Tuesday, April 25, 2023

A Day of Mourning, A Day of Celebration

(Trigger warning, siren begins at 00:46)

Yom haZikaron (Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror) in Israel has a very small town feel to it. It's not about sales at the malls, the inconvenience of banks and government offices being closed, or a day off from school. As a matter of fact, other than offices being closed, Israel does things very differently than in the US.

Malls and supermarkets and other retail stores will generally close early. Theaters, restaurants, and bars are closed. School is early dismissal and chances are there were assemblies for part of the day. There are ceremonies everywhere. People really feel the day. And then there are the sirens.

The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, so holidays and observances begin at sundown and end at sundown the next day. At 8PM, a siren sounds all over Israel, and everything and everyone stops. Traffic is at a standstill. Business transactions are halted. People walking come to a stop and people at home pause whatever it is they're doing to stand and reflect and pray and mourn. And then it is repeated at 11AM the next day.

During this 24-hour period, the radios play mournful music and the national TV station runs the names of each and every soldier who died protecting Israel. And it's not a fast scroll of the names and it's done in an hour. For 24 hours, one name after the other will appear on the screen, along with their date of birth and the date of their sacrifice.

And then, when the day of mourning is done... we celebrate the creation of the State of Israel. Fireworks and drone shows, speeches and DJs. And then the next day there are jet fly overs courtesy of the Air Force, and we get together with friends and family and have our mandatory BBQ.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Corn Chowder

This is a very basic corn chowder recipe I got a long time ago. Of course, the measurements are for only a couple bowls of soup, and I tend to cook not just for several people, but for several people wanting several helpings. The original recipe called for green pepper, but I found it gave the soup a rather unappetizing grey tinge. The red peppers work much better.

Corn Chowder

1 potato, peeled & diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp unbleached flour
2 c. fresh or frozen corn
3 c. lowfat milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1) in a large pot over medium heat, saute the potato, onion and red pepper in the butter until the onion is soft, about 6-8 mins.

2) add the flour and mix well. then add the corn, milk, salt, and black pepper, stirring thoroughly.

3) turn the heat to low and simmer for about 20 mins, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender and the chowder has thickened (do not let it boil). Using a stick blender, blend the soup to the consistency you want - longer for a smooth soup, less time for chunks.

Asian Chicken and Corn Soup

 I originally found the recipe on the Dumpling Sisters page, but needed to scale it up for a family.

First, I poach a whole chicken in a few inches of water. Once it's cooked, I remove it from the pot to cool, but keep the poaching liquid for added flavor. Once it's cooled, I shred the chicken.

I can't get creamed corn where I live, so I put approximately 500 grams of thawed frozen corn into a blender and add a couple cup of water. Once it's been blitzed, I add it to the pot of poaching liquid. Since frozen bags of corn comes in 800 gram bags, I add the remaining whole corn to the pot as well.

2 liters of water, shredded chicken, a few chopped scallions, a healthy splash of soy sauce, salt, black pepper, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil go into the pot as well.

Once it comes to a boil, I stir in a steady stream of raw egg (3 eggs mixed with 1/3 cup water).

I let it simmer for 30 minutes, and then it's ready to eat.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Back at it

 In theory, fall is here, and in theory, it means cooler weather.

Which means I can start walking outside again. In theory.

Tomorrow, it's supposed to be a high of 102F.

This is where we are today.

The good news is, however, I already got my walk in. I turned on my alarm for the first time in a few weeks (the boys have been doing distance learning, so there's been no need to be awake at 6:15 am), and was out walking this morning at 6:45. It's been 7 months since I last did an exercise walk, and with the constant lockdowns and such since March, it's been a while since I walked more than much more than a kilometer at any given time.

And man, did I feel it this morning. I managed just over 2.25 kilometers, half of what I expected to do. But after the first kilometer, I started feeling it, and decided it wasn't going to do anyone any good - least of all me - if I pushed myself unnecessarily. I'm not in a race. There's no reason to push myself into pain. I'm going to be smart about this and work my way up to 5k again, and then work my way past 5k.

