February 27, 2012

Enough About Whitney Houston Already

It's tragic that Whitney Houston died so young. But enough already. She's not the only person of fame and talent to die from an excess of...what?...just about everything, I think.
Entertainment Tonight is scandalized that a photo of Whitney in her casket appeared on the cover of the National Enquirer. So, "out of respect for the family" ET showed the picture but obscured her face (oh, how reverential), and then went on to describe in excruciating detail what color her dress was, how her hair was fixed, the jewelry she wore...
Their self-righteousness is a bit misplaced, don't you think?
And it's an odd phenomenon how, when someone dies, sales of their music, movies, books...whatever, skyrocket. Were those people buying their work before they died? Which seems to me like the best time to do that, but what do I know?
Whitney's death will probably make the movie, Sparkle, a big hit at the box office, whether it's good or not, which is good for her estate. And good for her daughter, Bobbi Christina - now maybe she'll be able to afford to get braces. I know that's so mean but really...why didn't they have her teeth fixed?

February 22, 2012

What More Could You Wish For - Coming Soon!

The publication of my book is right around the corner - August 7th. So exciting! Check out the countdown clock off to the right - isn't that cool? I get a little thrill every time I look at it.
So anyway, it's time to really start getting the word out.
How the heck do I do that? I don't know yet what St. Martin's marketing plan is but I do know that I'm going to have to be very involved. Which, you know I have no problem doing. I'll try not to inundate you with email blasts, I'll try not to bore you with publicity. Can I ask you, tho, to spread the word? If I send an email about my book I would love it if you could forward it on to one or two of your friends, anyone you think might like it. As much as I would love for men to read it I think my best audience will be women - probably forty and up, or anyone who's connected with an old flame on a reunion website or Facebook. Do you know anyone like that?
Okay, now for a little shameless self-promotion: YOU CAN PRE-ORDER MY BOOK NOW! At a discounted price. Yay! Be the first on your block to have a copy of What More Could You Wish For. Just click on the book cover:
Oh, and when you get there please click the "LIKE" button.
Thanks so much for your support.

February 17, 2012

Cooking Shows

Cooking shows are my crack. If my TV's on it's a safe bet it's tuned to a cooking show - FoodNetwork, The Cooking Channel, Top Chef something-or-other, Restaurant Impossible... Jeez, just how many cooking shows could there be? I think you'd be surprised - a new show pops up daily. They're everywhere.
With all that watching you'd think I'd be a master chef by now. You'd think I could look in my fridge and find Brussels sprouts, string cheese, oranges and bacon, and make a gourmet meal of it (that's what's actually in my fridge at the moment). That's what they do on Chopped - there's a basket of mystery ingredients and four chefs compete to make the best dish out of them. For example: licorice, goat cheese, goose liver and octopus, and they make the yummiest dessert out of it. Or puffed rice cereal, cotton candy, radishes and turkey sausage, and they make an appetizer that the judges kvell over.
I'm a good cook, and I love cooking and baking, but alas, I usually use a recipe. I once had a fantasy of doing an audition video for The Next Food Network Star, but when Guy Fieri won, with his spiked platinum blond hair, wearing sunglasses on the back of his head, I knew I wasn't their girl. Not to mention the pressure of being cute and charming and being able to talk to the camera and cook at the same time.
I love Giada and Ina and Bobby Flay...but they all have their little annoyances: Giada says, "Here we go" 320 times per show, Ina says, "How good does that look?" or "How easy was that?" or...well you get the idea. Hmmm...maybe I could be a Food Network Star after all. I can be as annoying as the next person.
Anyway, I was watching Paula Deen the other day - Paula of the continuous "Y'all"s and the cackling laugh - and she was making deep-fried chicken pot pies. And if all that grease isn't enough, when she took them out of the fryer she brushed the damn things with melted butter. Oh my god. She would deep-fry watermelon if it occurred to her.
Every time I see something that looks good (not the deep-fried chicken pot pies) I go to the site and copy the recipe to my files. I must have 92,000 recipes. How long will it take me to make them all?
If you're hungry stop by...if I'm not watching a cooking show I'm probably cooking something. My neighbor across the hall will tell you there are always good smells wafting into the halls.

This video is very funny although it might be offensive to some - just fair warning.

