Thursday, March 23, 2017

Coffee Report, The Dregs
just like mine
As promised, this is a report about the ground coffee I bought in Jerusalem to use in my new, humongous French Press which has an excellent filter/plunger. If you remember, I felt the ground coffee after it was put in the bag and complained about the powdery feel. The commercial American ground coffee has larger granules and no powder.

My coffee-making experiments have taught me that the finer the coffee is ground the less suitable it is for a French Press, since it clogs up the filter. The powder, like Turkish coffee, is fine in the percolator, though and can also be used with the simple low-tech super-fine filter, which makes amazingly good coffee regardless of the type/quality.  The filter is also easy to travel with if you need to make your own coffee and don't want instant. I, davka, did that yesterday.

The Bashkovitz coffee didn't clog the filter, thank Gd, though it did leave some sludgy dregs aka mud on the bottom of the cup, which doesn't happen with American commercial coffee. No doubt they filter the powder out from the larger granules before packaging. The Kenyan beans didn't give the taste/flavor I like, but there were many others to choose from for next time I have to buy ground coffee in Israel. I'll probably also try a different store. Recommendations are welcome, thanks.

In the meantime, enjoy your coffee, however you prepare it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cleaning, Clearing and Donating

Is this Baile Rochel talking?
Could be...

How can one clean when buried under an avalanche of things?

Shuffling/transferring stuff from one place to the next doesn't really help, even if it's the only way to reach the floor. I look at my house and feel sick. I can't paint it, not just because of the expense. I just can't imagine moving everything around and then having to put it back. Just the thought of it, and I go catatonic.

Not all that long ago, the woman who coordinates the senior citizens activities sent out a notice that she would like a few music CDs, so I happily filled up a bag. I haven't bothered listening to my collection for almost four years. I got out of the habit when my mother passed away, and it was forbidden to have music on. Since then the news is on TV most of the day. But I still have too many. Now I'm at the tail end of the year's mourning for my father. Will I start listening to music when it's over? I don't know. But seriously, how many CDs do I need?

I've given away a few dozen books, but they hardly made a difference to the gazillions here and all the papers. And I must say that probably under 1% of the books are mine. So, I don't have the authority to get rid of them.

But I'm very proud and excited to say that this week I did get rid of some stuff that had been inhabiting a nice bag for years. I transferred it to a bag that we really didn't need, killing two birds with one stone! Call it "double riddance," for sure.

Yes, I got rid of lots of yarns from my hat crocheting days. OK, I'm keeping the crochet hooks. I brought them to the senior citizen center when the weaving teacher was there. My plan is to do a very different weaving project next which will incorporate the yarns I've donated. 

Granted it's a small step, but that's how we start. Step by step, nothing traumatic, nothing drastic. Isn't that what Fly Lady tells us?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Perfect Avocado

Avocados are rarely this perfect. OK, maybe I should say that it's rare to time the eating of an avocado when it's as perfect as this one. If you're a day early or a day late, it's either too hard or getting black and mushy. So, when I opened this avocado I was totally spellbound by the perfect, perfectly ripe and not a drop to be cut away.

It was so gorgeous that I "cheated" and had a slice, enjoying it even more than I would a piece of chocolate or slice of rich cheesecake. Cheesecake and chocolate are good comparisons, since calorie-wise they compete for sure. But an occasional piece of avocado in season is very healthy. And if one is vegetarian or vegan, then avocado in season is the perfect source of healthy fats, which help absorb nutrients . It doesn't have much protein, but it is great with lentils and sprouts combining into a delicious and healthy dish.

Gd willing you, too, will find the perfect avocado, and when you do, don't wait.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Progress on Weaving Project

someone else's weaving project
Yesterday at the "senior citizens" crafts activities we were back working on our weaving projects. It had been a pretty long time since we did weaving. I had brought mine home and did some work on mine at home, but not the past couple of weeks. So I was really excited about having the opportunity to devote a solid couple of hours on mine and get some feedback from others. The night before I very carefully wrapped it up with all the yarns/strings I had, so I could take it to the club house.

Everyone was amazed as I unwrapped it. They hadn't a clue as to how it was shaping up.

As soon as everyone saw it, they agreed that it's "unique." That's probably the best way to describe it.

I definitely got a lot of weaving done yesterday and had a good time socializing too. Just another few hours weaving, and it's finished, Gd willing. Then I'll bring it to the teacher so she can tie up loose ends...

PS No, I don't know what I'll do with it. Honestly, I haven't a clue.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Photographic Guide to Eating Artichokes

Yes, I did blog post about eating artichokes not that long ago, but it didn't include too many pictorial details. That's because I usually eat my artichoke on Shabbat. So last night when I ate an artichoke I took a few pictures and hope that it helps those still in the dark.

