Friday, December 23, 2016

Blogging Fun with Food Not Bought Blog and Heirloom Gardener

I am so excited to say I am blogging for Heirloom Gardener.  I started a blog called Food Not Bought.  Food Not Bought, is a blog that will cross over from the Ivan back and forth across the garden.  It will cover topics of the kitchen and how to build a pantry full of food not bought.  It will highlight this journey as well as focus on growing a productive suburban garden that really does add Food Not Bought to your table.

I hope you will join me on this Journey.  The first blogs are up and posted here.
While, I have blogged over the years, I never really know if people liked my style, or appreciated my writing. It was a big deal to have someone one else, a magazine I respect, read and choose my work to post on their website. Now Heirloom Gardener has decided to take it a step farther and include some of my posts in the spring print edition.

Let me tell you a little story about a girl who was told she had no style and could not write.  I was always exceedingly bright but could not, for the life of me, excel in English.  I was diagnosed with Learning Disabilities by the 5th grade and spent many years being frustrated by limitations in reading and writing. When I grew up, we had no computers or spellcheck, we had type writers and finally graduated up to the first Macintosh computer by the time I was in University. The school programs for learning disabilities were extremely limited and did not encourage academic pursuits beyond getting by.

When I was in my final grade of high school I worked hard to get the minimum of a 65 in Honors English you needed to get into University.   I had an English teacher that had stated he did not like having students with LD in his class, and did not feel they should take honors English or preparing for University level educations.  This resulted in a personality conflict and a difficult situation for me.

As I failed assignment after assignment in English my fear of not getting into University increased.  I was lucky to have parents that fought for me.  They met with the principles and the result was that my work was to be double graded by others in the English department.  Quickly my grade returned into the range of a B.  This was not too shabby, but not at the top of the class.   English was admittedly not my strong suite.

It came to the final.  There was some sort of rule that only a person's teacher could grade their final.  Not sure what that was about but some how this teacher managed to make this happen.  He gave me a Zero on my Final.   I wrote 18 pages on that final.  The only way to get a Zero would have been to not show up.

So he managed to get my English grade down to a 64.  My parents flew into action again and there was a massive appeal and meetings.  Eventually my grade was raised to a 65 and the school administrators sent me on my way University bound.   While this was a victory, there was always that eco in my head of his voice.  Telling me I had no style and could not succeed.
Well now I would like to say thank you to Heirloom Gardeners and to the readers of my many blogs.  Thank you for getting my style and for enjoying my writing.  See you all again in blog land.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

All Fridge and Nothing But the Fridge

Today I am going to ramble on about a fridge.   Well about a couple of fridges.

We have had several fridges over our married life and through raising the boys.  We had a lovely freezer at the bottom, European Style but it only lasted 6 years.  We had a nice traditional style that lasted 7 years.  Our most recent fridge was a small side by side that we absolutely hated.  We stuffed that thing so full and couldn't find anything.

Every timed my husband or I opened the fridge we would curse under our breath. We were like old Yiddisha yentas spitting and saying"I hate this fridge".  We had only had it for about one year.  Seriously, we were a year in and all the drawers were broken.  The plastic cracked and the drawers just didn't fit in anymore, they hung at weird angles and scraped open and close.  The fridges thin and deep shelves fostered a frenzy of crap all stuffed in leaving absolutely no viability at all.

I had been looking on facebook marketplace just sort of weighing it's capacity. You see, I do on-line marketing, so I sort of study these things. I was searching for fridges for obvious reasons. Not really certain I was about to spend any money on it.  Yet I searched anyway.

Then one day it showed up. It was a Danby Commercial All Fridge.  It was all fridge and nothing but the fridge.  It was all fridge, all day long.  It was 33 wide and 67 high. It weighted in at about 187 pounds.  It had 17.7 cubic feet of fridge space.  I just watched it and thought how this would solve our problem and be so great.   We were not really ready to give up the old fridge as we did need a freezer upstairs and had actually finally hooked up the ice maker.   So we would have to add this to our already crowded kitchen.

For someone that used their kitchen as much as I did, I had a very small kitchen.  I made the best of the space I had so the thought of adding a second fridge was a big deal.  Yet we dove in.  We talked it over and then made arrangements to see it.   We marveled at it's size and through of never having to say we hated our fridge again.  We decided to go for it.

They delivered it the next day and we got some friends to help us get it into the house.  I scrubbed the hell out of it.  It was supposedly cleaned but all I have to say is...vomit.  There is something about other peoples dirt or 'schmutch' that makes me want to toss my cookies.  After it was cleaned we just stared at it in awe.

My older son, Jordan, who is a vegan, claimed the old fridge as the land of no meat or milk.  The old fridge would become the land of parve, vegan tofu, tempe and almond products.  I was thrilled that I could help him satisfy his food preferences and not have to deal with disgust or temptation.

We started packing things in the fridge. My younger son, Joel, helped me with this task, really getting into organizing everything on the door.   We manged to move over just about everything from the old fridge, albeit for the vegan delights.  The fridge still looked roomy, beautiful frankly, just lovely. You could find anything you needed and lacked for no space.

