Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm only happy when it rains

After a very long summer finally we were blessed with stormy weekends. As my loyal readers know, my favorite season is winter. Unlike most Israelis I adore gray sky, thunder storms, wool scarves and sweaters. Most Israelis love the beach at summer but I on the other hand try to avoid it as much as possible. When winter arrives I love to take long strolls on empty beaches taking pictures of the roiling sea. Since weekends are the only time left for hiking and photographing, I wasn't deterred by weather forecasts and went traveling with the family. One weekend was spent in the old Crusaders fortress of Apollonia (near Herzelia) and another in the city of Acre.  I'd like to share with you some of the lovely images of sea at winter.

From Herzelia to Hedera

Tel-Aviv and stormy sea

Acre marina

Cloud over the Old City of Acre

We discovered a small but charming national park in the North. Ein-Affek is an attempt to restore the original marshland ecosystem of the Haifa Bay area. The dried up water holes were filled with water and the fish, birds, and turtles followed. Even buffaloes which once were abundant in the area and disappeared were restored. It's nothing like the rivers and lakes we saw in Canada but it's pretty and it's ours.

Cormorant, buffaloes, water lily and herb tea in Ein-Afek National Park

Sun sets over the Mediterranean 

Going home

Friday, August 24, 2012

How I spent my summer vacation (and a recipe)

Akziv Beach National Park
When I was at elementary school the first day of any school year started with writing the assay: "how did I 
spend the summer holyday".  I want to share with you a bit of what we did this summer. In contrast to last year's summer that we spent in Canada, this year we mostly juggled between work and kids on vacation. This year's summer broke records, we had such long heat waves that air-con became as essential as breathing.  In spite the heat we tried to get out of the house and break the routine. We had a lovely five days break in the Greek island of Crete. While at home we went mainly to movies or museums (yes, especially for the air-con not necessarily or culture) and travelled mainly in the car. We had a nice picnic in the Carmel woods with food blogger   Foodbridge and her family. Somehow between the 
 work, the heat and the long endless vacation we had fun.
.Having said that I'd really like to spend next year's August in a very cool place, The North Pole will be nice

View of the Jordan river south of the Kinneret

Picnicking in the woods

Hot day requires some cold juice in Wadi Nisnas, Haifa

Israel Museum in Jerusalem

Keshet cave in the Western Galilee 

Sunset on Akziv beach

There is still an abundance of summer fruits in the markets and this cake is a wonderful way to use them.
Upside down gluten-free fruit cake
A cake tin 26cm diameter.
Fruit lair
1kg fruits (plums, apricots, peaches etc.) pitted and cut into halves.
Zest from half a lemon
3-5 sugar spoon
10-20gr butter
200gr soft butter
1 cup of sugar
6 eggs
1 tea spoon vanilla extract
2 cups of gluten-free flours dived to 1/3 soy flour, 1/3 corn flour 1/3 tapioca flour.
1 table spoon baking powder
Assembling the cake:
Layer the tin with baking paper, spread butter on the paper. Arrange the fruits densely so that the fruit's inside are upwards.  Spread the sugar and half the amount of the lemon zest.
1. Pre-heat the oven for 160 centigrade
2. Whip together in a mixer the butter and sugar till a soft foamy batter, add the eggs one by one.
3. Lower the mixer speed and add vanilla extract, flour, baking powder till again the batter is unified.
4. Pour the batter on the fruits and bake for 60-70 minutes.

5. Let the cake cool properly and then flip it on a serving dish so the fruits are upwards.

Upside downgluten-free plum cake

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Paying it forward

A girl burning glass at Susan's House

Recently I had been fortunate to attend two very different places that have something in common. Both places try and give something back to the community.  I'd like to share the experience with you and try to "pay it forward".