Not long ago I discovered that there still are so many Israelis, besides gazillions of others all over the world, who haven't ever tried artichokes. In our family they are considered a great winter delicacy. Of course there are those who eat them just because it's an excuse to eat mayonnaise, but that's not me. If I'm eating one "as a meal," I dip the "petal" in avocado or techina, but if it's a "snack," then I'll just use a bit of olive oil with/without freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Here's the equipment all set up:
  • lots of white napkins*
  • a bowl or plate for dipping
  • a bowl to hold the artichoke and eaten leaves

The is the part you eat.

Dip in good quality olive oil, such as Meshek Achiya משק אחיה, or whatever creamy dip you like, or just eat it straight for the flavor and no fat.

See the teeth marks? This is what an artichoke petal looks like after being eaten. Yes, there is a lot leftover.
*Since "cleaning" an artichoke before cooking never guarantees it will be perfectly clean, keep lots of napkins to wipe on both sides of the petal. The flower is closed, as you can see in the pictures.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Eeks, Pesach is Just a Couple of Weeks Away!

I always freak out this time of the year. My house is too full of junk to easily clean. Yes, I know that the best thing is to throw things out, which I must do. It would also help to use up all the food we have in the closets and freezer/fridge. That used to be the easy part, but now we're just two old fogeys rattling around the house, so food just doesn't get finished all that easily.

The freezer looks deceptively almost empty, but there's a lot of food frozen and waiting to be consumed.

The pantry also has too much leftover in quantities that can't be finished before Pesach. OK, some things may be "sold" or donated to food charities, which I'll probably do.

I am thankful to be back to teaching, since in Israel schools close more than a week before the Passover Seder, which gives me plenty of time. And, no, I will not spend every single day cleaning. But I will make goals and doable plans to clear things out.

Sidney Spiegelman, Z"L
Gd willing this year there won't be any unexpected death or other tragedy. Last year my father died just three days before the start of Passover. So I spent the days before Passover sitting shiva. This year we will commemorate his death and life by having a family seder at my daughter's, Gd willing. And we just celebrated a granddaughter's Bat Mitzvah and are looking forward to a wedding soon. So, thank Gd after a difficult year, which included the unexpected death of my brother, we should Gd willing enjoy a much better year.

I pray for good health for family and friends. And as panicky as I always get before Passover, Gd willing this year I will look forward to a cleaner, more orderly and spacious home, once I throw out what I don't really need or use. And when the school year is over, Gd willing I'll get started on the new kitchen.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tying Two Scarves, Dressing for a Granddaugter's Bat Mitzvah

I've been married and covering my hair for close to forty-seven 47 EEKS! years already, and for a good portion of that time I've worn scarves of various styles, shapes, etc. but always one at a time. Last night for my granddaughter's Bat Mitzvah I decided that I needed to tie two up. Many young women wear a whole closetful on their heads all systemically and artistically wound up together. It looks much too complicated and uncomfortable to me.
After I bought my dress, I realized that the unusual wooden necklace I had gotten from my parents years ago would be perfect with the dress, which it was. (A Hila dress, but not their usual form-fitting style.) And I planned on wearing it with my long gold scarf. That would be a very simple way to accessorize the dress which is classic black A-Line with large pieces of dark red and dark green fabrics sewn in. It's very subtle. Actually it reminds me a bit of the 1960s Mary Quant and Courreges shapes and style.

And then we had Silk Painting in the Senior Citizens Crafts activities I have been attending religiously ever since I left Yafiz. I suddenly saw colors that would be perfect with the dress and necklace, and I painted and created like some sort of nutty arty demon.
Since the dress is very dark, I loved the idea that the scarf would brighten the outfit. And of course it is always nice to wear one's own artistic creations.

The long piece of silk seemed the perfect size for my head when I was working on it, but afterwards, especially after the hemming done by a neighbor, I realized that the effect would be awfully flat and boring if I wore the silk scarf on its own.

There was only one solution to the problem. I had to tie them both on my head together, and after a bit of experimenting, this is what I managed to produce. Being that one is silk and about half the length of the other, I found it easier to work with than I had expected once I realized that I had to combine them before putting on my head, wrapping and tying.

I took this picture, yes a "selfie," after I got home so the scarf isn't all that neat, but you get the idea.
The moral is that we're never too old to try new things.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Coffee Saga, In Suspense

I'm at the very tail-end of my American coffee, which I use in my French Press, so since I had a bit of time in Jerusalem yesterday, I decided to try to buy some freshly ground coffee.