There was plenty of space to fill, so I went grocery shopping.  I got lots of good food and still there was space. Next I went to the farmers market and got food for processing and making a fermentation. The recipe included beets, turnips, daikon radishes and a head of cabbage.  It would make enough to fill two half gallon jars when done.  I also got a rather large head of Endive for making a lovely soup.  I even picked up 6 dozen eggs as they were on sale.

The all fridge took all that food in and still looks fantastic. It was room and clean and functional. The door held all the sauces and inside there is space for everything. I felt so spoiled, absolutely spoiled.
So in review, I must say that an all fridge is a beautiful thing and that it is something that anyone who is a serious cook, caner and fermented should consider.  If you use your kitchen as I do, I highly recommend the all fridge for your sanity and for your happiness.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I got a big butt and I do not care...

Amy Jones may seem like your ordinary Mother of two in America today, and in many ways, she is.  Along with at least 40% of the population of people just like, her she has a problem that needed solving.  Research shows that a huge percentage of women have more booty than underwear.  Amy dedicated to solving this problem one pair at a time with Amy’s Underwear.

Amy’s Story was very similar to many of our own. She was born and raised in St. Louis. Her father owned a flooring business and instilled the values of hard work in her life at a young age. She was a gymnast in her youth and enjoyed a relatively active lifestyle. She enjoyed math and science in school, maintained a high GPA, and was a leader in the drama club.  She taught in her church, after graduation. Amy subsequently had two boys, now ages 8 and 10, and continued with a predictable path of American Life.

The big one difference in Amy's Story, and to benefit of women with big buts everywhere, was that she was surrounded by the concept that a problem deserved a solution and that entrepreneurial ventures were possible.  Amy described her husband as being a serial entrepreneur. Together they had started several businesses and lived the world of possibilities. Amy had the skills and the drive to make a difference.

The problem Amy decided to solve was the ever-present issue of ill-fitting underwear.  The more Amy considered the situation the more she realized she was not alone. She discovered that the current sizing charts for underwear were way out of date and out of shape. She also discovered that not a single manufacturer was making underwear for women with more booty.  Amy became energized with the concept of helping all women feel more comfortable and covered in their underwear.

Amy started with her personal research by going out and spending $500 on different types of underwear and trying everything on.  It turned out that none of them fit right, she has too much butt for the fabric provided.  They all ended up with the inevitable riding up feeling.  No underwear covered the situation well.  She could not wear underwear that was cute, or athletic or even comfortable.  Underwear that fit the booty invariably gaped at the waist, while those that fit the waist rode up and became a thong.

She started researching what the fashion world was doing about this problem. She found that a major jeans manufacture had done a survey of over 60,000 women from all around the world, and found that the issue was a difference between the low and high hip.  This was where the muscles of the buttocks hit.  The standard difference was 2.5 inches but the real difference, found by the survey, was a difference of 6 inches.

Amy never dreamed of being a fashion designer. She learned to sew when she was 8 years old to make her own costumes for Halloween. Never did she dream she would end up using her skills to try and save women from constant discomfort.  She began sewing prototypes, experimenting with different fabrics, elastics, and styles. She realized that her dream of having correctly fitted underwear was possible.

Amy worked on creating the prefect sizing chart.  This was a grueling process and involved hiring a patent attorney and expanding the categories to women’s sizing to include the tops as well as the bottoms.  Amy wanted to create a realistic sizing chart that manufactures could use to help all women feel comfortable.  The sizing chart was submitted for patent and the processed became a reality.

The next step was how to bring this great fitting underwear to the public.  She knew she could not complete with the major brands that were all doing it wrong anyway.  Amy decided to use crowdfunding to launch Amy’s Underwear.  She made a home-grown video filmed right in her living room, while the kids were at school.  She made her logo herself and bootstrapped the entire process.  She decided on a pricing model that would make it possible to create a great quality product and still leave her garments in the same ball park as others specialty underwear.  She launched her Indiegogo on her 34th birthday of November the 6th 2016.

Amy’s target market was every woman.  Her market was active women that love to dance and do physical activity, the woman that enjoy weight lifting and being trim and the women with a pear or an hour glass shape.  Most importantly the market was women that has spent years, if not decades, feeling uncomfortable in her own clothing.  Amy created Amy's Undies, with it's tag-line 'I love big Butts' to help everyone woman with this incredibly sensitive issue.

If you have resonated with this story you might be asking yourself, how can can I help, and how can I get my hands on some of those Amy’s Undies?  If you have felt that horrible feeling of your underwear riding up or fitting ill, you are the woman Amy’s Undies is meant to help.   Check out the Indiegogo site and become one of the first women to get your own Amy’s Undies.  You can also help by sharing this campagin with family and friends and even getting a pair for a friend that has this same issue.  You can also follow Amy's Journey through social media on facebook.

