Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Book Club, "City Boy"

Homemade pickles and bagels  
After a much too long summer hiatus, the local Shiloh Bloq "Book Bliss" Book Club met at my house last night. We had read City Boy by Herman Wouk quite a while ago, but due to the usual events and personal plans of summer and then Jewish Holiday seasons, it took us much too long to set a date to meet.

We always have a "potluck" dinner as part of the meeting. This time, besides the homemade pickles and bagels show above, we ate orange soup, salad, cheeses, flavored butters and totally irresistible eclairs. There was also some fantastic wine for the drinkers among us.

I feel extremely blessed to live near such a wonderful group of women. The conversation and social aspect of the group rivals the intellectual stimulation of the book discussion. Adding an early dinner to our meetings has enriched them enormously.  Some of us read the books from paper, while others use their kindles or audio versions. And sometimes for various reasons, we just can't get to or through the entire book, so cheat and google it.

Our next book is Humboldt's Gift. I must get a copy somehow.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Judaism Respect for The Dead and General Mourning Customs

Yesterday I posted the photo below to the 365project.org, and some of the members found it interesting and asked questions about the Jewish attitude towards death and funerals.

Funeral Today

A lovely man, good neighbor, who always tried to help others and was devoted to the community and his family died this morning and was buried this afternoon.

In Judaism, one is required to bury the dead as soon as possible, preferably the same day as the death occurs. Leaving the body unburied is a sign of disrespect and causes suffering to the soul.

One of the reasons I took this photo in black and white is that there's a weeklong black and white photo meme floating around facebook I was asked to join. The funeral was a perfect location for black and white.  But since it's a colorless photo you can't see that people are dressed in regular colored clothes, including the close family mourners who aren't shown here.

According to Jewish Law and custom, one doesn't dress up in formal black for a funeral or mourning, and mourners certainly don't rush out to buy a well cut and tailored black suit for the occasion. During mourning the aesthetic is to be ignored. At the cemetery, just before burial the immediate family, the dead person's children, spouse, siblings and parents have their clothing cut and ripped to symbolize the loss and damage to the family.

Once the dead person is buried, the mourners change out of leather shoes and wear cloth of plastic/rubber ones.

Then, after the funeral, they "sit shiva," have a weeklong period of mourning in which they wear those same clothes and don't comb their hair. Mirrors and other reflective surfaces in the home are covered, so the mourner will not be able to check how he or she looks. There is also no washing or bathing besides minimal personal hygiene. The only break in this is for the Sabbath, when one bathes simply, meaning no long pleasurable shower or bubble bath, and then puts on clean Shabbat clothes. 

The mourners are not supposed to be involved in any of the logistics and chores of everyday life. Friends, neighbors and more distant relatives are supposed to supply them with food etc. People come to give their condolences, share and listen to stories of the dead person. The mourners are encouraged to talk about the dead one. Conversation is supposed to be initiated by the mourner and kept on topic. Visitors aren't supposed to converse among themselves. One is not supposed to ask the mourner how he/she feels.

At the beginning of the seventh day, the mourners "get up." It's customary for visitors to literally help them up and take them out the door and walk a bit. Then the mourner goes home to bathe and change into clean clothes.

During the thirty days after a death, the mourners are also forbidden to have haircuts and shave.

The mourning period is stopped by certain Jewish Holidays, since the national religious celebrations are more important than personal ones.

This post is just a general post about Jewish Mourning, so I'm not going into great detail. If you want to know more click Judaism 101 and  Chabad.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Haikuing About Morning Coffee

Most days I still manage a haiku about my morning coffee. If you're on facebook, you can join the conversation and even reply in haiku form, 5, 7, 5 syllables.

 Here are a vew of my recent ones plus photos.

Mah tovu, How good
Modah ani, Thanking Gd
sunrise and coffee

sun shining brightly
no more daylight savings time
strong, sparkling coffee

Spent Shabbat at friends,
Was great, but only instant;
French Press tomorrow!

3 hrs
Morningcoffeehaiku Shabbat just instant
forbidden to use French Press
Can brew in advance

very tired today
lots of exciting things to do
coffee to rescue

Pretty coffee cup
Last night enjoyed museum
In Jerusalem

sunrise and coffee
starting the day with a smile
lots of fun things planned

Not buying soy milk
tasted awful in coffee
had to add sugar

Chodesh Tov, Dear World
Cheshvan begins the winter
dark sky strong coffee

coffee, cup by cup
simple filter always works
even before dawn

coffee with goat milk
I may try some with sugar
hot coffee, bright sun

sunshine and coffee
but tomorrow maybe rain
thankful for each drop

super busy day
fueling it with strong coffee
looking forward, smile


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Best Salad Deal in Jerusalem

The other day my friend and I needed a quick lunch before going to our "next stop/event." All I wanted to eat was a salad, and she was more flexible. We found ourselves in the Jerusalem Central Bus Station and checked out all the the options in the food court there. Even though there are about ten Israeli-style "fast food" places, nothing appealed to us, or at least to me.