The first place I've visited is the new Yvel Center located at the entrance to Jerusalem. YVEL Company is one of the leading companies in the jewelry industry worldwide and is considered synonymous with grandeur and prestige among savvy. Yvel Company was founded by Orna and Isaac Levy, about 28 years ago. The jewelry company designs have won first prizes in prestigious competitions worldwide, they are marketed in five continents and in more than 650 points of sale in dozens of countries around the world. Famous figures such as Maria Sharapova, Rihanna, Beyonce, Carolina Herrera and Scarlett Johansson are just a small part of a long list of loyal and satisfied customers who wear the desirable pearls of YVEL. In recent years the Levy couple won almost every design award possible.
Photo courtesy of Yvel 
  One would have thought that all this glamour and prestige will take Orna and Yzhak Levy the founders to places easier to live in than Israel. But the couple decided not only to stay here but to help and promote  weak and needed populations. In 2011, after more than 25 years the couple decided to open a new facility, Yvel Design including the production plant, a visitor center and school for jewelry that employs students from the Ethiopian Community. The Levy's decided to establish a school that would train Ethiopian as jewelers and will integrate them in the labor force. Unfortunately the state of Israel that went through great length and brought here the Jewish Ethiopian community didn't continue to support it once they've arrived, and currently they are one of the weakest communities in Israeli society. For Itzik whose family immigrated to Israel from Argentina 50 years ago, it was a form of closure.

About a year after the project was launched and seven graduates have been employed by the company, the Levi couple decided to further develop the school. With the help of Yadid voluntary association they set up a new company called "Megemeria", a business that all its profits are dedicated to the expansion of the school and creating new jobs. Megemeria in Amharic means "Genesis, becoming".  The school named after Andrea Bronfman is located at the YVEL center and currently has 21 students from Ethiopia. In addition to the training each student receives a monthly stipend of 4,000 shekels. A lot of attention is invested in the school and the teachers are leading experts in the field. "Above all", says Orna "We teach students to become proud citizens with equal rights; the country doesn't always remember to do so." At the end of the program students earn a certificate from the Ministry of Industry and some of them are even combined in the factory. A few weeks ago the Collection Megemeria was first exposed in the International Jewelry Exhibition- Jovella, and won enthusiastic compliments.

Photo courtesy of Yvel

My visit to the Yvel center was a fascinating experience. The center is located at a beautiful old house that although renovated kept all its timeworn features. The jewels are spectacular; one understands how the Levys won so many prizes. But what impressed me most was the genuine will to improve the world, to help, to give something back to society.
Go visit Yvel at the entrance to Jerusalem in Moza, admission fee costs 25 shekels. 
You'll see wondrous creations and help support their truly Zionist project.

The second place I've visited is also a project where craftsmanship and art are used to save young people. I was very moved by my visit to Susan's house in Jerusalem. It's story is a sad one but full of hope. It started after Susan Kaplansky, a well-known personality that led many educational projects died of cancer at the age of 38. Her husband, Eyal Kaplansky a jeweler, decided to establish "Susan's House". Wanting to fulfill her dream of helping, habilitating and integrating youth at risk through the art world. Susan's House gathers boys and girls aged 20-15 in risk mostly without any other normative framework.

"Susan's House" is a success story. Youth, who cannot fit in any other work places - can persist as part of "Susan's House" two years or sometimes even more than that. Since its establishment about 500 teenagers worked in "Susan's House". We have heard some of the kids' stories and they were shocking tales of neglect and abuse.  At "Susan's house" the teenagers are trusted to work freely with fire, glass and very sharp cutting blades. Avital, the manager, says the place gives them the tools (self-confidence, maturity, responsibility, and team work), through which children can down the road integrate into regular labor force.  Many of these youngsters began to experiences success, confidence and faith. We met the kids while they're worked and they seemed peaceful, concentrated and content with what they do.  Susan's Home also provides boys and girls added value of hot meals, school enrichment, field trips, talk therapy, and much more.

The youth are the ones who make the products including a variety of  products: Glass jewelry - necklaces, earrings, bracelets, pins, etc., greeting cards from recycled paper; photo albums; key chains and more. The products are incredibly pretty and in high standard. All are handmade by the boys and girls with lots of dedication. The initial design is made by volunteering expert designers. In addition, prices are surprisingly quite reasonable.