Amy’s Underwear has an initial target of $15,000 to bring this dream into reality. The initial release will be underwear in 15 sizes and in bikini, boy-shorts, and cheeky styles. Check out the styles here.  If you are wondering which sizes you are check out this sizing video.   She has created stretch goals that include 9 more plus sizes, and a rainbow of color options.  Supporting this dream can be done easily enough and can result in the first good fitting underwear you have ever had.

So if you Love Big Butts, or have this same issue, support Amy's Undies and lets make change to fit all women where it counts.

Story told by Buzz Well Media.  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Tipping Point of America's Decency

I sit here feeling hallow inside. Feeling like, frankly, I could toss up my comfort food lunch.  I feel like the carpet was pulled out from under my feet and I landed by falling down a rabbit whole.  I feel like I have watched the decency of our democracy roll down a hill into a giant puddle of quick sand.

How could this country have really elected Donald Trump.   We have seen the Native American's pushed off their lands for big oil and yet we did not think we had sunk this low.  We have seen women's rights being scaled back State by State, and chess move by chess move, and yet we did not see this coming.  We have seen big corporate interest grow an elite upper class while the middle class sunk into a debt filled stupor, yet we did not see this coming.  

That night my 9 year old fell asleep on my lap while he cried.  Literally, he cried himself to sleep with fear and sadness for what could happen to our country and our family.  He knows that we are dependent on the affordable care act for benefits.  He knows we depend on the economy for our living and worries that a down turn could destroy our fledgling businesses.  He worries as a minority we will be treated with contempt and discriminated against.  He is 9 and should not be worried about any of this.

The next morning my 13 year old was too upset to face going to school.  He was up past 1:00 am listening to the results as they came in. He got up early and tried to get ready for school. He could not stop crying long enough to face the day.  My son was very involved in the election process.  He did phone banking, walked in marches and canvased for Bernie Sanders.  He support other battle grounds for the democratic party as the election came close.  He even started researching his path to political office and dare I say...the President of the United States. He wanted to feel that all his hard work had amounted to something.  Yet, he couldn't find any worth in this result.

The day after the election my husband, of 21 years, asked me to get his Canadian Citizenship papers in order.  His father was born in Canada and thus he could naturalize rather easily.  The kids and I already had Canadian citizenship as I immigrated to the USA and made sure the kids were naturalized through me shortly after they were born.  For 21 years my husband had rejected the very thought of moving or considering Canada as an option.  He had always loved American too much to consider it.  For years he taught about America's power and beauty as a civics teacher in the public school system.  He had always been proud of the democracy, decency and political process.

I moved to this country at the tail end of the Clinton presidency and lived through 9/11 and the Bush Years.  Then Obama came in and was road blocked at every turn imaginable.  Now Trump actually was elected after all the hate and lies. First Bernie was robbed of his place and now Trump actually won.   The scary point was that so many people, when left in their own space of privacy, actually decided that Trump was a good idea. They decided to choose his hate, bigotry, misogyny, ego, greed, lack of respect for women and minorities, and complete lack of experience.

Now the theory has been spread around that the reason people voted for Trump was that they were desperate and looking for something that would change their world.   They were looking for something other than the usual that had brought around no advancement, more debt and more struggle. They were looking for someone to take them back in time to when they had viable jobs and the American Dream really meant a house with the white picket fence.  But what they failed to see was that they elected what had been draining money out of their world.  They elected a greedy, unethical, corporate criminal.

I will tell you what will not bring the American Dream back to life.  Obstructionist Governors and Senators that would not allow even the most basic of job bills to pass will certainly not result in new opportunities.  Taking away health care from millions of people and taking away coverage for people with pre-existing conditions will not bring back the American Dream.  Alienating and vilifying minorities, women, and the disabled will probably not do it either.  Adding more money into the pockets or corrupt corporate millionaires will only continue to drain this county of its soul.  

Now one more things that we need to consider.  I hate to make the parallel that has been made over and over, but lets go back to Germany after they lost WWI and the world economy was failing.  People were desperate, they wanted change, they looked at minorities and outsiders as a drain on their world. They were willing to elect evil and vicious leaders that tries to take over the world.  The result was millions of people dead including my family and specifically my the people of my faith.  It also brought about decades of the world looking at all German people as being part of the evil forces.
So how will the people of the world look at Americans? How will they consider us after Trump is unleashed on the world? How will the world fair with his finger on the military, his ignorant evil cohorts controlling our world, women's rights set back decades, and minorities treated with contempt.  Will the world feel sorry for these scared people or blame them for their ignorant and frankly inexcusable choice.

So how do we console our children. How do we give them hope in the future when our hope has been ripped away from us?  How do we prepare them for the world of tomorrow that they will inherit?  How do we explain how so many of the people of this country could have made this choice?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Yad Mordichai, flowers a wall and the reality of Gaza

One of our last days in Israel was spent visiting my cousin who is doing his army service, stationed near Yad Mordichai on the Gaza boarder.  We drove out following our relatives in their car. We drove down the coast of Israel through Tel Aviv down to the top corner boarder of Gaza.  There stands a kibbutz named Yad Mordichai.

