Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Adventures in Illinois

or, University Blvd in Urbana is not the same as University Blvd in Champaign!

ARGH! It's a good thing my co-worker brought the directions also, because I looked up how to get to the hotel address, but it was on the wrong side of town! After driving around for 20 minutes *knowing* I wasn't quite in the right place, Luke figured out that my directions were different from his, and we finally made it to the hotel.

Part 2 of "I was soooo tired": When the nice lady at AVIS returned my drivers license, I managed to slide it into the wrong pocket in my wallet. So when the nice lady at the front desk asked for my ID, it wasn't there! Oh no! I lost my DL! Panic! Call AVIS, they don't have it. Go through my pockets, my purse, everywhere I can think of... not there. Go back out to the car (nb: it's 22 degrees with wind chill here) and look, it's not there. Go back to the airport, just in case the AVIS lady didn't see it (using a more direct route)... and, standing at the counter, I discovered that my license was there after all! *sigh*

If bad things happen in threes, I'm waiting for #3 now.

Did I mention that I'm exhausted? At least the bed is big and comfy. :)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A serious post about Israel

I don't think I've ever written about Israel on the blog before: how much it pains me when I read about Israeli soldiers and civilians dying, how connected I feel to a place I've only visited once (20+ years ago), and how important it is that Israel continues to be a strong force for democracy in the Middle East. On the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, much is being written on these topics.

After Rosh Hashanah last year, I signed up for "10 minutes of Torah," a daily email from the Union of Reform Judaism. Sometimes the emails are a quick read (the definition of a Hebrew word, in today's context) and some of them are gripping. This week's emails have been the latter.

Wednesday's post, by Rabbi Robert Orkand, was entitled "Why Israel Matters to Me." While I didn't grow up in the 50's and 60's, my attitude toward Israel (3rd paragraph, below) is identical.

In those days before email and relatively easy air travel, Israel was very far away. Growing up I constantly heard, “We can best honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust by a strong commitment to Judaism and helping to build a vibrant Jewish state in Israel.” But the message from our Israeli teachers was, “You are not fulfilling the Zionist dream unless you move to Israel and help us build the country. You are fooling yourselves if you think you are safe in America.” My response? Thanks, but no thanks. I am happy here. My family is here. My community is here. I am Jewishly fulfilled here. Besides, I don’t look good in khaki shorts!

I realize now that I was extraordinarily lucky to be exposed to Israelis and Israeli culture in a Reform educational context. I eventually came to understand that there are many different kinds of Zionism and that I could proudly call myself a Zionist without necessarily believing that a true Zionist is one who makes Aliyah. I have great respect for those who do that, but I also have come to respect those for whom Israel is an integral part of their spiritual lives but who choose to live a committed Jewish life elsewhere. That is where I see myself.

I cannot see being Jewish without Israel. The Jewish state, with all its flaws, is the laboratory for living every moment of one’s life as a Jew, for applying the best of Jewish values to the most mundane matters. If Judaism is a way of life, then life in Israel is the quintessential demonstration of how that can be done. To be sure, the Israeli reality, like every reality, is flawed, but I marvel at the Israelis who are committed to making the experiment work. As a Jew living in America I can learn so much from my Israeli brothers and sisters about how to apply Jewish values to my own life and the larger world in which I live.
Friday's post, by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, is entitled "Thinking about Gaza." Before I quote it, I have to admit that while I had a basic idea of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before I read his article, things are far clearer to me now. It frustrates me that though the Palestinian militants attack Israel all the time, the media reports it as the evil Israelis attacking Palestinian innocents -- who are forced into the middle of the conflict because the militants hide out in schools and hospitals! Rabbi Yoffie is right - would any other western nation's leaders refrain from a larger attack the way Israel has? Not likely.

You are absolutely right. Israel’s response has been wildly disproportionate because it has been far more restrained than what would be expected from any other civilized, democratic government.

Did they understand that since 2001, more than 7000 rockets had been fired from Gaza at civilian targets in Israel? Did they realize that a “proportionate” response would involve 7000 Israeli rockets fired at civilians in Gaza? Did they appreciate that the relatively small number of civilian casualties in Israel resulted not from the humanitarian intentions of Hamas but from the crudeness of their weapons, and that those weapons were now improving? Did they know that the traumatized children of Sderot lived in constant fear? On what basis, I asked, did they expect Israel to tolerate these attacks? And what would their congregants be saying if their churches in Michigan had been subjected to 7 years of hostile fire from across the Canadian border? Would church leaders be calling for “restraint” from the American government in these circumstances? And did they really expect that any American president would show such restraint?

Let us remember, then, that the Jewish state came into being for just such a time as this, when Jewish lives are in danger and no one but a Jewish army will come to their rescue. And let us remember too that our task now is to support Israel in her time of need, to make her case to our fellow citizens, and to do all that we can to rally the Jewish people and good people everywhere to her side.

Breaking it down to the bare minimum, If they stop shooting at us, we'll stop shooting at them! It seems so simple! We American Jews have a duty to try to explain the situation to our friends and neighbors, to counteract the anti-Israel bias and latent Antisemitism now rearing its ugly head (again) in Europe. Please ask questions. Please don't take what the media says as absolute truth. And above all, please don't forget how lucky we are to live in a place where we don't have to worry about rockets raining down on us while we sip our coffee at Starbucks.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eating healthy is expensive

A QP meal at McD's in the Houston airport: $3.59.
Club salad with grilled chicken and lo-fat balsamic dressing: $5.95, and fruit & yogurt snack: $2.19.
Knowing that you chose the healthier option, even when faced with french fries: priceless.

Monday, March 10, 2008

El Pisco es muy fuerte!

Translation: Pisco is a potent drink!

Saturday night was the March Supper Club. We decided on South American cuisine. We had pupusas, seafood stew, a shredded beef dish (the Venezuelan version of ropa vieja), and dulce de leche crepes (a little bit of poetic license for the crepes, but they were TASTY!) for dessert. My two contributions were Pastel de Choclo, which I had once in Santiago, Chile, and Pisco sours to drink. There are MANY versions of the Pastel recipe. (I skipped the olives. blech.) Technically, you're supposed to cook it in four small clay pots, but it worked fine in a large pan -- and I needed nine servings anyway. I also sliced the hardboiled eggs and laid them down as a layer, rather than shoving egg-halves into the beef mixture.

I've been cooking up a storm recently, now that I think about it. Rebeka and Paul came over on Thursday for healthy dinner night, and we had spicy crusted grilled salmon (a WW recipe that I haven't used in years) with steamed garlic spinich (a la mom). :)

For book club last week -- I chose the book, we read Zorro, by Isabel Allende -- I made peach basil sangria. YUM. And that was two days after all that cooking for the Oscar party. Phew!

Next on the menu, Shrimp with Mango and Basil. Just waiting for the mangoes to ripen a bit more.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Impossible, indeed!

Curses! Apparently my favorite Food Network chef, Robert Irvine of Dinner:Impossible, has LIED about his credentials! He hasn't cooked for Presidents, or for the Royals at Buckingham... he just made that up. That's so sad.

He's so much fun to watch, ordering people around, and making incredible dishes out of the most ridiculous ingredients, in no time at all. It doesn't hurt that he's built like a Mack truck (though I never like that sort of thing in person), and I'm probably a bit partial to the British accent. Damn.

Paula Deen is going to be heartbroken. The two of them formed a cute (and sometimes, dare I say, raunchy) little friendship there for a while. Ah well. I'll have to make do with Duff and the crew at Charm City Cakes. :)