cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.

Place the baking pan on a rack to cool. When the pan is mostly cool, cut into bars and enjoy with a glass of milk or tea.

Shall I tell you now what I changed or do you want to guess?


silver linings of polio and other travel tidbits

While searching for some travel items on Amazon, look what I found! I typed in “travel accessories”, in case you want to try it. I’d be curious to see if you come up with similar items.

Product Details

Simran SM-60 Universal Power Strip 3 Outlets for 110V-250V Worldwide Travel with Surge/Overload Protection by Simran

(Okay, that makes sense, but not for my needs. Let’s continue.)

Rick Steves Travel Gear Clothesline by Rick Steves

(Again, okay. I’m skipping the photos, since you get the picture:). It’s a rope.)

iPad Mini 5-in-1 Accessories Bundle Rotating Case for Business and Travel, Green by Gearonic

Product Details

Classic Accessories Fairway Travel 4-sided Golf Car Enclosure (Fits most two-person golf cars) by Classic Accessories (Jan 12, 2009)

(Hmmm. What else is there?)

CTA Digital PS Vita Travel EVA Protective Case with 4x Game Storage Pockets by CTA Digital (Mar 5, 2012)


humangear Gotoob Travel Bottles 3-Pack Medium 2 Ounce by humangear

(Boooring. Wait–I need that.)

Product Details

Pinterest by Pinterest, Inc (Aug 15, 2012)

  • $0.00
  • Available instantly on your connected Android device
  • Get inspiration from DIY, Travel, Food and other categories.
  • Apps for Android: See all 5 items

I think I’ll stop here. I’m not pinterested. (Sorry.)

I did order a few things for myself in preparation for my travels next week.

I made the reservations back in August, but it’s really hard to wrap my head around it that I’m actually taking off. Now, how to pack for over 2 months with one suitcase and lots of different weather possibilities? Australia was a breeze compared to this.

Israel is a complex country, in case you hadn’t heard. (I’m not going to discuss politics now. Enough people are doing an awful job of it without me joining in.)

Even the weather is complex. It can be gorgeous in the winter; it can also snow. We pray for rain in the winter. I will be there for long enough to have to really mean it. So I have my waterproof boots and shoes (yes, the 7 1/2 in the Land’s End actually is the right size, thankfully). I have layers. Enough to make an archaeological dig.

But I think I’ll skip the golf cart enclosure, although perhaps, if it rains enough, I may regret my decision.

Oh–the title?

Of course, you may have read about a polio outbreak in Syria and in Israel last month. I did, too, but I didn’t actually process that it may refer to me. Even though the Israeli healthcare system (the US should really take better notes) has taken care of it pretty well, it still could be lingering in certain areas. And should I take a risk or not?

I called my doctor and asked should I get a booster shot for polio? Does my blood work show if I am immune? Do you have on record that I had polio as a child? Please make sure to tell the doctor that fact–am I more susceptible because of it, like chickenpox/shingles, or does it create immunity?

Well, in the realm of the added unexpected, the nurse called back to say that the doctor said I was immune because of having it as a child.


Who ever thought that would come in handy some day?

can you guess what this is and where i found it?

To be honest, I’m not really sure of what it is, either. I just know that I was very surprised when I found it today.

You can probably figure out where I found it from the clues in the photos, but the real question is why I didn’t find it sooner!

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Oh, and the moral of the story is always carry an extra bag, if you have forgotten to bring tissues!

may this truly be an omen

Surprise! This email actually did arrive on Friday, but after I had shut my computer/phone down for Shabbat.

Dear Mysending, (YES! They got my name right on this one!)

Congratulations! The repair of your item is now complete. Our service depot has shipped it back to you with tracking number: 1Z21A…………………

Please be sure to test out all of your item’s functionality as soon as you get it and if there still are any issues please immediately contact the service depot at the number they provide. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your claim, please feel free to give us a call at 1-877-555-1111.

It’s unfortunate your item failed, but this is precisely the reason a warranty was the right choice. When buying electronics or appliances from any retailer, don’t forget the SquareTrade warranty!


