Sunday, November 30, 2008

HH 193

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim can be found here.

Thank you to Benji for including my “magical” post.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

Shavua tov.

This blog is meant to be an escape from real life, but sadly, sometimes real life has a nasty way of intruding.

When we shut down our computers on Erev Shabbat, we were still hopeful that somehow, against all odds, there would be good news waiting for us on Motza”Sh.

Unfortunately, we were wrong.

Our thoughts go out to the families of the victims of the horrific massacre in Mumbai.

May they all be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim, and may the coming week be one of besurot tovot, yeshu’ot, and nechamot (good tidings, salvation, and consolation).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mazal tov: Tabu edition

No, don’t worry.

We didn’t break any taboos – cultural, religious or otherwise.

And for that matter, we didn’t play any party games.

Nor did we place a jinx upon a word or name a la “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows”.

In fact, we didn’t even solve any combinatorial optimization problems. (Or maybe we did. It’s hard to tell when neither of us knows what they are…)

However, we did get our property listed in the Israel Land Registry… AKA Tabu*.

It only took over ten years, reams of paperwork and countless stehmps. But yesterday morning, we learned that it’s finally official:

YZG and I are now B”H privileged to be registered land owners here in Eretz Yisrael.

Pretty cool, huh?


* Apparently the name Tabu – which is pronounced “TAH-boo” (i.e. the emphasis is on the first syllable) - dates back to the Ottoman Empire.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Potato kugel

In my recent post about short winter Fridays, I talked about making potato kugels in advance:

Suggestion: When making potato kugels in advance, bake them only halfway and then freeze. The kugels don’t even need to be defrosted when it’s time to finish baking them; they can go straight from the freezer to the oven on Friday afternoon. (We’re going to be using this model for the bar mitzvah IY”H.) Hat tip: My mother (Thanks, Imma!)”

הואיל והזכירו סיפר בשבחו – Since I mentioned potato kugel, I think that it’s only fair that I post our family’s favorite recipe. After all, there’s nothing like fresh potato kugel on a Friday night…

Potato Kugel


1. This kugel tastes best when the potatoes are grated by hand using a so-called “safety grater” (i.e. a reebaizen in Yiddish). But the shredder with the smallest holes on the food processor works well too.

2. “Overnight” variation – Instead of a regular pan, use a Pyrex bowl. Bake the kugel in the oven until set. Meanwhile, fill the crockpot about a third of the way up with water. Remove the kugel from the oven, and place in the crockpot, which will now serve as a double boiler. Leave overnight in crockpot on low. Unmold the kugel onto a round platter for Shabbat lunch.

3. What follows are the basic proportions. I generally use the equivalent of 6 large potatoes for one kugel and then adjust the other ingredients accordingly.


  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 eggs (i.e. 1 egg per every 2 potatoes + 1 extra egg “for the pot”)
  • 4 soupspoons canola or olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper


Grate potatoes and onions. Add other ingredients and mix. Pour mixture into oiled pan, and bake in a “hot oven” (around 390 degrees) until top is dark golden-brown.


Monday, November 24, 2008

A glimpse at short Fridays here in TRLEOOB*

Mother in Israel recently blogged about her techniques for getting everything done on short winter Fridays.

Here are some of the things that work for me:

Baking: I try to get all of my baking done by Wednesday. Most cakes and cookies freeze very well, and so there’s no reason not to make them in advance. Also, I almost always make a double recipe when baking, which means we don’t have to bake every week.

Kugels: I also find that some kugels freeze well, and I try to make these in advance and freeze. [Suggestion: When making potato kugels in advance, bake them only halfway and then freeze. The kugels don’t even need to be defrosted when it’s time to finish baking them; they can go straight from the freezer to the oven on Friday afternoon. (We’re going to be using this model for the bar mitzvah IY”H.) Hat tip: My mother (Thanks, Imma!)]

Chicken: I clean and spice/marinate the chicken on Thursday afternoon/evening. It then sits in the refrigerator overnight, and I put it in the oven 1.5-2 hours before Shabbat (depending on the specific recipe).

Soup: As a minimum, I put all the ingredients (except for the water) in the pot on Thursday. Occasionally, I add the water and cook the soup on Thursday as well. Otherwise, the pot sits in the refrigerator overnight, and I add the water and cook the soup on Friday. (I always make soup in a big pot and freeze the extra in plastic containers.)

Cholent: I check the barley and beans on Thursday, and then let them soak [covered] overnight. Also, I peel and chop the onions and store them overnight in the refrigerator. I do everything else on Friday morning (including peeling the potatoes).

Fish: I don’t make this too often, but when I do, I prepare the onions, carrots, and spices on Thursday and store it all in the refrigerator overnight.

Salads and other side dishes: Ideally, the vegetables get washed on Thursday, and then I take care of chopping etc. on Friday.