The kibbutz is named after Mordichai Anielewicz who was the first commander of the Jewish Fighting Organization that launched the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  The kibbutz lived up to it's name as during 1948 when kibbutz was attached by Egypt in the Battle known as the Battle of Yad Mordichai.  

On the kibbutz is a museum spanning the time frame from the Polish resistance to the battle of Yad Moridichai. While it was good to see the info on the struggle for survival in Europe it was also great to see the efforts that went into creating and defending the kibbutz in hostile territory.  

The kibbutz is known for it's honey production. It was an oasis in bloom. Where there is honey here are bees, and where there are bees there are flowers. Everywhere you looked there were flowering bushes, trees and plants.  It was a beautiful place.

It was Sabbath, the traditional day off in Israel.  While the museum was open, the store was not open to visitors during the Sabbath.  People were going about their business with baby strollers in tow having family time and chilling out.  

We drove to the army outpost where my cousin was stationed.  It was a conglomerate of packing crates. One was a dormitory, one was a kitchen  and the last one was a bathroom and wash house.  The soldiers were kind and shared their supplies as we shared the lunch my cousin mom had the forethought to bring for her son and his fellow solders.  It was so great to see him doing so well. He looked strong, confident in what he was doing, and healthy.  

We all had a great time visiting. We got to walk around a little bit and see the wall to Gaza.  It was literally 100 meters away.  The wall had guard towers and looked ominous.  The tensions were strong.   Under us could have been tunnels that were to be used for surprise attacks and smuggling of weapons and people.

This was where the real conflict was still in play.  My cousin was doing active service in this area and understood more then he could say of what is really at stake.  Enough to say it was real, really real.  

On the kibbutz side of the fence was a wall that was decorated by the kibbutz kids and members.  They had used all sorts of items to make a colorful mosaic of peace.   Each piece of the mosaic was hand made and decorated.  It was beautiful work and a beautiful message. The Path to Peace is the way Peace. Yet the contrast to the stark reality of the place was not lost on anyone. This beautiful kibbutz butted right up to a very violent and angry place.

I felt so glad that my children got to see that reality. They got to see what it takes to maintain strength and safety in a place like Israel.  They got to see their cousin doing his job and his duty.  They got to see a town full of fearless people living their lives each day in bravery.   They got to see the wall, the security systems, the tanks and the machine guns. Yet, they also got to see the beauty, the flowers, and the messages of peace.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

From Netanya AirBnB to 107f in Eilat

The next stage of this trip centered around our AirBnB base in Netanya.  We had rented a wonderful condo in Netanya for the week we also rented a car to get around.  Combine this with Google maps and we were good to go.

My sister Diane, her Kids and My brother Daniel and his Wife Kelly had all left to return to Canada.  This left my folks and me and the boys for 7 more days.  We drove to Netanya and checked into our condo.  

The first thing I noticed about driving in Israel was that Google maps was my friend.  I plugged my phone into the car and it told me what to do.  I was not too proud to follow these direction.   Israeli drivers are very aggressive and I did not have a clue where I was going.  So with a little help from my little friend we made it all over the country during that week.  Also Israel is full of roundabouts.  They have replaced many lights with roundabouts and it is much smoother to get around.  

We did a substantial grocery shopping and ate out of the house for the first time in weeks. It was nice to have a base and this condo was wonderful.   I had my fears about using Airbnb but frankly it was exactly what we needed. The condo was clean, huge and beautiful. It was across the street from the beach.  It had a beach view looking west for the most beautiful sunsets.   

The kitchen was huge and well equipped. It was kosher so that was a little bit of a challenge. I grew up with a kosher kitchen when I was young and have had many friends with kosher houses.  So I knew what to do.  Being kosher in a kitchen I was cooking in was a constant reminder of where we were.   

The area had a lot of religious French Jews which really brought home an issue that was continuing to show it's face during out trip.  The newest immigration to Israel was from France.  Over the years Israel has absorbed many cultures.  It is a mesh of Jews from all over the world that have become Israel.   

When I was in Israel 21 years ago the immigration was from Russia.  The Ulplan, language program, that I did was about 50% Russian immigrants trying to learn the language to survive in Israel.  Now the Russians were indistinguishable from the rest of the populations.  The kids had all blended and everyone was dark haired with the occasional red head to blond.   

The new folks were all French.  They were more religious then average and tended to keep their language.  They had money are were settling in cities like Netanya.  They were leaving the tension for Jews in Europe, and were entering into Israel with confidence.    France had been a huge hot bed of antisemitism for too long.  Israel welcomed these people with open arms and supported for their transition. 

Anyway so we spent our days doing things we still wanted to do.  We went to Jerusalem and saw the Chagall Windows, spent more time in the old city and Joel and Sabba went to the Bloomberg Science Museum.   

We spent a day in a water park so over populated that we thought we were all going to have anxiety attacks.  The combination of humanity was unbelievable.   The Jews with huge school and camp groups of kids out of control, the Arab families that came with their own bbq's and boom boxes and smaller family groups all over the place was tempered by teen age groups sizing each other up and young couples making out at will.  We stuck it out and the kids had a good time.

