holy mud

I spent a considerable amount of time Friday morning scraping mud off of our Israeli grandsons’ brand-new soccer shoes. They went right from the store into the house and out to their outside plot into the mud. It was made worse, of course, when the littler one suggested to the older one to bring them into the house and wash them off. “Wait, wait–don’t do that!!” I tried to stop them. By the time I got to the sink (2 seconds at the most), it was pretty seriously too late.

They did not say this. They said lots of things at the highest volume that they have, which has grown since I saw them last in July. Oh, Lovely Mud, indeed! So I showed them how to use the plastic garden tools that they have to clean off the shoes. It worked to a point. The tempers calmed down and I was able to convince them that:

  1. this was better than the time that he stepped in dog stuff at our house. (This didn’t make him feel better, though, because he remembered how angry everyone was when he did that.)
  2. they would eventually dry. and
  3. the mud was a good thing, because it meant that it had rained enough to make mud!

The previous day, we went to visit Rachel our mother, but it was hard to know if she was even home. DSC_0157 DSC_0155

The tomb of Rachel has become a huge tourist attraction, rather than a visit of religious devotion. I shouldn’t say that, because most of the women who were there were very busy praying. But OMG, Kever Rachel even has a Facebook page now.

It used to be a place of a more private devotion. I think that was the point–Rachel was buried on the way. Her death was unexpected and her husband had not prepared himself emotionally for that loss. I have a feeling he probably regretted not bringing her to Hevron, but she became the standard bearer for the unredeemed. Even Melville uses her in Moby Dick, at the end of Chapter 128:

She was Rachel, weeping for her children, because they were not.

In Jeremiah 31:15, the prophet speaks of ‘Rachel weeping for her children’. This is interpreted in Judaism as Rachel crying for an end to her descendants’ sufferings and exiles following the destruction by the Babylonians of the First Temple in ancient Jerusalem. According to the Midrash, Rachel spoke before God: “If I, a mere mortal, was prepared not to humiliate my sister and was willing to take a rival into my home, how could You, the eternal, compassionate God, be jealous of idols, which have no true existence, that were brought into Your home (the Temple in Jerusalem)? Will You cause my children to be exiled on this account?” God accepted her plea and promised that, eventually, the exile would end and the Jews would return to their land.

But actually, what brings most women to the Kever is something different; it is G-d listening to Rachel’s prayers during her lifetime. Here is the sign that is posted.


This is the line that is boldened on the right in this prayer that was composed to say at the Tomb of Rachel:

כב  וַיִּזְכֹּר אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-רָחֵל; וַיִּשְׁמַע אֵלֶיהָ אֱלֹהִים, וַיִּפְתַּח אֶת-רַחְמָהּ. 22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.

So women are there to pray to be heard now; for the children to come, not the children who have passed.

Now why did I bring up Rachel’s Tomb and my grandchildren’s muddy shoes? After all, I could have referenced walking to the Old City my first day in Israel; or walking to the Promenade and noting the changes since I’ve been here; or tasting the sufganiyot that have gone so upscale.

But somehow it comes down to the real needs that matter. Getting mud off of new soccer shoes; getting dog poop off of the baby stroller; getting vomit out of the baby’s clothes; it’s the real that we need.

We can wax poetic later when the smell is a distant memory.


what do you do the night before your trip?

Why, write about food, of course!

So now I realize why I was drawn to these polenta latkes–I’m traveling through Rome to get to Israel, and polenta is Italian, so that make sense now! I was also on the phone (thanks to gethuman.com, because the number provided by Alitalia was unproductive at best) on hold with Alitalia to figure out my code. It turns out I have to wait one hour to actually book my ticket for tomorrow night. I’m a bit antsy, I guess.

Anyway, these were really really tasty, albeit as messy as any frying, and for those of you who want to limit your egg consumption, but don’t care about the amount of oil, these are perfect. Or should I say “perfetto!”

And they also mask any other smells in the house beautifully.

Always looking for the silver lining.

Polenta latkes from the LA Times

Olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 1/2 cups polenta or yellow cornmeal
Freshly ground pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add polenta slowly, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until polenta comes away from sides of pan, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While still hot, spread polenta about 1-inch thick onto an oiled baking pan. Cool, cover and refrigerate until cold and firm, several hours or overnight. Using a (2-inch) round scalloped cookie cutter, cut polenta into rounds and transfer to a large platter.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in nonstick skillet and brown polenta rounds, turning occasionally, until brown and crispy on both sides, 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining polenta rounds, adding additional oil as needed. Serve immediately or reheat just before serving.




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 thekitchn.com

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?

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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open eyes

On the last evening of our little getaway last week, we went to visit an old friend in North Adams. Before we went to her loft, where she does her art, we went to Williamstown to walk around a bit. Here’s a photo in front of the art museum connected to the university; we had just missed seeing the inside, but seeing this would actually be more meaningful, after the fact.