As you can see, in general, I do much of the prep. work on Thursday, but then I leave the actual cooking for Friday. The advantage to this system is that there’s less pressure on Friday, but much of the food is still cooked fresh right before Shabbat.


* As our long time readers are well aware, TRLEOOB=”The Real Life Equivalent of Our Blog”.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A magical interlude

Shavua tov, Our Shiputzim fans!

Some of the comments in the previous post reminded me of something that happened way back when I was on Shana Bet.

One of my teachers was an American who had made aliyah many years before. Although there were a handful of English-speakers in the course, most of the students were Israelis, and the class was given in Hebrew.

Anyway, one day, the teacher said that something was like “magickah”.

My friends and I rolled our eyes at each other. Apparently, magic was yet another English word that just needed an atzia or an ah at the end to transform it into Hebrew. We each had our own personal favorites, but we all agreed that this latest example was definitely a prime contender for the title of Most Ridiculous Hebrew Word.

However, we soon realized that we weren’t the only ones discussing the teacher’s choice of words. A murmur swept through the class. Finally, a brave student piped up, “What’s magickah?”

The teacher looked around at the Israeli students’ blank expressions and grinned.

“I take it that’s not a word?” he laughed.

He then confessed that whenever he would forget how to say something in Hebrew, he would simply Hebraicize the English term… even in the middle of his lectures!

“It usually works,” he insisted. “I do this all the time, and until today, no one has ever complained or corrected me. It always turns out to be a real word.”

Magickah, it seems, was the exception that proved his rule…


P.S. For the record, the actual Hebrew word for magic is קסם – kessem.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Substitutiary locomotion

I recently came across a form (in English) which had blanks for “Name”, “Address”, “Phone Number”, and, among other things, “Switcher Size”.

No doubt, you are as confused by this as I was. After all, according to Wikipedia, a switcheris a small [emphasis mine] railroad locomotive intended… for assembling trains ready for a road locomotive to take over, disassembling a train that has been brought in, and generally moving railroad cars around…

As you can see, this definition seems to suggest that switchers only come in “onesize” (Mah?! Zeh gam milah b’Anglit?!). I mean, wouldn’t “Locomotive Size” have been a better choice of words?

Clearly, something didn’t add up.

However, a single phone call, and the mystery was solved.

Switcher turned out to be a mistranslation of s’vetcher*, which – in turn - is how Israelis refer to a sweatshirt


* Yes, I know that it really should be סווטשרט, but my kids assure me that no one pronounces the final “tet”.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gutter talk

Warning: The following post deals with our renovations.

If – for some unknown reason - this doesn’t interest you, please feel free to skip the remainder of this post – as long as you don’t get scared off completely. Now that our שיפוצים (renovations) are more or less finished, I rarely – if ever – post about this topic, but recent developments have forced me to make an exception.

However, for those of you who are debating whether it’s worth reading to the end instead of clicking away immediately, I have two words: Roof. Views. (Yeah, I thought that might get your attention…)

And on that note:

When the roof was being installed, we wondered if we would want a gutter (i.e. מרזב - marzev - for the Hebraically-oriented among you). But after consulting with both the roofer and the kablan, we decided that it made sense to wait until it rained to see if a gutter or drainpipe was really necessary.

Fast forward to the recent rain, when we discovered that we DID, indeed, want a gutter. The problem was that no one could enter or exit the front door without passing through a sheet of water.

So, we contacted the roofer, who came yesterday and did his thing.

And now, without further ado, here’s the promised roof view:


And how about one more, for good measure:


Okay, I admit that perhaps these weren’t quite as exciting as old-fashioned roof views – after all, I didn’t even bother to cue the roof view theme music – but let me remind you that you can always get your authentic roof view fix by clicking on the “Roof” label to the right.

That’s it for now.

We now return you back to your regularly scheduled construction-less blog…

Sunday, November 16, 2008

HH 191

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim can be found here.

Thank you to West Bank Mama for including my stehmp post.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Deep cover

Shavua tov, Our Shiputzim fans!

As anyone who has ever made Pesach knows, one can be as organized as one wants and make numerous lists and plans. But come erev yom tov, and all those lists and plans are useless in the face of the odd chametz utensil or two which have somehow been left out and now need to be put away for the duration of the chag – and rather quickly at that. And so, in desperation, one stashes these forgotten utensils in the most random of places.

Of course, the drawback to this quick fix becomes apparent as soon as Pesach is over, and one inevitably discovers that those very same utensils are now missing.

Way back in April, I blogged about this very issue.

As I wrote in that post:

“As is customary in the post-Pesach period (that's the PPP, for short), several kitchen implements seem to be missing. This year, we can't find our milk opener or the cover to our Tupperware flour container. (We have the canister itself; it's just the lid that's off in PPP-limbo.)”

