Meet Chelsea, Wonderdog!


My parents rescued a dog fairly recently, and her name is Chelsea. She’s very sweet, looks just like her predecessor, Snickers, and has a thousand times more personality. Am I allowed to say that? Okay, maybe not more personality per say, but just a more…hyperactive personality.

One of Chelsea’s calmer moments. I may have been holding a toy. Or something shiny. She likes those.

Anyway, apparently the weather in Philadelphia hasn’t been so good the past few weeks (but today it’s beautiful!), so my parents had to be creative when trying to figure out how to help Chelsea blow off all her extra steam.

Luckily, she’s very smart.

I Am Allergic to Apples


Yesterday, I brought two mangoes to class to eat for breakfast. Since eating mangoes usually results in delicious juice dripping down my face, hands, and clothes (anyone else feel like they can’t ever get the stickiness off?), I decided that being in a class where we were using sefarim (holy books), I should try to find another approach.

It took me forever to eat these mangoes. I peeled them, cut the flesh off the pit, and used a fork and knife to eat the mangoes. Apparently (I obviously didn’t know this, at the time), it mesmerized everyone in my class. Afterwards, I was approached by several people, all asking:

“Do you always eat mangoes that way?”

Although I don’t always eat mangoes that way, I do usually eat mangoes over any other fruit. This, I am sad to say, is because I am allergic to the majority of other fruits.

When I was a teenager, I went to see an allergist, who did a plethora of tests. The blood tests revealed that I am not allergic to any foods.

But wait, you must be thinking, she just said she’s allergic to the majority of other fruits. Is this person insane?

I assure you, I am not insane. Both of these things are facts. I am not allergic to any foods, but I am allergic to most fruits. This is because my allergy is not the result of an allergy.

What I have is called oral allergy syndrome. It means that I am allergic to some sort of pollen that has a protein compound similar to the fruits, which gives me an allergic reaction. When fruits are cooked or frozen, I am not allergic to them because those protein compounds have broken down. I learned the hard way that those protein compounds do not break down if the fruits are freeze dried.

So what fruits am I allergic to?

Apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries (these give me the worst reaction), plums, and almost any other fruit that has a skin that you eat along with the fruit (save for grapes).

What happens to me? Nothing life threatening, thank G-d, but my mouth gets very itchy, and cherries make me lose my voice. I’ve heard that these reactions can get worse if you eat these fruits more often, so unfortunately, there’s only one way for me to enjoy these foods, which I happen to love:

IN PIE.

See: Pie.

 

 

Mangoes in Israel


Since we’re on a limited budget here in Israel, our food choices are sometimes affected. This, however, does not stop us from stocking up on something that in America, costs way more than it does in Israel. No, I’m not talking about rice, or fish, or meat. I’m talking about G-d’s candy. I’m talking about fruit.

The fruit in Israel, specifically mangoes, which are my all-time FAVORITE fruits, are AMAZING here. The first time I bit into one was like the first time I ate a mango — it redefined what the fruits are supposed to taste like. Since I’m allergic to almost all other fruits (I can only partake in them cooked), and I want to eat them here, I’ve been making a lot of fruit-filled desserts. During the holiday, I made a delicious Apple Crisp using my mom’s recipe not once, not twice, but three times. Each time the baking dish was licked clean by all of our friends guests Jonathan me.

Sorry for the caveat — I definitely have fruit on the mind today, and I know I promised an update on my etrog jelly, but we’re having a little bit of trouble getting it to set up. It tastes delicious, but I think I over-soaked the pectin from the but I am having some trouble with my etrog jelly. Unfortunately, it isn’t setting up like it’s supposed to — I guess I over-soaked the pectin out of it! So I’m off to the health-food store to try to find some powdered pectin!

I’m meeting Jonathan there, so we’re probably going to get some falafel for dinner while we’re out — I’ll try to update again later!