Suddenly I remembered that there's a branch from the Neeman Bakery chain on the other side of the escalators. We went to check it out. They had a small custom-made salad for NS17, and it cost less than a shekel more to be able to eat at the table and be served in a regular bowl instead of the plastic container. My friend ordered soup. They both came with a nice-looking wholewheat roll, which she took home, since we didn't need to eat them. I was asked what dressing I wanted, and they were very generous with the olive oil.

My salad was fantastic. I had a choice of tuna and took the one that was plain. In addition, as you can see in the photo, I was able to get all sorts of cut salad until the bowl was overflowing.

This was a very pleasant surprise, and I plan on eating there in the future. I found the salad filling and the service excellent. You order at the counter, and they bring you to food to your table.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Moi, A Stand-Up Comedienne? Updated with link to performance

Last night I finally got my chance. In a sense it's like being able to cross something off my "Bucket List." I've always loved to perform, but outside of the classroom, as a teacher, and of course my dancing and talking to groups about Shiloh etc, I don't think I've ever been given a microphone to just be "me."

A couple of months ago, I noticed that the The Women's Performance Community of Jerusalem was looking for women to tell their aliyah stories to celebrate Yom Aliyah, Aliyah Day. So, I bit the bullet and sent in a wacky "audition" recorded as I walked up the hill one night, close to deadline, and I was accepted.

I thought I could just do my usual improv, no real planning, and then they started asking me how long it would take so they could set up the scheduling. Eeks! That brought me back down to earth. So I wrote something up and timed it. It was obvious to me that the "tone and style" would be very much like my Baile Rochel pieces and delivered stand-up. And the end would be a participatory "how to dance while standing in shul."

Of all the friends and family I invited, only one friend could attend, and she told me that if I signalled after each joke she'd be sure to laugh. The totally amazing thing was that from my very first joke, original of course, people began laughing, so I never had to signal her. And most of the women got up for the dancing. And lots of women came up to me afterwards to tell me what a great time they had.

Thanks to the Israel Center for sponsoring the group and super special thanks to the The Women's Performance Community of Jerusalem, Sharon Dobuler Katz, Shifra A-C Penkower, Avital Macales and Bati Katz. Here are some photos sent to me by Sharon Dobuler Katz. Click here and you should be able to see and hear me.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Jerusalem, Night and Day, Stunning

Jerusalem has gorgeous varied looks and views. It depends on where you are and the time of day. At night I was near the String Bridge and Knesset, while the day views are from Har Chomah.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Coconut vs Almond vs Soy vs Goat Milks: Conclusion

goat milk

goat milk
Have you been reading my alternative milk posts in total suspense? For the past month or more I've been trying out all sorts of anything but cow milks. Yes, I've had coconut cream and liquid, almond, goat and soy milks.

Let's start with the very worst flavor, according to my taste buds. That's the goat milk. It was so awful, that if that was the only alternative milk available, either I'd make do with a bigger waistline or give up coffee entirely. Even adding a bit of sugar didn't help at all.

soy milk
Continuing from bad to best, the next is soy milk. First of all it has terrible press mostly because of the fact that it is similar to estrogen. Well, at my age, and being female, adding a bit of estrogen isn't a major problem. And I very rarely eat tofu products, so I don't find it a real health issue. I didn't enjoy the flavor, though that improved with some sugar added. Now, since I'm trying to lose weight and keep it off, adding sugar is not a good idea. And when I compared nutritional data  of soy milk with almond milk, I found that they have the same calorie count. Adding sugar to the soy milk in coffee changes that.

coconut liquid
I also had tried coconut cream, which tasted good and was sweet enough not to need any sugar. But there are a few problems with it. It's hard to find in my neck of the woods. What I did find locally had all sorts of "E" additives, which aren't healthy. And the cream separates into a hard mass leaving a weak liquid. I froze the liquid, later using it in coffee. For some strange reason, the coconut taste/aftertaste stayed with me all day. It was rather annoying and made me suspicious of the health benefits. Some people claim it's great and others vehemently disagree.

almond milk
IMHO, according to my taste buds, the best "alternative milk" is the almond milk I bought in the local grocers, in the refrigerator section. It had a pleasant taste and didn't need any added sugar.

