Archive for January, 2011

Getting to know you

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Last Sunday was an absolutely gorgeous day in Tel Aviv. John and I went with our neighbors Bill and Diane to breakfast at Benedict’s, where we had another wonderful meal.

Afterwards, I just couldn’t stand the thought of staying inside on such a pretty day, so I set off for a neat little neighborhood not too far from the apartment, called Neve Tzedek (which I think translates as “oasis of justice” or something like that). It was one of the original neighborhoods of Tel Aviv and has been revitalized and yuppified. Lots of neat restaurants, coffee shops, and upscale jewelry and clothing stores. There’s not a lot of street traffic there, so it was peaceful, too. I thoroughly enjoyed mosying along, going from shop to shop.

We watched a great movie last weekend, “Winter’s Bone.” We didn’t know when we watched it that it would be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, but it was really good (if you like sort of creepy movies about people making meth in the Ozarks).

Yesterday at work, we had a mini happy hour in the office to announce winners of Extra Mile awards. I got one for working on a Sunday in December to get some emergency visas printed. It was nice of my bosses to give the award to me.

On Thursday, there was an Embassy-wide awards ceremony, held in a local hotel’s ballroom (because we don’t have a space big enough at the Embassy). It was fun to see folks get rewarded for good work, like our American Citizens Services group who helped with the flotilla incident last May.

John took me out for a nice dinner at Whitehall on Wednesday night. We had stayed late with our manager, watching a webinar on writing good evaluations. Ours will be coming up soon.

I stayed a bit late on Thursday to print emergency visas for a newborn and his family who were heading  to the U.S. for emergency surgery for the baby. Like the case I worked on in December, it’s nice to know that you can help in a small way.

If anyone wants recipes from last week’s baking trip to Nazareth, I added a link to this page, or click here.

Last night as I was putzing around the kitchen, I realized that I have three things that I use constantly: a wooden spoon and a cutting board that Jack Muse (Ann’s dad) made for me. Another is a bowl that my college pottery teacher Mr. Hawes was going to throw away and I rescued. I love the utility of these things, plus I love the memories they invoke.

Bowl, spoon and cutting board

Baking in Nazareth

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Making pastries in Nazareth

Today was a lot of fun – I went with friends Jen and Naz to an Arab woman’s home in Nazareth to bake traditional Arab pastries. It was an outing organized by a woman here in Israel who is a foodie and writing a book about food in Israel. She is especially interested in families who grow organic food and keep traditional ways of cooking.

She took us to the home of Balkes (‘bal-keys’). A very modest home with Arabic writing sprinkled around. We sat around a long table in the living room and watched Balkes make two kinds of cookies: one a butter cookie filled with pistachios and another filled with dates. She made the dough, then gave it to us to roll, pinch, fill, etc. Then we made two kinds of savory pastries: one filled with a fresh spinach mixture and another filled with fresh homemade goat cheese. Everything was just incredible and we enjoyed them over a delicious lunch of salad, pita, okra in tomato sauce and a lentil-bulgar mixture. Thanks to Jen for motivating us to go!

Click for more baking photos.

Last Monday, John and I were off work for Martin Luther King Day. We went to Benedict’s, a 24 hour restaurant known for its breakfast. It was wonderful, especially with the glass of champagne they serve with it!

We went to two happy hours this week. The New Professionals Association had happy hour at Gordo’s on the beach Wednesday night, then on Friday, the CLO (Community Liaison Office) sponsored a happy hour at the bar/restaurant next to the Embassy. Both were fun.

I also got some good work done this week, wrapping up some projects. Feels good to get things off of my desk!

Old friends

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Patty, Jimmy, Mary (with baby Will), Billy, John and Dave

Yesterday John and I drove to Jerusalem to visit with some of our friends. Dave and Mary, from our A-100 class, are both there, along with another friend from DC, Bill. We went to Mary’s apartment first to see her family – she and husband Jimmy had a baby in November and I hadn’t met him yet. What a cutie! Then we all met Dave and Bill downtown at a Middle Eastern restaurant for a leisurely lunch.