The products can be purchased at the store and visitor center of "Susan's House" located at Yad Haruzim 19 ,Talpiot, Jerusalem. Susanart products are shipped to all parts of the country and even abroad, special packs prevent breakage. In addition, you can order the products on the site - www.susanart.org.il
I left the visitor center with some lovely glass jewels. Unlike other places, "Susan's House is a stand-alone independent business where the kids now fight in order to survive. In here they come to realize that together, staff and youth can create, earn and enjoy. 
"Susan's House", a place that saved hundreds of children in and around Jerusalem, is currently under a threat of an economic collapse. In its 12 years the house of Susan helped many.  The state (through the Ministry of Social Affairs) and the Jerusalem Municipality partially funded by the activity. Today it is no longer enough and the house may not celebrate a Bar Mitzvah.
I wrote this post as my way to help to maintain this wonderful project, hope you'll read and join the effort. Let's pay it forward.

* Acknowledgement - The visit was part of a publicity tour organized by Marom Communications. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The bluest blue-A little break in the Island of Crete

View of Mirabello Bay

The heat is on. Israeli summer this year went overboard. The sun is scorching and temperature rises as everything here seems to come to a boiling point. It is never easy nor peaceful in this corner of the world so a heat wave doesn't have any cooling effect.  This year's family vacation was in perfect timing. We all needed to get away for a little while and cool off. We spent 5 days in the lovely Greek island of Crete.  It is a short flight from here and yet feels like a different world. Although it's the same Mediterranean Sea we have at home, in Crete the views are different. 
The Island of Spinalonga

The Aegean Sea comes in shades of deep blue and turquoise and the water is crystal clear. Only the tiniest part of the Israeli coast line looks like this and it is under constant threat of disappearing under hotels built by greedy contractors. 
Tiny European cars

After a couple of days of just lazing by the poolside we hired a car and went to explore the island. Driving a ridiculously small automobile we went to lovely places like the Mirabello Bay ("the beautiful bay" really deserves its name), there we settled for a few hours in the picturesque village Plaka and ate a wonderful fish dinner.
Great food in Plaka

We took the boat to the former leper's colony Spinalonga which is now a huge tourist attraction. We went to see the remains of the amazing ancient Minoan Culture at The Palace of Malia. We even went to the beach, the sea was calm, clean sand and no jellyfish were lurking in the crystalline water. Perfect.
Although we had a wonderful time the effects of the economic calamity in Greece couldn't be ignored. Many places were closed for business even in the height of the season.  It was sad. I hope things will improve for the Greeks.
We spent 5 short days on Crete, a very short time that left us with a lot to see next time. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

No light or my new ND filter

Banisas stream from the Hanging Trail

June has been hectic. Our lives are quite hectic all year long but June is quite different. The abundance of school ceremonies, farewell parties, birthday parties and general deadlines are overwhelming. The last 4 weeks were a blur of perpetual celebrations. These are of course good things but can be more than a little tiring. With all the festivities going around I didn't photograph much expect for my own kids at this or other merriment. 
Banias stream

It's a bit of a shame because I now have a much coveted piece of equipment: neutral density filter. It's a filter that reduces and/or modifies intensity of all wavelengths or colors of light equally. The purpose of a standard photographic neutral density filter is to allow the photographer greater flexibility to change the aperture, exposure time and/or motion blur of subject in different situations and atmospheric conditions. In other words I can photograph waterfalls! Israel isn't rich in water sources or in great waterfalls but we have some and they are exceptionally beautiful.
Banias waterfall

I had the opportunity to spend a short vacation in the North of Israel where most of the abundant water sources happen to be. I've walked the Hanging Trail over The Banias stream in Banias National Park. This year's winter was kind and rainy, so the northern streams were full of raging water, as you can see. Although the lighting was very intense since it was late morning and Israeli sun is very harsh, the ND filter enabled me to reduce shutter speed in a way that captures the effect of the moving water. The next day I took pictures of the Tanur Waterfall in Wadi Ayun National Park, and shot some "smeared" photos. I like the water effects very much, it creates magical landscape.
I am posting a few photos of my very primary attempts. I need to go out more to practice, maybe summer holiday will provide the opportunity. 
Tanur waterfall in Ayun Wadi

