New blog post!

July 24, 2009
I just posted a new entry at http://blog.mrandmrsx.com – if you want to subscribe, there’s a link on the left hand side of the page partway down, or you can use the RSS feed feature in Internet Explorer/Outlook. See you there!!!

Blog Moving!

July 14, 2009
Please come visit me at my new blog home, http://blog.mrandmrsx.com/
 
See you there!

Time to Party!!

July 10, 2009

 

We finally both have our Israeli driver’s licenses! When you come here, you’re allowed to drive for one year on your American (or wherever) license, then you have to take a Conversion test, which is shorter than the one given to new drivers, and has no written portion. Luckily for me, it also has no parallel parking portion :-)

    

Last week we attended the beachside Beta Ship Party for TMG/UAG. I couldn’t decide between all the pictures, so I inserted an album below. There was a really good buffet dinner, followed by presentation of some achievement awards, a performance by Ivri Lider (quite good, in my opinion!), and a DJ for dancing. It was a fun evening!

 

Roman(ian) Holiday

June 20, 2009

 

Last weekend Dave and I set off for Bucharest, Romania; part of our continuing quest to explore parts of the world easy to get to from Israel. We met up with our friends Monica and Mihai; Dave worked with Monica about 5 years ago so it was great to see them again!

The first day, I had booked a tour guide for a walking tour of Bucharest. There are a few areas that were saved from the huge communist apartments blocks; they are charming, with a somewhat Parisian feel.

Today these areas are being treated as the national treasure they are. Older unsafe buildings are hollowed out and the shell is reinforced internally preserve it before a modern building is build inside. This building had no backside and was only about 6-9” thick!

Next we saw the remains of the ancient castle of Vlad Tepes, the man behind the Dracula legend. While most of the legend was a product of Bram Stoker’s imagination and Hollywood magic; he was a much-feared ruler who effectively kept the peace through his legendary methods of execution (warning: not for those of weak stomach!) His bust is in the center of the courtyard below. He also pioneered the use of subterranean construction for living and storage spaces.

 

We also visited quite a few Romanian Orthodox Churches, which have beautiful frescoes inside that were originally used to teach the stories of the bible to worshippers since many in the lower classes could not read. The walls and ceilings are covered in beautiful illustrations, with gold leaf highlighting the woodwork.

 

We also visited two synagogues, the Coral Temple, which was under renovation at the time, and the United Holy Temple, which now houses a Jewish history and Holocaust museum.

 

The tour wrapped up with lunch at a restaurant called Caru’ cu Bere, meaning “wagon with beer”, apropos since it is the site of an old brewery (they still brew, just offsite.) We had mititei, much like the ground meat kebabs we get here in Israel, with mustard and tiny pan-fried whole potatoes; paired with a frosty mug of the house draft beer – the perfect apres tour meal!

Dave and I set off to walk the 1/2 hour back to the hotel and ended up getting lost much better than any previous attempt! 3 1/2 hours later we hailed a taxi and discovered we were 7 km away from where we thought we were! After freshening up, our friends took us out for a local dinner at Terasa Doamnei. I had stuffed cabbage rolls with polenta – delicious. We drank a local wine that our tour guide had recommended earlier in the day, a Feteasca Neagra from Dealu Marae (also known as Big Hill, the English translation of the winery’s name.) There was a show during dinner; at different times the performers wore costumes representing each of the different cultures and regions of Romania. The clip below is from the gypsy portion of the show:

The next morning Mihai and Monica picked us up bright and early to head north to Transylvania. We toured Bran Castle and did a bit of souvenir shopping. The funny thing was that while the local merchants have capitalized on the Dracula legend, the castle itself has stayed refreshingly true to history, displaying artifacts from Queen Marie’s time.

After a snack of donuts and a jam-filled crepe (yummy!) we headed south to Peles Castle in Sinaia. Monica had arranged a private tour with an old friend working at the castle. I was able to get a photography pass to wear around my neck, allowing me to shoot the amazing interior without flash. It is kept fairly dimly lit inside, but thankfully my Sony Alpha takes amazing low light pictures!

 

I loved the fairytale exterior! The castle was originally built for receiving guests, and it shows in the welcoming design and grand interior spaces. It was fully electrically wired when it was built between 1875 and 1914; the stained glass skylight below is actually a sunroof that opens on a metal track to refresh the air in the great hall below. There is also a built-in vacuum system that is still functional to this day; which pains me greatly since the one in my rental house here, built in 1992, is completely worthless!