The SquareTrade Team

Please Note: The bulk of SquareTrade communications are done through email. To ensure you receive important emails, make sure you add this email to your address book.

Now here’s the biggest surprise–guess what arrived today! And guess what has a new unbroken case!

But they didn’t send the really nice cloth that had protected the keyboard.

Which reminds me of a joke:

Smitty:  That’s very cool. The title track, “He Had A Hat,” for those that may not know, talk a little bit about what that means.  It’s kinda funny in a way, but just talk a little bit about why you decided to go with “He Had A Hat.”

JL:  Well, it’s just really a joke.  It’s the punch line to an old Borscht Belt joke, actually.

Smitty:  Yeah.

JL:  And we were just having so much fun in the studio, we were telling jokes and stuff, and it just kinda symbolizes the joy that we had of creating music and sharing music and just having fun in the studio, just hanging out, but anyway, the joke is about a grandmother that takes her grandson to the beach and a big wave comes and sweeps her grandson off the beach, and she’s distraught and she looks up and calls out into the sky like “God, please bring Mikey back.  I’ll do anything, I’ll do good works, I’ll devote myself to feeding the poor, and just anything.  Just please bring Mikey back.”  And all of a sudden a big wave comes and puts the kid right on the beach, and she looks up in the sky and says “He had a hat!”

Smitty:  (Laughs.)

JL:  So it’s just a funny old joke, but it actually has another meaning too, which is….I wear a lot of different hats because sometimes I’m an engineer, I’m a piano player, I’m an arranger, songwriter, I mean, that’s kinda the way it is in this music business these days.  You need to wear a lotta hats in order to survive because it’s kind of a tough competitive environment these days, but we just wanted to put out that vibe of fun and good humor that we had when we were making the record.  That was pretty much it.

what are we building

I was playing with my grandson earlier this week. Actually, he was playing and allowing me to play alongside. While he was so involved with play, it gave me time to review in my head about old theories and constructs of play. Yes, there’s all the philosophers and educators who wax on about the need and value of play. Then there are those who actually made things for children to play with.

Here’s what Dr. Wiki says about toy blocks’ history (It starts in 1693, but I’m skipping that):

1798Witold Rybczynski has found that the earliest mention of building bricks for children appears in Maria and R.L. Edgeworth’sPractical Education(1798). Called “rational toys,” blocks were intended to teach children about gravity and physics, as well as spatial relationships that allow them to see how many different parts become a whole.[1] …

1837Friedrich Fröbel invent a preschool educational institution Kindergarten. For that he design ten Froebel Gifts based on building blocks principles. (SIC)

And here’s a bit more about Froebel:

“Realising how the gifts were eventually misused by Kindergarten teachers who followed after Froebel, it is important to consider what Froebel expected the Gifts to achieve. He envisaged that the Gifts will teach the child to use his environment as an educational aid; secondly, that they will give the child an indication of the connection between human life and life in nature; and finally that they will create a bond between the adult and the child who play with them” Joachim Liebschner on page 82 in his book, A Child’s Work: Freedom and Guidance in Froebel’s Educational Theory and Practice

This brought up Vygotsky and his concept of “tools of the mind”, as well:

The concept of “tools of the mind” comes from the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. He believed that just as physical tools extend our physical abilities, mental tools extend our mental abilities, enabling us to solve problems and create solutions in the modern world. When applied to children, this means that to successfully function in school and beyond, children need to learn more than a set of facts and skills. They need to master a set of mental tools—tools of the mind…

At the core of Vygotsky’s theory (also known as Cultural-Historical theory) is the idea that child development is the result of interactions between children and their social environment. These interactions involve people—parents and teachers, playmates and schoolmates, brothers and sisters. They also involve cultural artifacts, such as books or toys, as well as culturally specific practices in which a child engages in the classroom, at home, or on the playground. Children are active partners in all of these interactions, constructing knowledge, skills, and attitudes, not just mirroring the world around them. Essentially, the history and the culture of the society in which a child grows up and the events making up a child’s personal history determine much more than what that child knows or likes—it also determines which mental tools the child will learn and how these tools will shape the child’s mind.