My boys and I did a short trip back south to Eilat.  I desperately wanted to take the boys there to show them the Red Sea and the Negev Mountains.   I remembered my days of going across to Egypt and staying in the little Bedouin town of Dahab.   I spent months on the Red Sea taking it in and enjoying living in an Arabian world.  One highlight was always snorkeling along the Red Sea coral reefs.  

Against everyone's warnings of heat and long drives I couldn't help it but go down and show my kids this amazing place.  We drove down one day taking 5 hours to arrive in Eilat.  We skirted the southern part of the Dead Sea in our drive getting to see that magnificent area once again.   We listened to our Star Wars audio book and enjoyed the views.   My kids were used to long drives and this hardly qualifies as a long one yet it took us through many geographic regions and amazing views. 

Eilat had changed a lot in 21 years.  The area that we stayed in was beside the bus station in old Eilat.  It was near the hostels I used to stay in.  Certainly not the caliber of hotels my Father arranged, but it was fine for our needs.  We had a small room with three small beds.  The kids got to experience an Israel bathroom the way they was back in the day.  The shower was in the same room as the toilet with no separation but a shower curtain.  There was a squeegee for any clean up needs.   

The heat in Eliat was amazing.  We hardly wanted to eat and drank fruit smoothies everywhere we went.  It was hot, but a dry heat.  We had air conditioning in the car and hotel.  Otherwise we drank a lot of water and dove into the experience.  

New Eliat, or the area around the marina, was much more developed. There used to be a few hotels down there, now it looked more like Vegas, with big theme hotels along the water with pedestrian ways and lots of cafe's and shops.   We went down there at night to walk around as the temperatures dropped to 99'f with a lovely wind that made it a wonderful experience.     

We spent the afternoon, which got up to 107'f, going to the Nature Preserve Reef.  We spent four hours snorkeling around in this magical place. There was a huge reef and they had two long decks built that you could take out to the outer side of the reef.  There you could jump into the water and check out this wonder land of thousands of fish, coral and other creatures.   

Joel was the first to call it quits as the salt got too much for him.  I got him a slushy and left him on the beach, in the shade, while Jordan and I used every minute till the places closed to swim about.   The placed closed at 6 pm and I think we left at 5:59. 

We got to see thousands of little silver fish swimming all around to long nose fish with scary looking mouths to parrot fish and all the cast of characters you see any any Disney movie set in the sea.   Sea cucumbers, coral swaying in the current, and sea urchins populated the multi color reefs.  This was the kind of experience you saw at aquariums in big cities but we were in the real thing.   I felt proud of my pluck to take the kids all the way there and show them this magical experience.  

The next day we did a glass bottom boat tour of the bay.  We skirted the boarders of Jordan and Egypt.  This was the closest I went to taking my kids to these amazing Arabian worlds.  They wanted to go to Egypt to say they had been in African but I was not that crazy.  While I had spent about 3 months there back in the day, things had changed drastically and I was not about to put my kids into that world.   My world of Bedouin villages and dancing by the camp fire were long gone becoming high rise hotels, villas and a different political and religious world.  
The cruse was fun but the glass bottom boat portion of the curse was a far cry from our swimming amount the fish the day before.  We saw dolphins playing and enjoyed the feeling of wind in our faces.  It was hot but it was a dry heat so you didn't feel like you were going to drop.  

After the curse, we drove back to Netanya through the the same route saying goodbye to the Negev and the desert.  I wanted to take the kids by the other route seeing the Ramon Crater but it was Shabbat and I knew most things would be closed.  The route was through the mountains and would be more curvy. Joel had experienced some car sickness earlier in the trip and I did not want to re-visit that.  We were due in Netanya for Shabbat Dinner so we high tailed it home to our beach side condo on the Mediterranean Sea.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dead Sea Area... From Oasis to Healing

This post will be about the South of Israel.  The next adventures we had on our trip were in the Dead Sea area.  Our destination that night was the Isotel Dead Sea, and it was to be a wonderful relaxing healing time.  I had not expected such a sumptuous resort with a fantastic spa.  We arrived travel weary and ready for some pampering and rest.

But first the Journey down, we snaked our way down from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea area.  Our first stop was at Ein Geti.  Ein Geti is a  nature preseve on the way south.  It is an oasis in the middle or harsh desert mountains.  You can tell you were there because it is actually an area of green that is not a kibbutz field growing dates trees.   

The entire drive down south was beautiful desert  interspersed with little communities with fields of fruit orchards or hoop houses for crop production.  The hoop houses were mostly empty in the summer months where it was just too hot to grow most crops.  However, in the winter those same hoop houses would be full and overflowing with growth.  As an avid gardener this was such a miracle to see in the harsh desert. 

Ein Geti, a fresh water spring that comes out of the mountain high above the oasis, is a beauty to behold.  The brave climb up and up to higher falls, given the time and the capacity to do it.  Even though this area is a oasis, you could not fool yourselves, this little green belt was still  the desert and the temperatures were up in the high 90's. We changed into swim clothing, and started along the path to the first water fall. We all took turns enjoying the shower of spring water that pored over the cliff above.   