Well, I’m happy to report that on Friday – amid all the erev Shabbat bustle and some seven months after its initial disappearance – the cover suddenly made its very welcome way back to us.

Needless to say, it was sitting in the very place where it should’ve been all along – namely, the large kitchen drawer where we keep our parve baking pans, mixing bowls and plastic containers. It also goes without saying that this drawer has been opened, searched and rummaged through countless times since Pesach.

But no one noticed the lid.

Until this past Friday afternoon, that is, when someone casually opened the drawer and observed the lid calmly sitting atop a nested pile of bowls.

{Cue: “The Twilight Zone” theme music}

And in other news, we still haven’t located the milk opener…

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ooltra cool

A fairly common feature of Israeli children's hofa’ot (performances) is the way overused fresh and original ultraviolet light.

Typically, the young performers don black clothes and put white socks on their hands and shoeless feet. Upon occasion, the kids will then add white belts or scarves to complete the look.

The overhead lights are turned off, and – with the “purple light” shining on the stage – the captive audience proud and loving parents watch as disembodied white blobs dance in unison before them.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to see countless renditions of this routine - especially in honor of Chodesh Irgun and also at Chanukah parties in gan.

But it was only today that I learned that an ultraviolet light is known as an ooltra in Hebrew.

And what about the dance itself? According to one of my favorite Heblish-speakers, it’s referred to as “doing an ooltra.” (Sample sentence: “For our rikud (dance), we’re going to do an ooltra.”)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stehmp on it

My favorite part about being a freelancer (that is, besides the whole working at home thing… and the whole no commuting thing… and the whole no daycare worries thing… and the whole pick my own hours thing… and… well, you get the idea) is that I have my very own personal stehmp.

What's a stehmp?

Funny you should ask.

Back in the Old Country, we used to refer to such an item as a rubber stamp – i.e. חותמת גומי (literally, rubber stamp) for the Hebraically oriented among you.

But this term doesn’t have the exact same connotation as “stehmp”.

Because stehmp, you see, is what the pakid (clerk) does -with great relish and extreme gusto - to all of your documents in every Israeli governmental office, in general, and to your passport at Ben Gurion Airport, in particular.

Actually, to be perfectly correct, what the pakid does is more like, “stehmp, stehmp.” Apparently – and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about this! - stehmpim generally come in pairs.

So, imagine how excited I was to learn that I would be getting a real, live, honest-to-goodness stehmp!

And even today – several years and many, many, many stehmpim later – the exhilaration continues. Every time I need to issue an invoice, I’m thrilled that I have yet another opportunity to take out my precious stehmp and get to work. (Unfortunately, I’m only required to stehmp rather than the more authentic stehmp, stehmp, but one takes what one can get.)

In conclusion, a suggestion for our younger readers - are you paying attention, YAT?! – who are still considering their future careers: The first and most important question you need to ask about your chosen profession is, “Do I get to use a stehmp?”


Monday, November 10, 2008

Terach: Father of the J-Blogosphere??

MAG and I were learning the Rashis on Parshat Lech Lecha for his בוחן פ”ש (his weekly quiz on parshat hashavua), when we came across an intriguing Rashi.

In Breishit 15:15, Rashi states that Avraham’s father Terach did teshuvah (i.e. he repented from his idolatrous ways), and Breishit Rabbah 39:7 teaches that he didn’t do teshuvah until after Avraham had left for Canaan. [At the end of Parshat Noach (Breishit 11:32), Rashi says that Avraham left sixty years before Terach’s death.]

So, MAG wondered if Avraham knows that Terach had done teshuvah, and if so, how does he find out? I suggested, “Email,” but MAG countered that Avraham reads about it on Terach’s blog.

We decided that the relevant post may have gone something like this:

“Big news today - I did teshuvah. Hard to believe, no? Tell me about it! I mean, I have to admit that I even surprised myself. But the truth is that – once I get used to the idea – I think I’m really going to like it.”

This, of course, could lead to that most clichéd of discussions: How our lives have changed since the advent of things like email, blogs and even cell phones. But instead, I’d like to address a related issue – the way these technologies have affected literature and films as well.

For instance, often the entire storyline depends on Character A not being able to locate or contact Character B.

These days, in order to employ this particular plot device, writers have to account for the character’s lack of a cell phone - The hero conveniently forgot to turn it on; it got lost/broken/forgotten at home; there was no reception. (See, for example, Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”.)

Of course, earlier writers didn’t have to worry about this issue and therefore had it much easier.

But just imagine how your favorite book or movie would have been different if the story had taken place after cell phones had become ubiquitous.

Example: Baroness Emma Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. If cell phones had existed during the French Revolution, there would have been no need for Marguerite to travel to France. Instead, she could’ve just called Percy on his cell and brought him up to date… and thereby ruined the entire story.