I've kind of been on the fence about when to do my walk. Last year, I did it in the evening. But lately, I'm just way too tired by 8 pm. So, get up early, do my walk while it's still relatively cooler out and the sun is just coming up, and then I can start my day. It will take a bit of juggling once the boys go back to school, to get them up and prepared for their day, but I think we'll be able to manage.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Family Growth Chart

 Many years ago, we bought a metal frame and white cotton fabric walls to build our sukkah. The frame stayed up all year, I sewed together several bed sheets to throw on top to make a shade, and we'd often have our Shabbat meals outside on the patio when the weather cooperated.

After a few holidays of getting tired of staring at the plain white walls, I decided I wanted to design something to paint on the walls. First I thought something rather industrious - traditionally on Sukkot (Feast of the Tabernacles), there is the concept of seven holy guests - Ushpizin - who visit the sukkah, one for each day of the holiday. Then I thought maybe to start a bit more simply, the seven species of fruit associated with the Land of Israel, and the four species associated with the holiday of Sukkot.

And then I hit on a family-inclusive, long-term project. Using just one handprint from each family member, we would build a mosaic over the years.

The first year was 2010.

We started with a sun. Six members of the family, and a false start.

In 2011, we added part of the sky. And a son-in-law.

2012 saw grass grow, and a grandson.

2013 we had flowers bloom.

In 2014, the multicolored butterflies arrived.

And in 2015, we did the other part of the sky, and welcomed a second grandson to the family and to the sukkah family project.

In 2016 we moved to a location where we don't have a place to build our own sukkah, so for now, the family project is on hold. Happily, as soon as it's up and going again (please God, for Sukkot in 2021), we will be adding several new family members.

So, any interesting traditions you have to chronicle the growth of your own families?

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Existing vs Living

The past year, I've been living in a high stress situation. And the past 6 months only increased the levels of stress. And yes, I know I'm not the only one.

I've basically stopped doing things I used to enjoy. I can't remember the last time I picked up a camera. I don't remember when I last baked bread. I stopped my 5k walks. Blogging and vlogging are a thing of the past.

Yeah, once a month I get a manicure. But it's a passive activity that doesn't require my creativity (beyond picking a new manicure) or much of my attention.

I've been existing, but not living.

And I want that to stop. I NEED that to stop.

I've begun to notice the world around me again. The small things, like flowering weeds or the pomegranates that are coming into season.

I think it's time to pick up my camera again.

I've started watching my diet and cutting down carbs and cutting out sugar.

I think it's time for me to find a suitable bread recipe and start baking again.

Losing weight won't happen with just a change of diet, I NEED to exercise. Until I can afford a treadmill, I need to do something.

I think it's time to start walking again.

I've been told that I'm pretty decent at putting a sentence together. Putting the stuff that causes my stress hamster running at 1 AM down on paper - digital as it may be - is a good way for me to move things out of my head, which in turn will let me get a decent night's sleep. Vlogging will help me track my getting healthy journey.

I think it's time to get writing and recording again.

So the camera battery is now being charged, and my workout gear is getting dusted off.

Photo taken at the urban lot farm in February, 2020 BC... Before Corona.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Cheese Blintz Casserole

I don't like to make fussy foods, even if I enjoy eating them. I enjoy blintzes, but don't have the patience to make individual crepes, then stuff and roll them. And then there's the toppings - some might want plain cheese, I enjoy a blueberry blintz, my kids most likely would prefer with Nutella. Okay, that sounds delicious.

I have a recipe where you create a crepe batter and a cheese filling, but instead of making individual crepes and then individual blintzes, you simply pour half the crepe batter into an oiled baking pan, then the cheese filling, then the rest of the crepe batter, bake, slice, and serve. And folks can top it with whatever they like.

2/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 and 1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour

Blend all ingredients together.

1 and 1/4 pound (500 grams) cottage cheese (higher fat is better)
4 ounces cream cheese (I use 125 grams of gvinah levanah)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar
1 egg

Mix together.

Pour half the batter into a well greased 9x13 pan. Layer on all the filling and top with the rest of the batter.

Bake for about 45 minutes or so (or until golden brown) in a 350F degree oven.

(I actually double the batter recipe to give it more solidity).

When you serve it, feel free to have a topping bar - fresh fruit, pie filling, jam, chocolate syrup or spread.