It was great to see tourists, Israeli families, Religious Jews and Arabs a like all enjoying this wonderful location.   With my injured knee I could only go this far and could not lay down in the water as I wished to.  However I did enjoy the wonderful water and even had a chance for some private time at the oasis when the constant flow of people died down.   The adventurous in our group kept going along the path to the upper falls enjoying more beauty and wonder.

As I am one to meditate at such wonderful moments, I sat and concentrated on calm and clarity.  I asked my usual questions of what is next and how to do I get through the challenges I and my family face in our lives.   The answers I received, while rather private, summed up to the realization that I needed to take time to keep the Sabbath.

When I first left Israel in 1995 I was determined to have Shabbat Dinner every Friday night in my home.  I kept this up for years, inviting friends and family to join us for this chill and fun evening.   Somewhere along the way we lost this tradition and this evening and subsequent day became like all others. It became another time of work, ordinary and empty.  

My life had become beyond busy over the last year, working ridiculous hours as I started two businesses and at times worked four jobs.  I knew there was no way I could keep this up and the answer of how to go on was to try to go back to enjoying the shabbath and give myself this time to rest and heal each week.  The answer was not to allow this time to be sucked up into the frenzy of work and expectations.

Next we moved on to Masada.  Unfortunately it was about 3 in the afternoon by then and the heat was getting unbelievable.  Last time I went up Masada in 1994, it was around 5 in the morning and the sun was just coming up.  Conversly three in the afternoon was a bit on the hot side and we took the cable car up.   We did a quick tour of the top as we all melted in the heat.  It was one of the moments that we were all thinking "yup, saw it... lets go.".   My mother turned a shade of red in the heat that I had not ever seen before.   

Masada was amazing because the view was great and you got a great idea of the brutality of the history.  The story was compelling and showed the determination of both a small group of zealot and the army that eventually took the mountain top fortress. 

Next, we went to the Dead Sea Resort and checked into our sumptuous rooms for a two day stay.  We said goodbye to our wonderful tour guide and driver, Ruben and Arron.  They really enriched the trip and gave us a smooth experience.  

We hit the pools and relaxed into the healing waters.   The hotel had a private pool in the spa area, for adults, to go into the Dead Sea waters without having to walk across the road and go directly into the actual sea.  We still went to the sea of course at times,  It was so wonderful to see the kids reaction to going into this high salt concentration sea.

Science Moment: The Dead Sea has such high concentrations of salt that you automatically float in the water.  Regular sea water has about 3% salt where the Dead Sea has about 30% salt content.

The Dead Sea was great and healing for everyone.  The water is also very healing and was a wonderful help for my knee.  Several in our group suffer with various skin conditions such as psoriasis and were looking forward to seeing how the waters would help and heal.   

My nephew Jonny had never floated before as he just had no extra fat on his body at all.  He was so excited to actually float in the water.  The one hard thing was that any cuts or sores anyone had immediately started to burn in pain in the high salt water. My sister got some Vaseline to help cover obvious sores and irritated areas.  

We enjoyed our time in this area relaxing after so many days of touring one thing after another. Here we got to just chillax, as Joel calls it.   We hardly left the resort, enjoying the end of time together as a family.  We all knew this great tour was coming to an end and that many of us would be leaving shortly to return home.

The air was also healing in the Dead Sea area.  The minerals in the water are also diffused into the air. We all bought lots of Dead Sea stuff in the Ahava Store and stocked up for great stuff.  By the time we left the area we were all feeling strong and wonderful.   

I want to take this moment to thank my Dad for making this trip happen and all my family that took their time, energy and funds to come and join us on this adventure.  I feel it was formative for our family and I enjoyed all the wonderful moments together. This trip really was fantastic and I miss you all every day.  

Israel From my Mothers Heart

My next post will include some reflections posted by my mother on Facebook. She generally posted bits and pieces as comments on my posts etc...  I will edit them a bit but left most intact to share how she felt to be there.  

Many people long to go to Israel for various good reasons. The cost is always substantial but the rewards are immeasurable. She has only been there twice, once in 1977 for my Brothers Bar Mitzvah and once this summer to celebrate the Bar Mitzvahs of my son and nephew. Yet as a survivor of the horrors of Europe in WWII, she held the dream of Israel in front of her like a light in the worst of the worst. 

So here it goes...

There is an energy, an "aliveness", within Israel, that goes to the soul. People walk everywhere from dawn till all hours of the night; with cafes and stores and music and spontaneous dancing, and lots and lots of food everywhere.  

The people here come in all shapes and sizes, all colors, all nations, all religions, and all sexual orientations.  And everyone has an opinion and their attitudes seem sometimes hard; but if you are in any apparent need, the hoard immediately parts the waters and individuals insist on helping you and making everyone listen and help.