While I’m here, I want to give you the chance to ask me some questions so that I can answer them on my blog. Anything you want to know about what it’s like to live in Israel? What it’s like to be an Orthodox Jew? Feel free to post a comment if there’s something you’d like to know.

Chodesh Tov! (Rosh Chodesh, the new moon, is today and tomorrow — it’s a minor festival in Judaism, and it means no housekeeping, no sewing, and definitely no laundry — all things I’m happy to not have a reason to do :-))

Hope and Change


We’re living in scary times. Living in Israel, it feels sometimes scarier than when we were in the United States — feels like all eyes of the nations are on us, waiting for what may or may not be a war.

When a drone entered Israeli airspace last week, there was very little public media surrounding it. As one of my friends posted on her facebook status:

I used to love talking about politics. Even today, give me a topic: let me talk about social welfare, the media’s sway over public opinion, the economy; chances are I probably have an opinion. And I could talk your ear off. But ask me about today’s leaders or current international relations and I’ll probably shy away from sharing ANY sort of opinion I have. And that’s because I’m quite honestly fed up.

There has been a video circulating around the internet for a few weeks which has gotten over 2 million views on youtube and has been featured in many other news articles, and I think it speaks for itself.  If you have time, I highly recommend sitting through this 19 minute video, where politicians from across party lines speak about some of their concerns with the Obama administration.

I can identify with this woman. Like her, I was also inspired by Obama’s message of hope and change, and I was excited to see him implement the new economic plan he outlined during his campaign, felt optimistic about socializing health care, and thought that he would bring the walk to follow the talk once he was in office. This is why I attended rallies and proudly cast my ballot for Barack Obama in the 2008 primary and presidential election. In hindsight, I feel duped.

Many might accuse me of being a one-issue voter because Israel is so high on my list of voting priorities, but I need to set this misconception straight.

Supporting Israel is not ONE issue. It’s MANY issues. It has to do with posterity, the preservation of democracy in the Middle East and around the world, and making sure that America has an ally in the region. It has to do with preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, something that is in everyone’s best interest, and something that this current president has on his priority level BELOW getting re-elected. The time bomb is ticking (pun intended), and Israel is not the only country that’s on the hit list.

To illustrate this point even further, the day after the Benghazi and Cairo attacks, Obama went to a political fundraiser in Las Vegas and was in a jolly mood, not choosing to mention the fallen diplomats or their security team that were brutally murdered. In response to what many countries would interpret as an act of war, Obama apologized for a defamatory video that was later proven to have zero connection to the attacks in the first place, and still can’t give a solid explanation about the attacks, including whether the administration had any previous knowledge of it, or present a plan of action for the future to the families who lost their loved ones in the terrorist attack, let alone to the country.

Just to be clear: I am not only voting based on fears about Israel. Our economy has not improved at all since Obama took office; we are are more in debt as a nation than we were when he was elected. My generation is facing the worst consequences to this current financial situation, and under the Obama administration, thanks to Obamacare taxes are going to increase for everyone, not just the “1%.”

Voting democratic to support a woman’s right to choose is noble, but a republican president won’t have much success even if he vows to overturn Roe v. Wade. They don’t get overturned by veto or by chance — and no president can just snap his (or her) fingers to remove such long-standing freedoms. Voting based solely on such an issue, my friends, would make you the one issue voter.

Obama fooled me once — and as the old adage goes — fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That’s why when my absentee ballot comes in this week, I’m going to be doing something I never envisioned myself doing. Something that, if you told me five years ago I’d be doing today, I would have never believed you.

I’m voting republican. I’m voting Romney.

Our New Pet!


Yes, we have a new pet — kind of. As I’m sure many of you know from reading this post, we had a MAJOR ant problem in our first apartment. Why, you may ask, do we not have one here? Because of our newest addition to the family; THIS GUY:

The awesome, ever-elusive, ant eater — FRANK!