February 8, 2012

Shalom to Israel

Saturday -  my last day in Israel. So sad.
Five of us would be leaving very early Sunday morning to go home, the rest were going on to an optional tour to Eilat and Petra.
I was on intellectual overload by that time, so leaving at this point was fine, although going on with the rest of the group would have been even finer. Ah, well…
We spent the morning on a walking tour of the old city, walking along ancient history. And then through the bazaar area. The afternoon was ours to do whatever we wanted. Five or six people did their own self-guided tour of various churches but I opted out of that – I was churched-out and toured-out by that time. I went with Elaine and Sandy to have lunch at the YMCA, an unlikely place to go for a meal but it was recommended by Arie, and one of few places open on the Sabbath. Well…it was wonderful! Not only delicious food but a gorgeous environment.
After lunch I relaxed for a bit at the hotel (played Words With Friends on my Kindle Fire) and then went to wander the old city on my own. An Israeli man approached me as I was walking, and started a casual conversation, asking where I was from, how did I like Israel, that sort of thing. He asked me to have coffee with him so we went to a hotel and sat in the lobby but he couldn’t buy me a coffee because it was still the Sabbath and so he didn’t have money.
So then we walked around a bit and he showed me his neighborhood and since we “just happened” to be near his home he asked me to come meet his 90 year old father who lived with him. So I did. I know, I know…
There was his father, sitting in the living room – no TV on or anything, of course – on oxygen, eating pistachios, wearing a suit.
I didn’t stay long but it was a very funny view of life in Israel.
Said goodbye to my new friend and went back to the hotel to meet up with my group for a farewell dinner.
Should I admit that I was overserved that night and don’t remember much of the evening? Well, I guess I just did. Sad to say goodbye to my travel companions. Sadder still when I got my wake up call at 1:30 in the morning for a 2:30 am pick up to take us to the airport. I threw on the clothes that were strewn across my bed, washed my face, packed my bags and got on the shuttle.
We flew to Istanbul, then a long-ass fully-packed flight to New York, then a tight connection and on to Chicago, and it all worked out perfectly. Bags where they needed to be, flights leaving on time…
It’s been fun doing this travelogue – it brought back the memories and made me smile. I hope it made you smile as well.

February 7, 2012

Israel–Day Eight

Friday was another emotional time – a visit to the Holocaust museum. Oh man. I can’t imagine being able to walk through there dry-eyed. To see such a comprehensive display of what happened; the scope of it, all of the countries that were complicit – well, it’s just beyond understanding, truly.
There were many videos of survivors telling their stories and those were what touched me the most. And then there were the piles of shoes and clothing, and confiscated silver, and photographs that people had thought to take with them. Its power is impossible to describe.
We went to the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed. And in the afternoon we took a tour of Bethlehem and visited the Church of the Nativity. Our guide couldn’t go to Bethlehem, and turned us over to a Palestinian guide. That was a trip. Not the guide part, but the church part. Masses of people being funneled down some narrow stone stairs, pushing and shoving (not very Christian-like) to see the altar where it’s said that Jesus was born. If I hadn’t been stuck in the middle of that crowd I might have opted out of the whole scene but once inside there was no going back. It was an interesting experience and the church was beautiful, but as a Jew it obviously didn’t have the same impact for me that it did on the Christian folks in our group.
Back at our hotel things were very quiet as Shabbot began. Elevator service was minimal, and non-Jews set up for the evening meal. There were lots of people hanging around in the lobby, which had been fairly quiet before then, just talking.
It was raining that evening so we did a brief bus tour of Jerusalem and the illuminated walls of the old city, and then we went to a Shabbot dinner at a kibbutz. Yes, another buffet.

Israel–Day Seven

Wednesday had been busy and exhausting – I forgot to mention also going to the Temple Mount and the Christian Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and King David’s Tomb and the room of the Last Supper. By the end of the day my head was ready to explode and I was full to bursting with the sound of Arie’s voice and all those facts and dates and geographic locations. I was sorely tempted to take a pass on Thursday’s tour and just explore Jerusalem on my own in blissful silence.
Whew, am I glad I didn’t! Thursday was the day we went to Masada which I think was my very favorite part of the tour.
It’s possible I learned about Masada in Sunday School but that was too long ago to even think about, and even if I did I wasn’t interested in history back then (some things don’t change) so I had no memory of it.  

Arie, our guide, told the story with such passion - and truly, he’s an amazing guide – so smart and so knowledgeable, but the amount of information he has is encyclopedic and exhausting and overwhelming. Nine days isn’t enough to hear it all.
Anyway, the tour of Masada was very emotional for me, mainly because of how personal it is for Arie and the obvious pride and admiration he has for what the Jewish people did in the face of such struggle.
Masada is the excavated ruins of a fortress where about a thousand Jews defended themselves against Roman occupation. They were vastly outnumbered and in the end they chose to die rather than be taken into slavery. The women and children were killed by the men (suicide is forbidden by Jewish law), then the last ten men drew lots to see who would kill the last nine and then kill himself.
It’s a story of courage, and of the cost and value of freedom. I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I listened and walked among the ruins.

Later we went to a spa at the Dead Sea where we had a delicious (albeit buffet) lunch and then some people (who’d thought to bring bathing suits – I wasn’t one of them) floated in the Dead Sea. 

For dinner that night my BFFs and I found another wonderful restaurant with great food, where a huge family (20-30 people) celebrated some major event with a singer (accompanied by her computer), while children played games and threw balls next to our table. When we asked the waitress if she could kindly ask someone to control the children she puffed up with purpose and went off happily to do just that. I think she’d been hoping someone would ask her to do that.


On the way back to the hotel we came across a small park with this tribute:

February 4, 2012

Israel–Day Six

The sun was actually shining on Wednesday in Jerusalem. Yippee! It was short-lived, but nice to see.