The grand dining hall. What a spectacular table setting! Our guide said everything in the castle gets dusted once a week, from the china to the woodwork.

This whole room was done with an Asian theme – of course I was ready to move right in!

The Queen’s private study. Above the doorway I stood in to take the picture was a balcony library. I think I could blog much better in these surroundings!

 

After the castle we had a late lunch at a ski-chalet themed restaurant and headed south through the Prahova Valley back to Bucharest. Along the way we stopped to check out several locals selling honey, but couldn’t find any that was labeled. I couldn’t see El Al letting me carry an unmarked jar of viscous liquid onto the plane, even in my checked baggage. Dave managed to find the stinkiest wheel of smoked cheese known to mankind; which we had to keep on the window ledge outside the hotel room because it was smelling up the room!

When we got back to our hotel (the JW Marriott) we decided to explore the casino in the basement. To our surprise, it was full of Israelis! After a few drinks, I got up enough courage to try out my Hebrew on a group that we were playing blackjack with and we ended up having a fun time!

The next day we got up quite late and caught a taxi to the Village Museum – it was really neat to see all the old machinery and buildings that have been moved from around the country to save them from new construction. Below is a wine press:

 

For lunch we headed to our home away from home, the Hard Rock Cafe.  They had one of Tina Turner’s fur coats on display, as well as some early Michael Jackson stuff (remember the jacket with the silver mesh shoulders?) We walked partway back to the hotel, part the Arcul de Triumf, which looked strangely familiar :-)

We caught a taxi the rest of the way back and took a nap before checking out of the hotel. Our flight home wasn’t until 9pm, so we killed some time in the American-style sports bar in the hotel, and found a dress for me to wear to the upcoming wedding of some friends of ours (paid for with blackjack winnings!)

The chauffeured Mercedes that the hotel sent as our ride back to the airport was a nice ending to a wonderful trip!

Saturday Shooting Adventure

June 19, 2009
Two weekends ago we decided to check out our local shooting range, Dani Hi. Dave chose a Galil rifle and I picked a Mini Uzi. It was much lighter than the regular Uzi I tried in Vegas a few years ago.
 
Dave surprised me with a little PURPLE video camera when he came back from his last business trip. It’s a Sony Webbie HD, specifically made for uploading content to the web; so I took it along to try!
 
Here is me and the Mini Uzi. I didn’t like it on full auto – I prefer to shoot one round at a time and really make them count.
 
 
 
Both Dave and the instructor were impressed with how well this little American girl can shoot! We didn’t get a shot of the target, but I kept a dinner plate-sized grouping, with most of them bunched into a much smaller fist sized area

Good to go!

May 27, 2009
I just love Jessica Hagy’s Blog, Indexed; so when I found out she had published a postcard book, I ordered it off Amazon right away. Dave and I were paging through it one night after dinner and we found the one below – it fits our travel philosohpy to a "T"!
 
 
 I can’t wait to see Bucharest in a couple of weeks – a former co-worker of Dave’s is going to show us around, so we’ll get the real local experience!!!

My awesome dog trainer!

May 23, 2009
Thursday I grabbed the camera while Riki, my dog trainer, put Moshe and Indy through their paces. The training is ostensibly for Moshe; since he is apparently going grow up to be a miniature horse I want him to be as well behaved as his big sister. But Indy can’t not participate – she loves "working"!
 
 
Riki works for a company called ערן הסינג מדבר עמ כלבים, which translates to "Eran Hessing Speaks to Dogs" – I’ve been told there is no word for "whisper" in Hebrew. They use a combination of Cesar Millan-type techniques and conventional obedience training to train therapy dogs as well as household pets. Below Moshe, Riki’s Aussie Shepherd puppy, Zoya, and Indy are practicing their down-stay.
 
 
To burn off some steam, we let the two youngsters wrestle a bit – Moshe is clearly enjoying himself and Zoya look so proud to have pinned him!
 
 
Poozie is fascinated by the training sessions, but prefers to observe from on high. 
 
 

Every Day is Earth Day

May 10, 2009
Dave and I recently decided that a good family activity would be picking up trash at the beach. Friday afternoon we headed out, trashbags in hand and doggies in tow.
 

My pockets are full of dog leashes – I have not developed a beer belly!