There is JEWISH security everywhere, Israeli flags flying proud everywhere, most signs in three languages (Hebrew, Arabic and English) and sometimes in Russian and French, etc. 

I miss the Israeli flags. And the energy of Israel and of Jerusalem at night. And the walks at night in Netanya. The boys were transformed, at the Kotel especially. This was certainly a life-affirming and connecting place, God-given. A miracle unfolding. 

When Jordan spontaneously sang in the rotunda of the Chagall Windows, it was like the sound of angels; and then he sang the Shem in various octaves. Our children are the heritage of this new and old land; of a future. 

The young people are beautiful, and confident. And of course, the history of the buildings, the sites, thousands upon thousands of years of Jewish history protected and preserved by the Jewish soldiers, made available to ALL. 

When you touch the heritage site stones,  there is an instant energy - My hands got red and hot by just touching the container of David's Tomb. 

We went to a huge waterpark, seemed like billions of people, all running about in joy; Jew and Arab alike, many languages, and of course, food; AND one family, came over to us in sympathy and insisted we have watermelon slices, and bottles of water - they were French. 

Innovations and advancements are everywhere, pink and yellow flowers EVERYWHERE,  the land green with trees and cultivation and protected by watchtowers - across all the borders - turning from lush green land to brown desolation deserts of the surrounding enemy. 

This is a  tiny nation of innovators and people who love life to its fullest. And these words cannot but "touch" the miracle of this tiny land of and for Israel, brought back to life by the Jews who never left Israel; and the rag tag remnants of European horrors; and the  Refusniks from Russia; and the million escapees from the Arab lands; now reaffirmed by those who are cognizant enough to leave Europe before it is too late; and the American and Canadian Jews who are leaving here now also. 

I miss the energy of Israel. The Kibbutz,Yad Mordichaim that began the reclamation of Israel soil, and that fought the first fight in '48, I have the book and this lives with me. 

I KNOW this to be true; that all the efforts by all the nations,,. by friend and foe alike; to give away Israeli holy soil will NOT be allowed; there is now a Force, that will reconstitute Israel. A destiny arrived. Love

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jerusalem of Gold

Jerusalem will always hold a very special place I my heart. There is no city on this earth that had warmed my heart the same way. If I forget you oh Jerusalem... We left them north and travels south with Jerusalem as our goal. 

We traveled south through the archeological site of Bet shemesh. Again we saw ancient ruins and heard stories of the groups that had occupied the lands.  Jordan sang in the amphitheater and we all melted in the heat. 

We continued on to the Amrony museum, we saw the evolution of the Israeli tank divisions through the various wars over time. The kids climbed in and out of the big gray monsters. The most recent tank was on display. Joel noticed a mother cat carrying her babies into one of the tanks. 

I have not mentioned Joel's catometer. Joel counted cats throughout the entire time in Israel. His grand total by the time we were done was 157. Cats are everywhere in Israel. 

So we eventually made our way to the Dan Panorama hotel in Jerusalem. This was a long way from the filthy hostels I used to stay in.  The city had grown and changed so much since my last visit. There was big buildings, light rail systems, more of everything. Yet, many things never changed. 

We settled in and had a swim. Then we met a friend of Diane's, a rabbi that went to school with her in Toronto back in the day. He lived in a small settlement outside Jerusalem. Together we went to Zion square which to me, was where I used to stay in the underground hostel and dance till dawn. Now it was a large pedestrians area with lots of caf├ęs and fun things going on. We went there each night to have great falaphel and watch the life around us. 

In Jerusalem we spent time in the old city, the Israel museum, Yaf Va Shem, and the yeudah market, among other stops.  We were ushered from place to place by our trusty tour guides during the day and made our own way out at night. 

One of the highlights was the light show at the town of David. This to me was amazing. It followed the history of the area from group to group through moving light projections all over the inside walls of the structure. I had never seen anything like it. All the history our guide had tried to show us came together in this 30 minute magnificent show. 

Another great stop was the yeudah market. There you can get spices, halvah, fish, vegetables, sweets, cheeses, olives and just about anything you want to eat. Back in the day I used to get my groceries there and tie them to my backpack as I traveled around. This time I bough some food and joel and I had a lovely pick it. Jordan and Eli stuffed their faces with fresh mangos and discovered the joy of havlah. 

Jerusalem is magic. There are so many people with so much knowledge to share and secrets to be discovered. Underground tunnel tours to philosophy discussions to the Dead Sea scrolls. It is all there. Joel even spent an afternoon at an interactive science museum. 

After the tour, later in the trip we drove back to Jerusalem for one more day.  We saw the Chagall Windows, had one more walk through the Arab markets, and one more stop at the kotel to send our prayers and hopes heavenward. 

Years ago I spent about three months in Jerusalem. I love the very smell of the place, the sounds of the call to prayer and the feel of the Jerusalem stones undermine feet. There is no other. My heart will always be with that city. It is loved by many religions and has an undeniable energy all it is own. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Returning Home to the list of characters

The first thing I said when we landed in Israel was "look kids, we are home".   Joel looked at me and said, "We are not home."  I looked at him and said.  "Yes we are dear."  Israel will always be a home for me.   It is a home for the Jewish People.  It is a home for my soul.  I traveled here in the early 90's during my backpacking years.  I spent a good year in Israel and never had a dull moment.  My family is here and many friends too.