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cherry season

Pitting cherries with my DH posh tourne knife 

Summer is here. Spring was exceptionally beautiful this year but as usual in this place short lived. Very quickly the green lush turned yellow and dusty. Pretty delicate flowers were replaced by thorns.  It's getting hotter everyday as well. The temperature hits 30 centigrade by 10am. Although I am not a fan of Israeli summer, there some nice sides to it like cherries.
Cherries for sale in the Banias National Park

We've just returned from a vacation in the North of Israel, and everywhere we went they sold cherries. We couldn't resist their lovely color so we bought more than a kilo of cherries. They were in good price.  Getting home we discovered that not all tasted that good but even sour cherries are great for dessert.
We've decided to make a French classic: "clafoutis aux cerises" namely cherry pudding. Since the amount of flour is minimal in this recipe we had no problem to convert it to a gluten-free version. The recipe is based on the one published by Benny Saida. With our northern cherries the dessert turned out just perfect.

 6 egg yolks
3 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
2 table spoons of brandy or cherry liquor
1/4 cup soy flour + 1/4 corn starch
1 cup milk
1/3 cup whole cream (38% fat)
1/2 kg pitted cherries
 1 bag of vanilla sugar
A 26cm diameter pie tin or personal soufflé dishes buttered.

1.       Heat the oven to 180 centigrade. Mix the eggs in a large bowl while adding the sugar till a light fluffy mixture is formed.
2.       Add the flours and liquor mix till unified. Add the milk and cream in slow stream while stirring the mixture.
3.       Mix the cherries with the sugar and vanilla sugar and spread at the bottom of the tin.
4.       Pour the batter on the cherries and bake 50 minutes till the pastry is browned.
Clafoutis- such a cute word.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sping break

One of the many religious families taking advantage of the holiday to go hiking. Strangely they wore their best cloths for the dust and mud.  

Pesach holiday is over. As usual there were many hikes, picnics and family get together.  We visited sites North and South of the country along with most of Israel's population. The kids homework and school assignment were left for the last minute so we could have a bit of family fun. Though some of the days we  managed going to work, the past couple of weeks were mostly dedicated to our favorite amusements namely lots of great food while enjoying Nature. We had a lovely weather and spring brought with it an abundance of flowers which some I've photographed. Here are a few for your enjoyment.  

From left upper corner: Judas tree, sage, Jerusalem sage, cyclamen, cistus, orchid, chrysanthemum, buttercup, orchid, anemones and buttercups. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Paradise, in open eyes.

Anchorage Bay from above

I love the new Coldplay album and one of my favorite songs is "Paradise". It's about a girl that her 
dreams didn't come true. I've always considered myself very blessed in that sense, I've realized most of my dreams and I always have new ones to fulfill. For years I aspired to travel to New-Zealand. I know the travel route by heart. I have a clear map of the islands in my head after staring at it for so long. I have 3 different travelling guides to New-Zealand; sometimes I read them before I go to sleep. I always knew that someday I'll get to New-Zealand. Last February I got there alright but in very miserable circumstance that made me think of cosmic jokes. I didn't see much of New-Zealand since most of the time I was needed in the town of Nelson (as you can see in my former post). Although my help was very much required I was convinced to take a day off and go traveling even for a short while. The beautiful Abel Tasman National Park is an hour's ride by boat from Nelson. It is the smallest national park in NZ but one of the most travelled. I took a water taxi tour to the park, where the taxi drops you off at one point and picks you up in another while you hike in nature. I was picked up from the motel by the taxi company and driven to Nelson port where I embarked with a very diverse group of people the vessel that took us into the park. Although I'm not used to be alone and very rarely if ever I hike by myself, I had a most wonderful time. I hiked from Bark Bay to Anchorage Bay, a mild 16km walk in the most wonderful views. The weather was ideal; partly cloudy with light breeze from time to time that dried the sweat. I got back to Nelson tired but happy I managed to fulfill a tiniest part of my New-Zealand dream.
In the Coldplay song the poor girl sees Paradise every time she closes her eyes. I was very lucky to be with my eyes open and with my camera to see a slice of Paradise.