I was sure this post was getting much too preachy and not really getting anywhere when I came upon this article about the “Most Extraordinary Lego Creations You’ve Ever Seen” about a book of MOC Legos. Go take a peek. I’ll still be here when you get back.

You see, the reason that I’m particularly interested in this building instinct that we seem to have is not just grandparents’ pride (yes, he is brilliant; that is very very clear, but that goes without saying.

Too often.),

but about timing.

We read about Noah and his ark-building project this week in the Torah portion. And on the flip side, there’s the Babel Tower Project. One lonely man of faith and one mean group of politicians businessmen who just want to build the biggest tower in Creation. Noah is chided for not reaching out to the masses to get them to change their wicked ways, and he falls apart afterwards with the reality of responsibility for building up society.

The groupthink? Yeah, that doesn’t go so well, either. What goes wrong there? The task is more important than the people, in short. How are these minds shaped? To what purpose?

There’s also, from Fast Company, an article called “Can Playing With Legos Make You More Creative?”

I think they miss the point.

Playing is the work that we should be doing all along.

Okay, maybe they do get it subliminally.

Why exactly creativity measures are declining is still anyone’s guess, although evidence and intuition points to the growing emphasis on testing in education as a factor. Kids are taught to learn by understanding “the one right answer” they need to find, and what they need to do to find it. (On tests of how kids do at brainstorming ideas, 98% of three-year-olds register as “creative geniuses.” By the time they are 25? Only 2%).

Here’s how I play:)

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So, the MOTS, once again, is:

כא  הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ ה אֵלֶיךָ ונשוב (וְנָשׁוּבָה), חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם. 21 Turn Thou us unto Thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.

open eyes, part II

So, as I said below, what are the blessings we should be asking for? I used this as a little blessing to say at a gathering on Shabbat in honor of the bride who got married yesterday. The woman who lights the Shabbat candles is doing so because she is in charge of the household. She is setting the stage. It’s as if (I forgot to mention this on Shabbat, even though I had rehearsed it in my head) it is a stage and she is the director/writer/but not the producer saying “Lights! Camera! Action!” So when she/we light the candles, we have put into place all the blessings that we want to appear in our production, with G-d’s help.

But you have to ask big.

You have the power to ask for what you think you need. We should ask big. And we have to let people know that they should be asking big.

And there’s another part to this, relevant to Rosh Hashanah, that I did not mention on Shabbat, but I did tell ISHI about it and he might do it on Rosh Hashanah itself. If you’re in our shul, you can smile to yourself and nod to me that you read it here first. 🙂

What is the deal with the ram?

This is the climax of what we read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah:

Genesis Chapter 22 בְּרֵאשִׁית

יב  וַיֹּאמֶר, אַל-תִּשְׁלַח יָדְךָ אֶל-הַנַּעַר, וְאַל-תַּעַשׂ לוֹ, מְאוּמָה:  כִּי עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה, וְלֹא חָשַׂכְתָּ אֶת-בִּנְךָ אֶת-יְחִידְךָ, מִמֶּנִּי. 12 And he said: ‘Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou art a God-fearing man, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me.’
יג  וַיִּשָּׂא אַבְרָהָם אֶת-עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה-אַיִל, אַחַר, נֶאֱחַז בַּסְּבַךְ בְּקַרְנָיו; וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הָאַיִל, וַיַּעֲלֵהוּ לְעֹלָה תַּחַת בְּנוֹ. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son.

Avraham saw.

The ram had been there, according to the Mishnah Pirkei Avot 5:9, from twilight on the eve of the first Sabbath.


All Avraham had to do was open his eyes and behold.

I’m not sure why G-d wanted to put him to the test; I don’t really understand it. But I know that Avraham had to learn to see.

I’m trying.