Please leave a comment with other examples of books or movies where a cell phone would have changed everything…

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Color me confused

Helloooo, Our Shiputzim fans!

A number of readers have asked me why I haven’t blogged about the IY”H upcoming bar mitzvah.

Of course, there was this post about the hanachat tefillin, but that doesn’t discuss any of the bar mitzvah preparations – which, as you can imagine, have been occupying a great deal of our time here in TRLEOOB (the real life equivalent of our blog).

And so, on that note, here’s a short bar mitzvah-related vignette for your reading pleasure:

I was picking out napkins, and according to the list, one of the available colors is “ירוק תפוח” - “apple green”.

Curious, I asked the vendor if he knew what that meant.

He didn’t have any samples, and so, instead, he looked around the room for something that would match that description. Apparently, “apple green” is not as common as one might have thought, because he couldn’t seem to find anything that would fit the bill.

However, ever resourceful, he pointed to a blue-covered book - Nechama Leibowitz’s “Iyunim B’Sefer Breishit”, to be precise – and said, “Well, it’s just like that color over there… only in green!”

That certainly clears that up, doesn’t it?


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Aliyah memories: “But in America…”

NOTE: Although I try to keep this blog politics-free, I couldn’t let Election Day in the States go by completely unacknowledged, and so hence a post with the word “America” in the title.

Even before s/he arrives in Israel, every new oleh is strictly cautioned against committing that most dreaded of cultural faux pas - using the phrase, “But in America, they do X.

Israelis hate this phrase, the oleh is told; they find it to be very offensive. It makes you sound stuck-up and superior, the oleh is clearly enjoined. If you attempt to use it, the oleh is warned, Israelis will respond by saying, “Then go back to America!”

Like any good oleh, I got the message. From day one, I was determined to refrain from [vocally] comparing the Israeli way of doing things with the American way. I had memorized the party line: “The two cultures are different; one is not better than the other.”

And, indeed, most of the time, I obeyed this sacrosanct unwritten law.

But, את חטאי אני מזכיר היום – true confession time: There was one time when I deliberately and intentionally used this phrase.

::Hangs head in shame::

In a moment of weakness and against my better judgment, I had let the nurse at Tipat Chalav (the well-baby clinic) convince me to take one of the kids to a dietitian. The nurse felt that TBIQ (the baby in question) wasn’t gaining enough weight and that the dietitian would give me some useful suggestions.

As soon as I met the dietitian, however, I was sorry that I had listened to the nurse. First of all, the dietitian was herself very, very thin – too thin, it seemed to me, to be talking about fattening babies up. Second (and most significantly), she was completely clueless about nursing and wanted me to cut back. And finally, she kept suggesting the most inane ideas.

For example, she insisted that I put unprocessed tehina paste into TBIQ’s vegetables to add calories. (Result: TBIQ stopped eating vegetables.) Also, she wanted me to melt butter into TBIQ’s baby cereal. (Result: None, because I ignored this suggestion.)

But the final straw came when she told me to feed TBIQ a certain type of high-calorie artificially-flavored and -sweetened pudding instead of yogurt. She told me that the pudding came in two flavors: banana and strawberry.

By that point, I couldn’t take any more of her ridiculous suggestions, and so I lightly replied, “Oh? Really? Because don’t doctors in America recommend that babies under 12 months not be given strawberries, because of potential allergies?”

She obviously had no idea what I was talking about, because she just mumbled an incoherent response. The appointment ended soon after that, and she didn’t even try to convince me to return for a follow-up appointment.

And I went home and felt incredibly guilty that I had knowingly and willfully transgressed the Oleh Code of Conduct…


Hat tip: Leora, who explained the difference between dietitians and nutritionists.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The post in which MAG holds his own

Since September, MAG has had to endure being referred to as “ASG’s younger brother.”

I should note that MAG didn’t mind when a number of teachers matter-of-factly told him - during the first week of school - that they had taught ASG. It didn’t even bother him that several of them had some rather complimentary things to say about ASG.

But he does thinks it’s (understandably) annoying when ASG’s friends pass him in the hallways and yell out patronizing things like, “Hey, Little ASG!” Or, “How are you doing, ASG’s Little Brother?”

Recently, however, MAG managed to give as good as he got.

One of ASG’s classmates approached MAG and asked, “So, do you know as much about computers as ASG does?”

Without missing a beat, MAG coolly retorted, “What do you mean? I taught him everything he knows!”

Apparently, even ASG’s classmate was very impressed with MAG’s quick response, because he immediately sought out ASG to give him the report about MAG’s witty reply…

Way to go, MAG!

HH 189

The next edition of Haveil Havalim is available here.

Thank you to Esser Agaroth for including my post on hefker fruit and also my post about YZG’s triumph over a bureaucrat.