It was great to sit and talk with old friends – I guess “old” is relative, since we all just met in 2007! At any rate, it was a very pleasant and comfortable afternoon.

Last Sunday, Petite and I made a pilgrimage to the Hetzi Hinam grocery store – it’s the closest thing to an American-style grocery store here and I love it.

The rest of the week was pretty uneventful. I fought a cold several days, so just took it easy.

Thursday, some folks from Jerusalem (including Dave and another A-100 classmate Liz) came over to our offices for meetings.

John and I went to a new place that we like called Whitehall. They played really good music (including Steely Dan, JT, etc.) and it was just a fun atmosphere.

We watched several movies this week: Suddenly Last Summer, Inception (I don’t get it), and I am Love with Tilda Swinton.

We’re off today for Martin Luther King Day – a good day to relax!

Starting the new year off right

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

With Howard and Ale Petite

We got to visit with Howard and Petite again this week – they came downstairs for happy hour with us on Thursday. It was so great to see Petite again, and to get to know Howard. Happy hour turned into happy hours with them!

Last Sunday was a lot of fun. We went with our manager Wendy and her husband Colin to visit two nearby wineries, Flam and Clos de Gat. They are boutique wineries and produce some good wine (yes, we came home with quite a bit of it!). I especially liked the setting at Clos de Gat – we sat on a huge covered patio made of Jerusalem stone, and overlooked the vineyard and kibbutz. There was a flock of guinea hens wandering around, as well as a rooster and resident dogs. There are huge rosemary plants around the yard that smelled wonderful – it was cool, but sunny, and just really beautiful. Click here for more photos.

Afterwards, we picked up our friend Brian and went to a nice party at our DCM’s house. We followed that up with dinner on the beach at Lalaland. You can’t beat eating and listening to the waves.

My biggest excitement this week was getting a housekeeper. I think she’ll work out well, and it’s just so nice to come home to a clean house.

Last night, we met several co-workers at a great Russian restaurant in a nearby neighborhood. They had great food – I had an appetizer sampler and John had lamb stew. Paired with good conversation and good wine, it was a good night!

We had some bad news this week: John’s wonderful Uncle Perk passed away on New Year’s Day, and my cousin Annette’s husband, Jimmy Ray, passed away. I have such great memories of banding hummingbirds with Perk at his house at Lakeside – what a great guy and what an interesting life he had. He was in his 90s.

Jimmy Ray was much younger, but had had health problems in recent years; my favorite memories of him were presiding over the catfish fries we used to have.

And we go on.

At Flam Winery

At Clos de Gat Winery

Dogs, wine and rosemary

With Brian

Welcome, 2011

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Last day of 2010

2010 was our transitional year – we lived in Juarez, Arkansas, DC and Tel Aviv. We said goodbye to friends in Mexico, got to see old friends in Arkansas and DC, and made new friends in Israel. It was a good year!

We rang in the new year last night at Ben and Jen’s apartment (where we also celebrated Thanksgiving). Our very special treat of the evening was seeing Ale Petite, a good friend from Juarez who just moved to Tel Aviv. When we left Juarez, we didn’t think we would ever see her again, but she went to Baghdad to work for a few months and fell in love with a great guy who was on his way to work for the Embassy here in Tel Aviv…so here she is!

We also got to visit with Brian C., our friend and fellow FSO who is visiting Tel Aviv from Bulgaria. He’s here with his friend Camille, and they came by last night to visit – great to see them!

Last Sunday, we spent a nice, lazy afternoon on the patio at Dave and Emily’s apartment, eating and drinking champagne. Dave E., our friend from A-100 who is now posted in Jerusalem, was also there – he’s always a hoot to visit with.

Wednesday night we went to dinner at Doris with Ben, Jen, Steph and Abram and had a good meal and a jug of wine (really, a jug).

Thursday afternoon, we left work early and had a department brunch at a nice restaurant down the street. The food was good and champagne was flowing; it was a nice end to the work year!

We enjoyed New Year’s Eve day at home – it rained off and on throughout the day, and the clouds were pretty.