We went to Historic Valley Park by Windsor Lake before we saw my old friend. DSC_0416

Someone was definitely trying to teach me to see things differently.DSC_0421

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membership* has its privileges

I’m going to show you a few of the photos I took before and after the performance last week at Tanglewood. Of course, you are asked not to take photos during, and I obliged. But I am happy to be able to show you some that most program attendees do not see.

I’ll start with the grounds.


Then we went into Koussevitzky Music Shed (Thank you, Google dictionary.)


Now back outside to catch the starting pink of the sky.

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And now over to our destination, Ozawa Hall.


Here’s the Carriage House, where the students/musicians practice.



Yes, we were early. That’s a good thing. And yes, this is where we were sitting!


And now, we got to go into the Carriage House. Our host knew someone. She was very happy to show us around on our own little tour.

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I did say it was the Carriage House. Here’s some proof.

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This is a small part of a panorama shot from one of the earliest years. I think that the older man dressed in white in the center of the second row is somebody famous. They probably all are. But I do think that he was pointed out as being Koussevitzky himself, which would make sense why I would take this portion.


One of these two sweatered men was also pointed out to us as being someone. I just liked their sweaters.

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And after the music, we retreat into the night.


The last blue moon until 2015.






when your day starts with fire engines,

You can be pretty sure the rest of it has to be action-packed to keep up.

Or just built on irony, in my case.

My summer group was having breakfast in the synagogue social hall when an ear-splitting alarm went off. Fire alarm, I guess. No smoke detected by us, so we went to see what was going on.

False alarm. The custodian was dusting.

Hah! That proves that housework is hazardous!

He didn’t realize that the vacuum cleaner was jammed and letting out all the dust into the air.

Near the fire detector.

Nevertheless a false alarm, we all traipsed outside to avoid listening to it, waiting for the caravan of rescue vehicles to save us from the dust.

When the first fire truck arrived (after the fire captain and police cars) and the firefighters walked to the building, we did a little cheer for them. One of them said to us,

“Remember, layering is the key to fighting hyperthermia!”

I answered he’d be happy he’s wearing all his layers to fight the air conditioning inside the building.

All clear, we could resume our day.

Later on, I felt like I was recreating  the “who’s on first?” comedy routine that was anything but routine as I went through with an Expedia agent to find out if a certain hotel in Brooklyn allows pets. We wanted to stay in Brooklyn for after a wedding we have in a few weeks. Almost all the cool hotels in Brooklyn are very pet-friendly. Expedia online did not indicate that they do accept pets at this one place, but they didn’t say that they didn’t, either.

I’m allergic to dogs and cats and find it very uncomfortable to spend money to be sneezing. I can do that for free.

“Does this hotel allow you to have pets? I”m allergic and can’t be with them.”

“Please wait one moment and I’ll check. You will hear silence for a moment, so do not be alarmed.”
(Maybe she didn’t say that last line. But that’s what was on my mind from the rest of the day.)

“I’m sorry. They do not allow pets. They are not a pet-friendly hotel.”

“Good! I don’t want them to be friendly! I want them to be anti-friendly!”

“Oh! I’m sorry. I thought you wanted pets.”

“No, I wanted to make sure they don’t have them. I’m allergic. I sneeze when they are around.”

“Oh. I thought you wanted pet-friendly.”

“No, I might want pets, but I can’t have them. This is good that they don’t allow pets. Okay?”

This went on for a few minutes more. We agreed that we are happy to be unfriendly and we booked a room.

And then there was the thing with the alarm in the evening.

All the doors in our synagogue except the main door are alarmed to make sure that they are closed properly and to make sure that children don’t escape. The kitchen door is alarmed so that squirrels don’t get in. Kids don’t really count there. There was someone going in and out of the door without issue, bringing food into the building. Then, when he was going out to leave, the alarm went off.

What’s going on?

Again, this evening, I went out the unalarmed door without problem. When I closed the door, the alarm went off.

Something alarming is definitely in the air!

So what should we do about it?


Bring it on, world. I can laugh about it all!

a visit to the farm

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Only one of the three kiddies with us today was willing to actually feed the goats and pet the chicken. The 4-H club girl who brought out the chicken for him to look at asked me if I grew up on a farm.

