Friday, March 30, 2018

Holidays, Family, and Depression

I moved 6,000 miles away from my family; parents, siblings, grandparents, almost all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. And when I married Zach, I added a host of in-laws to that list.

Now, I get that for many, moving 6,000 miles away from family is a blessing. But I come from a fairly tight-knit clan, and we all pretty much get along. Holidays are a BIG thing for us. Getting together, sharing cooking duty, spending time together... it's what we do.

I've been living in Israel for almost 21 years and the holidays always depress the heck out of me. Or rather, it brings my depression to a whole new level.

I remember one year, going through fertility treatments, so I'm hopped up on hormones, and I'm getting ready for Pesach (Passover). I open the fridge and see the huge container of applesauce I had just made... and I totally lost it because I wanted my grandmother's applesauce (and her horseradish, sponge cake, gefilte fish, and stewed pears).

So we invite people - other ex-pats - to our Pesach seder, which is the main meal. I'll usually make a turkey, and a slew of other dishes. I fondly remember introducing the concept to an amazing Australian family who was joining us. Last year was by far one of the more interesting ones.

We had 9 guests, a couple who were vegetarian/vegan, and most of whom were actually not even Jewish. It was really fun for us to introduce and teach our customs to people who had never experienced a real Pesach seder. I made turkey, and I made zucchini stuffed with quinoa, mushrooms, and onions. There was a host of side dishes. And yes, I introduced them all to gefilte fish, which I admit, is an acquired taste.

This year, we're going to our daughter and her family for the Pesach seder for the very first time. And for the first time in a really long time, my usual holiday blues aren't that bad. I'm actually feeling pretty good and looking forward to going and spending time with my daughter, her husband, her delicious two boys, my other daughter, my husband, and our two sons.

Speaking of which, I need to get showered, and pack everything up so we can hit the road.

What are your family holiday meals like?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Parents not caring

Israelis tend to have a rather "take life into your own hands" kind of attitude. SO many people still smoke, people drive like maniacs, and way too few people wear seat belts while in a car.

Wearing a seat belt IS a law here. But another popular Israeli attitude is "laws are mere suggestions, which don't apply to me". If an adult chooses not to wear a seat belt, that's their problem. But when they don't properly restrain their children... that's abuse.

Almost every morning (and afternoon), my son and I wait at the nearby roundabout for his van to school. On one side of us is a mini-market, and a bit further down on the other side is a bakery. Both are popular morning stops for folks on their way to work or taking kids to school, so I see a lot of cars pull up with kids in them.

I thought the worst, most disgusting seat belt violation I had ever seen was a few months ago, when a car pulled up at the mini market. In the back seat were three kids, none of whom were wearing a seat belt. In the front passenger seat was a girl, who looked to be no more than five or six. Not only wasn't she wearing a seat belt or in a booster, but she was sitting BACKWARDS.  She was leaning back against the dashboard!

The mom got out of the car, ran into the store to buy cigarettes, and as she came out, I actually said something to her about getting those kids properly seat belted in. She nodded, got into the car, and drove off... with the kids as they were.

Today, however, I saw something that actually wants me to call the police and beg them to set up a ticketing stop.

Car pulls up. I could see a girl in the back seat, around eleven years old. And it was obvious she wasn't wearing a seat belt. Dad gets out of the car, comes around, opens the back door, and pulls out a little boy, who literally couldn't have been more than two. He had been sitting in a booster (which he's  legally too young and small for). ALSO NOT WEARING A SEAT BELT. Dad carries little boy into the mini market, does some shopping, puts the kid back onto his booster (and yes, I could see he wasn't belted in), and starts going around the car to get into the driver's seat.

I tell the dad he needs to belt the kids in. And he just gives me a stink eye. And drives off.

And then right behind him comes a car with FIVE kids in the back seat (I could see two kids sitting on laps in the back).

Who the hell does this these days???? I mean, people treat the eggs they buy at the market with more care than they do their children in this country!

Have you ever seen someone endanger others to such a degree, all you wanted to do was call the authorities on them?