We were excited about seeing our Israeli family and also our Toronto Family that was meeting us in Israel for the next stage of this trip.  We arrived in the Dan Panorama hotel in Tel Aviv to find our very jet lagged Canadian contingent exhausted but excited to be here.  

The North American Family consists of the following characters:

Sabba, Cyril, Chaim.  My Father is in his late 70's and is the main driver behind this trip.  Without him we would not be doing this trip at all. He was born in Scotland and grew up in Israel.  He saw the beginning of the State of Israel living here until his family moved to Canada.

For my father this trip has been an opportunity to see his family together in a Jewish World.  Two days ago, in Jerusalem, he had the opportunity to bless his grand children in front of the Western Wall.  As he put a hand on each child's head he wished for them the best of life,   Sabba has always been a very proud and loving man. He loves his family as an anchor in his life.  He has pushed himself to his limits in many ways on this trip and we all love him to the ends of time.

Then comes my Mom, Safta Lily.  My mother's Journey to Israel has totally different implications.  She is a survivor of the holocaust.  The dream of Israel has a different significance to her.  The thought of living in Israel is what kept her going through situations that frankly no child should have ever experienced.  The thought of moving to Israel to create a Jewish nation was sustaining in horrible times.

Coming to Israel with her family around her has allowed her to see the future of brightness for her family and her dreams.  As we have traveled through Israel she has been able to face some of her past.  She told us that at Yad Va Shem she allowed herself to cry a little, for the first time, about that horrible chapter in her life.

My sister is an amazing and complex person.  She is an incredibly talented actor, and writer.  She grew up going to Jewish Day School. Her relationship with Judaism has been complex.  Many of her plays have had Jewish content or connection.  She questions deeply the faith and all it's moving pieces.  She has had more then her fair share of hardship and has been infuriated by the idiom that god gives you what you can handle.  She is one of the strongest and biggest bad-asses I have ever known yet her strength has been tested and continues to be tested.

The last time Diane was in Israel there was no options for families to go to go to the Western Wall and pray together, men and women.  That has changed and represents some real changes in sensibilities.  This for Diane, our crusader for rights and progress has been an important advancement.

My Brother is a quiet individual that is the other half of my Gemini.  He is 5 years and 3 days older than me.   He is here with his exceedingly supportive wife Kelly.  Daniel is not someone who dives in after changes in his environment and yet he has done really well with our constant moving about.

Daniel and Kelly get the benefit of riding this ride, getting to see their nephews enjoy this trip but also be able to enjoy couple time.   They are very loving to each other and it has warmed my heart to see my Brother so happy and with someone that totally gets him.  Daniel loves his nephews very much and he has a special relationship with Jonny.  It has been great to see the two gentle souls hang together and the obvious love they share.

Kelly has been fun to watch. She is originally from Jersey and grew up around religious Jews.  For her this trip is an eclectic mix.  She has gotten  to see holy places from the faith she grew up in and get an interesting look at a different kind of Jewish culture.

One of her comfort zones was blown away by the fact that Israelis don't do lineups.  In fact they move more like a herd of some sort including going into venues, buses, elevators or even crossing the road.  She had her first falaphel and has stood up to quite the test by fire frankly. None of the other spouses has the chutzpah to come along.  Salute to you Kelly.

The kids include my two sons Jordan and Joel as well as my Sister's two sons, Eli and Jonny.  Thankfully the boys pair up with two 13 year old's, that each had their bar mitzvah within the last month, and two 9 year old that are bouncing around and wiggling about.   For me to see my son's and my nephews transformed by this experience is unbelievable.

The bigger boys have been given a little freedom in safe spaces where they can stretch their wings and build common memories about this time.  The younger ones have also bonded, but often over their relaxation time in the room, when they just have had enough and needed the familiar.

Jordan has jumped right in and has really got it.  He has acquired a the love for travel and the love for Israel. I have said it before and I will say it again, you can't go to this country and not be changed.  It has an effect on your soul and on your outlook on the world.   Jordan has changed daily.  He has seen the beauty and strength of Israel.  From hanging with his Israeli cousin, who is doing his army service, to talking with rabbi's and complete strangers about Judaism and philosophy till three am, his mind has being blown wide open.

To add to this we have had our tour guide and driver for the 6 days of travel around Israel.  Ruven has been the guild and continued to supply us with more info on the history and geography of Israel then we could digest.  Aaron was a driver and greeted us each morning with smiles and songs of Judaism.  You have to watch this video,  It is all true,

So now you know the folks that have gone on this Journey through Israel with us.  I promise the next blog will be about our amazing activity full days and the great realizations we have had.   I want to take a minute to thank my family for going on this Journey.  It has taken vacation time, money and lots of effort and I appreciate this time with everyone. LOVE