Um, no.

“So how do you know so much about animals?”

I really really don’t. I guess it’s more a statement about contemporary ignorance than about my knowledge.

The others were busy learning to use binoculars that ISHI brought with us to the farm. They were looking at the yellow bug across the field. I went up and photographed the dragonfly.

I don’t like binoculars. I can’t focus with them, no matter what size. I like looking at things and then looking again at what I saw. That’s what I like about photography.

Repairing the World in a different real kind of way

Why did the repair man check on his repairs?

That’s pretty unusual, in my experience. He came back to see if everything was in working order, which, thank G-d, it was. But then he asked:

“Can I ask you a question, or should I ask the rabbi?”

Okay, shoot.

“Of course. If I don’t know, I’ll be very happy to tell you that.” I’d be happy to tell him that the rabbi might not know, either, but I didn’t.

“You see, my sister just had a baby, and they had the bris (circumcision) just last week. They named him [I really didn’t hear him correctly, but let’s say] Pete after our mother.”

Last week, when he was fixing the fridge, he told me how his parents were married in our shul when it was a brand-new reform temple. And also how his mother died last year and it’s been a hard year.

“The problem is that it wasn’t the exact name. She gave a beautiful explanation how the name is to remember our mother, but…”

“Let me guess–your father isn’t happy that you didn’t use the exact name.”

Except I’m thinking it’s a boy, so really, was he thinking they would?

“Exactly. And my sister wanted to know where exactly in Scriptures does it say that you have to name someone after someone else?”

“Oh, it doesn’t say it anywhere. I don’t know how late of a custom it is. And you know, the Sephardic Jews name after their living relatives, with a pretty specific order.”

Blank face.

“It’s a good question, how late of a custom is it. But it’s a very nice custom, to remember the departed.”

(Well, that was easy enough to look at:

Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe had a strong tradition that mandated that a baby be named after a deceased relative. It is important to understand that this is a tradition, and is not codified in Jewish law.

No evidence of such a tradition appears in the Bible, in which most names are unique. The custom seems to have started in the first and second century CE, and to have become entrenched by the 12th century. By the 12th century in Europe, we find given names repeating every other generation within families, as a baby was typically named for a grandfather or grandmother. Generally, the child was named for the closest deceased relative for whom no one else in that immediate family was already named. Highest priority goes to the child’s mother, if she had died in childbirth, or the father, if he had died before the baby was born.

If any of the four grandparents were deceased, a baby would be named after one of them; otherwise the great-grandparents or, perhaps, a sibling of one of the parents. During the 19th century in Eastern Europe, a girl was typically named after a female relative, a boy after a male relative. Usually, a baby was not given the same name as a sibling who had previously died, although some cases of this have been seen.

Ashkenazim (Jews from Eastern Europe) do not name babies after living relatives. Sephardim (Jews from Iberia and the Middle East), on the other hand, name their children in honor of living grandparents, usually in a fixed order. The first son is named for the father’s father, the first daughter for the father’s mother. The next son is named in honor of his mother’s father and the second girl for her maternal grandmother.)

“And my mother, G-d rest her soul (I don’t remember if he said that, but it feels that that would have been an appropriate place for someone to say such a thing.), had been sick with cancer for over 20 years. She always said that all she wanted was to see her baby grow up and graduate from college. But she even got to see her get married, so that was more than we could ever expect.”

No, we can always expect more. We just have to realize that we aren’t going to get it most of the time.

“So what was the name again?”

“Zachary. Because our mother was so kind and considerate and so full of love.”

“Actually, Zachary comes from the root “remember”, so it’s a wonderful name to remember your mother with.”

Whatever her name really was; whatever they actually are calling the baby.

“Tell your sister to print up what she said at the bris and give it to your father. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled and come to love the name.”

“I think I will.”

“So can you fix the oven doors now?”

“Oh, no, I’m too busy fixing air conditioners. What a crazy season it’s been.”