Friday, March 9, 2018

Pesach is coming - Charoset edition

There are many parts to a Pesach seder, and one of them is the eating of the charoset. Growing up, I had the typical Ashkenazi version of shredded apples, ground walnuts, sweet red wine, and cinnamon, all mixed together. And for many years after, when my husband and I would make our own seder, that's what I would make.

A few years ago, I decided to change things up and offer a variety of different types from around the world. I made the traditional Ashkenazi version, and a more Middle Eastern version with dates. The blogger calls them charoset date truffles. And they were well received. I also made a date version with whole oranges that only Zach liked. I think part of the problem is there's simply too much pith in the local oranges, and it makes it really bitter. If I tried the recipe again, I'd use just the zest and the pulp.

Now, to be honest, I'm not a fan of dates. So before last Pesach, I went in search of a version of charoset that was different, and had neither dates nor apples. And I came across this apricot energy bites recipe. I am VERY embarrassed to say that I didn't bother to read anything about the blogger, saw her name is Ruchi, and immediately assumed she was a Jewish woman, and would understand the Jew-speak in the comment I left her, thanking her for this recipe. Um... she's NOT Jewish, she's from India.

But anyway, I left out the flax seeds because they're kitniyot and we're Ashkenazi, and even though we live in Israel, there are some things I'm just not ready to go full Sepharadi on... and even without the flax seeds, these things were AMAZING. I only made one batch, since it was the first time, and they flew off the plates. Everyone loved them, everyone raved about them. So this recipe will definitely become part of our usual Pesach seder table.

What holiday traditions are your favorites, and what traditions have you changed successfully over the years?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Vacation plans

So the last time I actually took a vacation was a ten-day trip to London, back in March, 2014. I went with my adult daughter and we played tourist, as this was the first time either of us had ever been. It was also the first time I'd ever taken a vacation without any children under the age of 15.

The last time I'd been back to the US was August, 2012. It was a family trip, so I hesitate to call it a vacation, although I didn't actually do any paid work. My boys were just over 5 years old, and about 3 1/2 years old. NEITHER were toilet trained. And let me tell you, family and handicapped bathrooms are not equipped to deal with a 5 year old in need of a diaper change. Yes, even at the zoo, and at children's museums.

Anyway, I'm now in the process of organizing a trip to the US. My in-laws are being generous enough to fly the boys and myself in; Zach just started a new job and won't have the vacation time. One of the main requests from the in-laws is they'd like to have the boys all to themselves for a week or two. But as I'd like to see my mother-in-law before she flies off to help my sister-in-law with her new baby, I'm giving them a week without me.

Wow. A whole week without children. A whole week without having to take care of anyone but myself, without having to answer to anyone. To plan my day as I'd like to spend it. I can't even fathom this concept, it's so foreign to me.

There are people I want to see. I've been living in Israel for over 20 years (and by the time summer rolls around, it will be 21 years), but thanks to social media, I still keep in touch with some of my childhood and young adulthood friends. And of course there are the new friends I've made thanks to social media. I have longtime Internet friends all over the world, and there's a decent list of them that I would LOVE to meet in person if I had the time and money. There's also a nice amount of folks who live within a reasonable distance from where I'll be staying.

Having at least a week to myself presents some interesting opportunities. And it gave me an interesting idea. This year my mom will be celebrating a milestone birthday, and my siblings and I have been discussing what to get her for over six months now. I had suggested we send her and my dad somewhere rather exotic. But then when it became apparent that my boys and I would be coming to the US, I suggested to my siblings that we do a ladies vacation. My mom, my sister, my sisters-in-law, and I go away for a few days. At first I suggested Las Vegas. But after thinking about it, I felt that since none of us are gamblers, going to Vegas would really end up being about spending money - shopping, spas, shows. And since we keep kosher, we wouldn't even have interesting food experiences. So then I suggested to my siblings the possibility of sightseeing somewhere none of us have ever been. San Francisco was one suggestion I had. And then, almost as a throw away, I brought up the possibility of the Grand Canyon.

And apparently, it really seemed to fire up my sister and one of my sisters-in-law! Go figure!

If you had a few days to yourself, where would you go? What would you do?