Alright, he’s not really our pet — more like a trespasser that likes to sleep in our shoes, under the bed, and once, IN the bed — but he gets the prize for the most creative exterminator I’ve ever seen. I worry about Frank, sometimes, about when he is going to get the amount of sun he needs to keep warm, like the cold-blooded fella he is. I’m scared he’s going to get out and get eaten by one of the many feral cats that live on the Jerusalem streets. My fears were almost actualized when I almost stepped on him while sweeping the bedroom the other day — that would have been traumatizing, to say the least.

But Frank is cool, and he doesn’t poop in the house (that we can see), nor does he make noise, shed, or activate any of our allergies. He also changes colors, like a chameleon, and we find him in the strangest places (here – on our window), outside on the Jerusalem stone walls, or like I said, in our shoes.

Maybe one day we’ll get him a heat lamp and build him a terrarium, but I like the idea of him running free, as he usually is when he’s running away from the broom, or the mop, or the never-ending dust bunnies that seem to form EVERY DAY in our tiny apartment, where he builds his nest night after night. Frank’s a cool dude. And he can stay here, if he’d like. He pays his rent by killing mosquitoes, aunts, and moths (although sometimes I worry that they could eat him!).

In other news, since Sukkot is over, I needed to find a use for the 15 spare etrogim that Jonathan got for free right before the holiday at a nearby shul. So, like many bubbes and balabustas before me, I’ve decided to try my hand at making etrog marmalade — YUM! Since we had so many, it seems like we are going to be enjoying many-a etrog flavored dessert for the next few months, probably until Shavuous (in June). I researched a lot of recipes, and this is the one I compiled after reading a dozen.

Meet Etrog. Looks a little like lemon’s lumpy cousin, the distant relative to buddha’s hand citron. Also called a citron in other languages.

All of the recipes I found said to soak the etrogim, some said whole, some said cut up — so I did the smart thing: Both!

Here are the cut-up etrogim soaking for the second day.

The recipes I found said the minimum time to soak the etrogim was 12 hours, and the longest was 7 days — so I went with soak for 1 day whole, 2 days cut up (changing the water once each day.) This step is important because it helps to get rid of the bitterness from the pith of the fruit, which in an etrog’s case, makes up most of it’s bulk.

Then, the etrogim were cut into smaller pieces, and put into a pot to simmer on the stove (this is happening now). This water is also going to be discarded, and then they’ll be set to simmer again. The second batch of water will ALSO be discarded. The third time’s the charm with this one.

Esrog’s simmering on the stove for the first time.

Once the esrogs have been simmered twice, and they’re sitting in NEW water, then it’s time to add the sugar. Since this is a classic marmalade, the standard equal parts fruit/sugar will qualify. This is usually equivalent to 1 cup of sugar for every etrog in the batch.

Once the sugar is added (with water, obviously), let the mixture simmer for about 1/2 hour. Make sure you watch your jam at this point, because it can burn and ruin the whole project. To check whether you have the right consistency, I found this great trick from Food.com — if you put a saucer in the freezer, and spread a little bit of the jam on the cold saucer, it should cool down to the temperature where you can check the consistency — you want it to be like jam, not like caramel or juice. If it’s like juice, add a little bit of orange marmalade to reintroduce the pectin you removed while soaking (this is why it’s nice to have a food scientist husband). If it’s like caramel, then congratulations — you’ve made candied etrogim! YUM!

Jar and sanitize according to your grandmother’s method.

Stay tuned for photos of the finished product tomorrow!

Since etrogim also have SO MANY seeds, we thought it would be fun to try to plant a tree in our backyard. The only time I’ve ever tried this before, I planted the apple seeds DIRECTLY into the ground instead of letting them germinate and sprout, so I’m going to work a little smarter this time. (Disclaimer: I was about 6 when I tried this with apples. Also, my mom was NOT HAPPY. She was afraid an apple tree would actually grow. Me? I just really liked apples, and was a tad jealous of our neighbor’s neighboring pear tree. Now, I’m allergic to both fruits.)