Yes, the almond milk does contain sugar, more than in the other milks I had tried. But other food experiments I've made of late show that my body needs/craves sugar early in the day. I recently switched my breakfast from a nice hearty omelet to a fruit and goat yogurt. And I've lost a few kilo since then.

A lot of friends have recommended making my own almond milk, daily, or a few times a week, but, sorry I'm not looking for more chores. Since when I'm home, at least, I can usually get almond milk, that's what I will buy for the time being.

I searched some large stores, health food and "natural" department in a large supermarket to see what else can be bought here. There wasn't much I would buy, and logistics are problematic. Convenience is also a major consideration, so I'll be buying the almond milk locally and will probably get my husband a liter bag of cow milk whenever possible. The bags are much less expensive than the containers.

I hope that my search has helped others. What do you think?

almond milk

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Revolutionary Health Diet Advice

Today as I was eating my breakfast, apple and fresh ginger in goat yogurt, I turned on the television and found myself watching a morning "health" show.

A woman in her late forties asked a doctor how to improve the health and weight of her family. She said that they, her children and herself, were always tired. The first thing the doctor asked was what they ate for breakfast.
"Sweetened coffee and cake."
The doctor replied that all that sugar has to go. They need to have something fatty in the morning, like real cream or coconut cream in their coffee, a slice of avocado, nuts, etc. He told them that he, too, has been working hard to remove sugar from his diet. Natural fats are healthy, much healthier than all of the sugar most people eat, whether added to coffee or within all sorts of prepared foods.

The doctor also said that he keeps a supply of nuts with him for quick energizing snacks. This all jives with what I've been hearing for years and suits my conclusions about which sort of diet works best. Anyone who carefully reads the ingredients of all the low-fat reduced fat foods comparing them to the full-fat varieties will discover that the fat is replaced by sugars and salts. That makes the low-fat reduced fat foods extremely unhealthy, much worse for us than the natural fat originals.

What's your experience with this sort of eating?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Final Milk Experiment IMHO: Soy vs Almond vs Coconut vs Goat

In the past month or so, I've been experimenting with various non-cow milks. I was trying to cut down on the sugar in my coffee in order to lose weight. One thing I discovered very early on was that my stomach seemed flatter when avoided cow dairy products.

frozen cubes of
coconut liquid
During the past few years, especially as we were trying to cut expenses, my dairy eating was almost only the milk I put in my coffee. I've been having sesame paste, which is extremely healthy and inexpensive, with foods that most people would eat with some sort of cheese. My husband still eats cottage cheese. Besides that, our protein consists of organic eggs, from a producer here in Shiloh, chicken and sometimes beef or fish.

First I tried coconut cream. The container had been in my closet for a few months. I didn't need any sugar with it to enjoy the coffee. Then I realized that it had separated, leaving a fatty block of coconut cream and some liquid. I mixed the cream with a ripe mashed banana, a bit of vanilla and cinnamon. To that I added chocolate chips and left it in the refrigerator until serving it at a nice meal. It was a great success. And the liquid I froze as "ice cubes." One morning I had those in my coffee. The flavor was fine, and I didn't need sugar to make it palatable. But the "taste of coconut" stayed with me all day.

goat milk
almond milk
Next I tried almond milk, and I must admit that I really liked it. It was sweet and didn't need any added sugar. Of course that was most probably be because there is a lot of sugar in the "milk." I was told by someone that it's not a real milk and there aren't many almonds in it. She suggested I drink goat milk.

The person who suggested the goat milk claimed that "it's delicious." So, yes, my next experiment was that. And I must admit that it was the worst milk I had ever tasted. I was rather surprised, since I love plain goat yogurt and have it daily as part of my breakfast.

almond vs soy milk side by side
Yesterday I needed more milk and planned on getting almond milk, but the first store I went to only had soy. So I began to rationalize the advantage of buying soy milk. I know that there are many people who consider it a terrible health danger. I checked the Nutritional charts of soy and almond milks side by side. Both are marketed/produced by Tnuva, Israel's largest dairy company. Even if you don't understand Hebrew, you can see that many of the number matchup. I have no doubt that Tnuva did this on purpose, since they both have all sorts of vitamins added. Even the calorie count is the same. Soy and almond milks are the only two non-dairy protein based milks I could find in the refrigerator section of the store. I am not interested in trying the rice milk, because I try not to eat rice; it's a carbohydrate.