We did a walking tour of the old city, the Mount of Olives and the Wailing Wall, where it’s tradition to put prayer notes in the cracks in the wall. Some of our group did that but it’s probably unnecessary to say I wasn’t one of them.
And we walked the Via Dolorosa and the stations of the cross, said to be where Jesus carried his cross on the way to his crucifixion. Lots of old stone buildings and stalls with vendors selling everything imaginable.
Had lunch at an outdoor café and then the afternoon was free to explore the city on our own. I took a nap.
Tony, Nel and I went to a seafood restaurant for dinner. Not our favorite place for food but the wine was good. (See my attentive companions, below.)
IMG_1061After dinner we went in search of a nightclub that someone had told us about and didn’t find it until we were too exhausted to go inside.

Israel–Day Five

Tuesday was another gray day but at least it wasn't raining. We did not luck out with the weather, I have to say.
We went to the Man in the Galilee Museum which we just sort of whipped through on our way to a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The boat ride was sweet – they played music, including the hora (which we didn’t dance to) but I have a lovely video of Elaine and Sanford from Cleveland dancing to something else. (I'm going to bore you with pictures of the whole group - it's the only time I got pictures of everyone.)
Elaine and Sandy

You know how when you travel with a group there's usually one colossal jerk? Well, that didn't happen on this trip - everyone was great; easy to get along with (okay, maybe not ALL the time, but mostly), flexible, not complaining...pretty amazing, actually.
Cool, I just found a way to embed the pictures in an album that you can view as a slide show.
After the boat ride we went to Tiberias to visit Capernaum, the site of an ancient Byzantine synagogue and a church believed to be on the site of St. Peter’s house. (I’m quoting the itinerary because at this point I was so overwhelmed by all the facts and dates and stories, and my brain had ceased to process the data. But I loved looking at it so enjoy the pictures.)
What I really liked about this tour was the balance between Jewish stuff and Christian. Half of us were Jewish, half not, so there was something for everyone and it was interesting to all.

Then we drove through the Jordan River Valley and into Jerusalem. Our hotel, the Dan Panorama, was very nice and in a great location near the Old City and near lots of stores and restaurants.
Tony, Nel and I went to dinner that night at a restaurant called (I think) Gabriela, a kosher Italian restaurant where we had delicious food. Nice not to be eating at a buffet.

February 3, 2012

Israel–Day Four

Monday morning was another gray, rainy, cold day. Off we went to Safed (pronounced tzvat - try that IMG_0848out!), the highest city in the Galilee region at 3000 ft. It's a quaint artist's colony with narrow cobblestone streets of shops filled with beautiful art, jewelry, scarves...whatever you're looking for. And some of what you're not. But really, if I had any space left on my walls I could have bought some wonderful pieces.
We visited a synagogue that was founded in the 1500s. Check out Tony’s little dome-shaped yarmulke (below). IMG_0842
Safed is also the center of Kabbalah (but we didn't see Madonna there).
Then on we went to a kibbutz for lunch – great food (they’re big on buffets in Israel, at least where we were) and plenty of it. We had a guide who told us about kibbutz life and how it works, what it takes to get in. She said it’s good to be a tuchas-licker. I thought I hadn’t heard her correctly but then she explained, “ass-kisser,” for the goyim.
She also told us how when she was young she took care of the cows and how good the warm cow shit (her words) felt oozing into her boots on a cold winter morning. Very colorful.
Kibbutz life is very strange and cult-like to me, and the housing is less than elegant. But, whatever floats your ark.
After lunch we toured the area (I think it was the Golan Heights) but I can’t remember what all we were looking at so enjoy the pictures. I really needed a documentarian.

I didn’t need one, tho, for our next stop – it was a winery where we toured and sampled. One of our group wasn’t feeling well and I couldn’t resist taking her picture lying on the window sill like a cat.
Whew! That was a full day, wasn’t it?
Dinner that night was at our Kibbutz hotel. Another buffet.






February 2, 2012

Israel - Day Three

Goodbye to Tel Aviv. On Sunday morning we drove north along the coast to Caesarea. I'm putting up a link to the history of Caesarea because there's no way I could explain it to you, being that I'm history-challenged, but it's an amazing archeological site with a huge amphitheater and port. Unfortunately it was a cold, blustery day - not the best time to visit a port.

Then on to Haifa to see the Baha'i Shrine. Did a drive-by on that one due to the driving rain (no pun intended) and then drove on to Nazareth to see the Basilica of the Annunciation.
Basillica of the Annunciation 

For Bill

No idea what this is - maybe one of the group will know

Our new hotel was in the Galilee region and was a Kibbutz hotel. I didn't have high hopes for that one but it was nice. The rooms could have used a little accessorizing but they had free WiFi so that tipped the scales in its favor.
Breakfast and dinner were enormous buffets of fine food - not like in 'fine dining' - more like in 'okay' dining, but I have to say I liked the way they poured wine - right to the rim. Another scale-tipper. One has to have priorities, after all.
Lavi Kibbutz Hotel