When I opened my eyes.

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When we met up with my old friend, who I haven’t seen in 37 years (!), I was listening to her, but thinking very loudly in my head about our choices that we’ve made. She had never wanted to have children; she thought that bringing children into this broken world was cruel and unjust. She never married, either, although she has had significant partners over the years. She was born Jewish, but embraced the study of yoga and has followed teachers around. She has done well in terms of being an artist/artisan, enough to have bought properties in different cities with the flexibility of travelling a lot to see friends all over and study in different locales.

Me? It’s pretty much all about the family, the community, the heritage. Pretty tame, pretty boring. At least I was thinking it was to her.

Maybe it came down to the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.

I do really really hope she is happy and content.

But for me? I was feeling very very grateful.

And so

I’m re-posting from last year a bit about counting blessings, where I translate the prayer supplication following the lighting of the Shabbat candles:

May it be Your will, Lord my God and God of my fathers, to be gracious to me (and to ISHImy sons, my daughters, my father, and my mother) and to all my family; grant us and all Israel good and long life; remember us for good and blessing; consider us for salvation and compassion; bless us with great blessings; make our household complete, and may You cause Your Divine Presence to dwell among us. Make me worthy to raise learned children and grandchildren, who are wise and understanding, who love and fear God, people of truth, holy and attached to God, enlightening the world with Torah and goodness and service of our Creator. Please hear our prayers, in the merit of our matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and ensure that the glow of our lives will never be dimmed. Shine Your face upon us and we will be redeemed. Amen.

So this past Friday night, as I was lighting the candles once again, I once again was startled by the phrase

ותברכנו ברכות גדולות 

You can see that I highlighted the phrase inside.

What in the world are great blessings?

In Hebrew, I think it should read  רבות, many blessings.

So again, what are we asking?

And even more, when we wish each other a good new year, and we add all kinds of phrases, what are we asking and what are we doing?

We’re going off now to help our son and DIL move into their new apartment.

And after that, we’re going to the last wedding of the season.

That is enough of  blessing for now.

I’ll continue with this soon and tell you the punch line.

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.






not ready for prime time, but

We’re baack.

Still in a vacated state of mind. We had a great week away in the Berkshires, which we thought would be a great antidote to our last wedding of this month in New York. This one was in Williamsburg and I took no photos and no prisoners. But the Berkshires!?!

One thing for sure that we experienced while away was a sense of cleanliness and order. Our friend, who we stayed with, is a widower and a neat freak. He’s used to having things a certain way and we appreciated that. Now, if only I could get him to come clean out my house…but I wouldn’t want to scare him away.

So this will be short and sweet, so I can spend some more time cleaning before Shabbat, but i just wanted to share a bit with you now. These are from our first hike in Kennedy Park in Lenox. And yes, that is Channale, our friend’s dog. And yes, I managed pretty well sharing space with her for the week, along with some help of a pharmaceutical kind.

Maybe soon I will add a post called “You should be smiling when you eat dessert” that will be in memory of Marian McPartland.

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This next one is of the footings of one of the buildings from the old Aspinwall Hotel, which burned down in 1931. You can read more about it here.


The next one is of a glacier dump. Channale is checking it out.



This last one is of our friend’s koi pond. Ahhhh.

looking for a sense of calm from the sea

Away for just a few days.

I could very well have called this “A Funeral, a Bris, and Three Weddings” because that’s been our schedule for every Sunday for a month now. But I’m concentrating on this past weekend.

First, a wedding in the 5 towns;

then a quick escape out to Stony Brook, where we went out looking for the Perseid shower but found odd things at the Life Science Center;

then, the ferry across the Long Island Sound;

then, lunch along the coast and coffee in Old Saybrook at Cafe Toscana.

As always, click on the individual photos to open them up wide!

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hello, you must be going

We were meeting up with the kiddies on Sunday; we were coming south; one kiddie was coming north, and 2 were in New Jersey, one poised to leave tomorrow. With the persistent threat of rain, D#1 did not want the kiddies to trek through the mud of a park, and we pretty much didn’t want to go indoors to a place where we would spend the time chasing after everyone.

So we went to a park near her house that has the softest interlocking tiles that were just perfect for kids of all ages.

And we would see that it was also perfect for sharing.


The babies are now interacting. It was quite entertaining to watch.

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Here’s where it got amazing. As our kiddie started showing us how she’s perfected her cartwheels even since last week, other kids joined in.

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This young lady told us she had been in church that morning and her pastor said that we are all the same, one big family. To be honest, it probably was something different, but this was definitely the message. We told her that her pastor is very smart. The fact is that she was the smart one. After all, she looked at us and knew we were different, but knew we were really the same.

She then showed us all the tricks she can do and we celebrated how strong we all are.


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Below is some art that my very talented niece created, which made us realize it was time to get outside already. This is on our grandson, BTW. Well, I guess he’s getting ready to go to Israel from his toes up to his head!

look closely