I sent the above photo to Instagram and facebook to ask advice. People weren't shy. Soy milk has many disadvantages, which was pointed out numerous times. Many people suggested almond milk made without sugar. It wasn't an option, though when I had it in my coffee, I didn't need sugar.  I also have a number of friends who make their own almond milk in a blender, but since I only need it for coffee, and I don't have a blender, nor am I interested in adding to my chores, that's not an option for me. No doubt you're curious about what I decided to buy. My facebook friends know already, and you can see the picture below.

soy plus sugar
Since being female, especially at my age, the "estrogen" in the soy isn't a real issue, and this is an "experiment," I bought the soy. This morning I poured it into my coffee. I did not like the taste at all. I even found myself adding a bit of sugar to make it palatable.

My conclusion is that I will buy almond milk whenever possible, and I'll check out coconut milks in other stores. The canned ones I saw all had those "E" additives which I don't want.

On the whole, this has been a very interesting experiment. I'm very grateful that it is very easy to buy a variety of milks here in Israel. I also wish to thank all of those who contributed their knowledge and opinions about the milks. Of course, taste is very subjective. Also, since, thank Gd bli eyin haraa, I don't have any medical condition forcing me to look for an alternative milk, I can be very flexible in how I "accessorize" my  morning coffee.

Your advice and opinions are still welcome, thanks.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Frozen Coconut Liquid in Coffee

You may remember my post about Easy to Make Non-Dairy Ice Cream. I had discovered that the coconut cream I had been using as a "non-dairy creamer" in my coffee had seriously separated. Part was solid enough to make "instant ice cream," but the rest was just a weak liquid. I froze the liquid in an icecube tray, later putting the cubes into a bag.

This morning I decided to try being non-cow-dairy for a few days, again. Last week I went back to eating cow dairy and found myself getting bloated. I wasn't uncomfortable, like many who are lactose intolerant. I just looked worse, all the extra pounds/kilograms in my stomach. Since I was all out of non-dairy milk, I remembered the cubes in the freezer and added them to my coffee.

Since the frozen coconut liquid's white color is deceptive, I ended up needing all the ice cubes for the three cups/mugs I drank. It added a sweet coconutty flavor to the coffee. It wasn't fantastic, but it certainly tasted a gazillion times better than the goat milk I had a couple of weeks ago. I still love natural goat yogurt, but the milk totally killed the coffee.

I've been warned off of soy milk because it mimics estrogen in the body, but I don't know if it's all that bad in small quantities for a woman of my age. I'm not interested in rice or oat milk, since they're both carbohydrates. So that leaves me with either almond or coconut milks.

Today I must go shopping for a non-dairy milk.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Another Letter to The Editor

I've been sending letters to the editor for decades, and I have a pretty good success rate in getting them published. Here's my latest:

I wrote it in protest to the latest THREE LADIES - THREE LATTES, Ess ess mein kind* column which appeared in the Jerusalem Post's local magazines, In Jerusalem and Metro last week. All of the letter that appeared in last Friday's issue complained about the article. I don't think the column is all that popular. Many of us read it, but we're rarely happy with the three replies. But this last one was definitely the worst.

A tip I forgot to include in my letter is to make a chart in which you write what is to be served at each meal. It really helps, especially if you check the lists...  So many of us have stories of foods we forgot to heat and serve. The best way to really enjoy the spiritual aspect of the Jewish Holidays is to plan the menu and do the food preparation in advance. And minimize, of course. Remember, the more choices, the more overeating. And the more choices, the more you have to shop and prepare. Jewish Holidays shouldn't be all about food.

*You can only get the full article if you pay the Jerusalem Post.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Dangerous New Trend/Toy

Have you noticed any of these new "vehicles" on the street where you live? They are extremely dangerous. They are wider than shoulders and not all that easy to handle and control, especially on a narrow street. There have been many accidents.

Besides the danger to others, the people "riding" them aren't getting much exercise. Walking, skating and cycling are much healthier.

They should be banned!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Jerusalem Fun! Lots of Photos

I just spent a couple of days in Jerusalem. Here are some pictures, and explanations are in the captions.

Some buildings in the Center of Jerusalem have special lighting.

Some buildings in the Center of Jerusalem have special lighting.

Street decorations

I treated myself to a cup of coffee.

Following the path to Matan


Jerusalem Old City Walls

Kotel, Western Wall

Kotel, Western Wall
It's nice to get away for a bit. At my age, I have to live the "bucket list" while I can.