Our collection of Etrog seeds — soon to be ETROG TREES…or one, etrog tree. If my black thumb doesn’t betray me.

Since I’ve had a black thumb in the past with every plant I’ve ever tried to care for, I’m a little nervous about this one, but Jonathan’s green thumb should help back me up. (Side note: seriously, blackest thumb EVER. I’ve even managed to kill SCALLIONS — all they need is WATER.)

Many more fun and exciting stories are to come!

I’ve Been Slacking


In the blog department. I apologize greatly for that, but it’s really exhausting to live here.

Amazingly exhausting, that is. The lifestyle here definitely took some getting used to — there’s no such thing as Target or Wal-Mart, and in order to get the food for the week it usually requires a trip to the shuk (I have some pictures), the supermarket (I have some more pictures) and the Makolet (think corner store, but a little bit more variety), with one or two more errands thrown in between. No one has cars, but there’s always traffic somehow, the bus system is GREAT, but taking buses everywhere is crazy because the bus drivers are army reserve members that  drive like they are STILL in the army, and you have to take a trip to about 5 stores ALWAYS to get everything that you want.

For Sukkot, that meant A LOT of shopping, and a LOT of stores, but we are so excited that we got to have our first Sukkah here in Israel! We had 11 of Jonathan’s yeshiva friends over for a meal, so we certainly had a full house, erm, Sukkah!

Our first Sukkah! The roof is made from palm leaves that enable you to still experience the elements, and we decorated it with etrogim (esrogim, or citron fruits), grape vines, and plastic pomegranates that were realistic enough to fool the bees!

To prepare for sukkot, we went to many different stores, and I finally got to take some pictures of the shuk (open market)! We got there really early, by 8:15 in the morning, but it was already packed with people buying food for the holiday.

A store only for nuts!

And one that only sells olives and pickles!

Soon, I’m going to go back to the shuk and take pictures as we eat our way through it, and do a blog specifically on the foods of Israel, but that’s for another day :-)!

On our way back from the shuk, we were getting off of the light rail to transfer to a bus home when someone suddenly yelled out to Jonathan and ran up to him to introduce himself. Turns out, because they looked so much alike, he wanted to know if they could possibly be related. This man, Gilad, has some American family that he never got to meet and wanted to know if Jonathan could possibly be his long-lost cousin. After they shmoozed for almost an hour at the bus stop and on the bus, it turns out that they certainly are NOT related, but they do look alike.

Jonathan and his new “brother.”

We also went to the supermarket, which was even busier than it was last time I showed you a picture. See?

This was the supermarket on Thursday afternoon, before Shabbos and Sukkot. It was so crowded, you had to walk to the back of the supermarket to make it to the other side, and you couldn’t even choose which check out line you wanted to use — whichever aisle you were in dictated that decision for you.

During this pretty sizeable break from classes, we were also able to travel to the south to visit a lot of Jonathan’s Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. It’s certainly been a busy break, and one filled with lots of food! His aunt Mazal told us she was only going to prepare us a snack, and when we got to her house there was a feast — four courses including fish, steak, wings, soup, and dessert. My waistband was not happy with me by the end of this trip.

Jonathan and Mazal at our feast!

We also made pizza in this awesome pizza oven at Jonathan’s Aunt Aleeza and Uncle Moshe’s.

At the end of this trip, we were definitely ready for the respite that Shabbos brings — I don’t think I’ve ever napped so much on one Shabbos before! Now that break is over, and I’ve gotten A LOT of Hebrew practice and we got to travel quite a bit, we are ready to get back into gear at school. I’m going to be doing a new education program, where I learn a curriculum for teachers in Jewish Day schools, which I’m really excited about.

I’ve got more to update everyone on, so stay tuned!

Jonathan and Me all ready for Shabbos at his Aunt Aleeza and Uncle Moshe’s house.