We ended up with 3 bags this size completely full. Indy and Moshe were pooped from running around finding stuff for us. There’s still plenty of work to go – we’ll be back out there the next weekend Dave’s in town (too rare lately!) and hopefully other people will decide they like the idea too.

 

Yum!

May 5, 2009

My cherry tomatoes aren’t fully established yet, so they’re only producing two or three ripe ones per day. If I waited, I might be able to gather enough for a salad, but they’re so good right off the vine, still warm from the sun! The basil is growing nicely, though; so on my way home from the gym today I picked up some baby mozzarella and cherry tomotoes at the market. Here is the resulting salad:

 

The purple bits are the purple basil, and the little whole leaves are the greek basil – the slugs seem to like the regular basil best so I was only able to find one useable leaf from it. I don’t mind if it keeps them away from the fancy stuff! That is not chocolate syrup on the picture below  I found a balsamic vinegar reduction that I like to use on salads like this because it sticks to the wet ingredients better than standard oil and vinegar.

Can anyone tell me what the fruit below is? I was at an Independence Day BBQ last week and was offered one, but no one knew the name in English.

Here’s what it looked like after I bit into it. The two pits inside were like flattish smooth brown marbles (like the ones you use in vases to make flowers stand up straight). Please email me at cowprintrabbit@hotmail.com if this fruit looks familiar to you and you know it by a name other than שסק (shesek). 

US trip and canine cargo

April 25, 2009
Sorry for the long absence; I took just over two weeks to visit friends and family in the US. It was a great trip, although there never seems to be time enough to meet with everyone I want to. My father is also failing more visibly, which is hard.
 
Upon my return, Dave and I had 24 hours together (some of which he had to work) and then he left for the US. He’s gone for 10 days, back for 10 and then gone for another 10. Luckily, I just booked our August vacation (Moscow & St. Petersburg!) and a long weekend in Bucharest in June, so I have something to look forward to 
 
The weather is quite different from when I left! I had been quite comfortably wearing two T-shirts ("skater style" for all you 80′s kids!) and had just been able to stop carrying a coat or sweater just in case. Now I am running around in tank tops, shorts and sundresses! I just checked the pool, the temperature is up to 74; (two degrees in a week!) hopefully I will be able to use it in a week or two…
 
The doggies and I took a trek to the beach yesterday to enjoy the sunshine. Here is a picture of Moshe in his new doggie backpack:
 
 
 
I took a page from Cesar Millan and got the pack for Moshe to help satisfy his natural drive to "work". He carries the tennis balls and a collapsible water dish (plus any full poop bags until we find a trash can.) Right now I also have a 1-lb barbell in each side to help tire him at the same rate as Indy – she is 8 years old to his 11 months! I’m going to split their water into two equal bottles and have him carry that, too; but I want him to get used to the pack before I start adding more bulk. Indy already associates it with a walk, hopefully Moshe will soon!
 
The nice weather also made me eager to get out in the garden, so I made a nursery foray. I ended up with parsley and 3 kinds of basil to go in my herb bed with the mint from a few weeks ago, a little chile pepper and two cherry tomatoes. I also couldn’t resist a trio of fuschia hanging baskets for the pergola/awning over the big patio table. Clockwise from the purple basil (which I am so eager to try – I hope I can find some yellow heirloom tomatoes for a salad!): greek basil (stronger, with smaller leaves and a lower, spreading habit), regular basil and curly parsley. The other two things are a weed and not-quite-dead lemongrass from last year. Hopefully the bamboo skewers around the herbs this year will give them a fighting chane against canine trampling!
 
 
Below, in the foreground, a tiny chile pepper of some kind, and two cherry tomato plants. There were no tomato cages at the nursery so I improvised with bamboo stakes and zip ties; I’ll train the plants up the teepees as they grow.
 
 
Here are the fuschia baskets. The one in the middle is an upright, with a trailing cultivar on either end. The furthest from the camera (er, phone) is a striking red and purple variety. Next week I’ll go to Ace Hardware and get proper chains so they’re at a better height for viewing and watering. Right now they’re just zip-tied up there and I have to climb from the bench to the patio table to stand up and water them!
 
 
I’ll try and post pictures of my little kitchen garden as it grows. I’m excited, as I’ve chosen to focus on things that did poorly at our house in Redmond. The gardener repaired all the damage Moshe did to the irrigation tubing, so hopefully the plants have a fighting chance!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.