Maybe I'm crazy, because the last time I bought some it was much too powdery and fine even though I had requested:
"as coarse as possible for use in a French Press"
So, this time I'm pretty sure I went to a different place. Most of the coffees were NS10 ($2.75) per 100 grams (3.5274 ounces). This was at Bashkovitz בשקביץ which is a very well-known and popular coffee and spice store in Machane Yehuda.

I asked for a "sample" to feel, but he refused. Grrr... I really wasn't in the mood to go from place to place, so I asked him to grind up 200 grams of the Kenyan coffee. Then he gave me the bag, and of course the coffee felt much too finely ground, nothing like the American stuff. And I told him that.
"All the Americans come here to buy for their French Press," he insisted.
I hope he's correct about it being the right consistency. It does smell pretty good. I'll probably try another place next time. The Israeli Turkish coffee is OK in the percolator, but with the electric hob we're using now, it takes eons to boil and perk.

Gd willing my new French Press, which has a better filter/press will make a difference and the coffee will come out well. I will let you know, so in the meantime we're all in suspense.

Recommendations accepted, thanks.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Jerusalem Purim, 5777, 2017

This year our kids "spoiled" us. They did the entertaining on Purim, both days, even. So we weren't home much at all. On Shushan Purim, we were in Jerusalem, and even though it was a bit drizzly, London style, there were plenty of people in the streets dressed for the holiday in costumes, or at least funny hats. The trains even had some decals decorating the windows.

Here are some of the pictures I took.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Finally Finished, Purim 5777

In the Ezrat Nashim, Women's Gallery, waiting to hear the fourth and final Megillat Ester reading for 5777.
The most difficult of the Purim logistics for me is figuring out where to hear the required four readings of Megillat Ester, the Scroll of Esther, which we, including women, are commanded to hear twice each Purim Day.  So, since Shiloh is one a very exclusive select number of Biblical cities required for various reasons to celebrate two days, of Purim, I have four Megillah readings to worry about.

The reason that Megillah readings are the most difficult and stressful for me is simply because I can't do it myself. I'm also hypersensitive to noises and too easily distracted. Add those problems to my deteriorating hearing, and I need a "quiet reading." That means a reading in which there isn't noise, or very little noise, when Haman's name is said. And what happens is that there's usually an "echo" effect. The noise somehow gets dragged out another few words. And then I'm lost, miserable and even angry. Yes, I get angry on Purim.
"Why can't people aim their noise-making more accurately?" I keep muttering. "A lot of them are just copycats and start their noise-making when it should be finished."
We are supposed to follow the reading word by word, which is very hard for me. If it was just a matter of attending and tuning out with my eyes closed, I could just find a corner and meditate, but that's not the case. I have discovered that sitting in the back by a wall is helpful. At least the noise can't come from all four directions.

I ended up hearing the Megillah at three different venues, by three different readers. Both nights I went to the same place where a neighbor read according to his "quiet" rules. There was moderate, bearable noise for the first and last readings of Haman's name, plus a bit of additional noise by people who hadn't heard or paid attention to the "rules." Sitting with my back to the wall helped, but I had trouble following the reading. The first morning I went to a different neighbor. The venue was very pleasant, absolutely no loud noises, but not the clearest of readings. So, there, too, I got lost a few times. The final, fourth reading I end up where I had sworn I wouldn't go. Yes, I went to our neighborhood shul, but instead of the women's later reading, I went to the early morning one. The noise wasn't all that bad, and I sat in the back of the Ezrat Nashim, Women's Gallery. And in the synagogue there was the best reading. It was very easy to follow and understand every word he said, B"H.

On Purim I certainly had enough to eat at the two festive meals. And it was great fun to see all of my grandchildren and be a guest after decades of hosting, though I did offer to host this year and even host next year.

It's good that the more drizzly day was the second day, aka Shushan Purim. The Shiloh Purim Street Festival takes place on "regular" Purim.

Now there's just a month to Passover. EEKS!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Purim "Street Festival" in Shiloh!

The Purim 5777 me, a selfie
For decades it has been the custom for a "Street Festival" in my Shiloh neighborhood. One of the neighbors chooses a "theme" or sorts, dresses up and has a very cooperative cast, crew and enthusiastic audience. People make a point of getting to the location to see and participate in "the show."

This happens every year on the first day of Purim. "First day?" You may be wondering, because in almost every other location Purim is just one day. Some cities, like Jerusalem, celebrate a day later, but here in Shiloh one day just isn't enough... for various halachick (Jewish Law) reasons, we're blessed with a second day of Purim. Yes, that means, two seudot-festive meals and four megilla readings.

There are advantages, because it does give the opportunity for young marrieds to get to both sides of the family on Purim. My daughter used to go to her mother-in-law the first day and then we'd make a big gathering/feast on the second.

Here are some photos from Shiloh Purim, 5777.

May we all enjoy many, many more, Gd willing.