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Getting Back Up

Hi!

 

Have you missed me?

 

Well life has been a series of busy lately, and while all of it has been fantastic, none of it really lends itself to being ‘blog-worthy’.  Or at least, not in a way that I can think of just yet.  So what has been happening in life down here in kiwiland?  Well, let me tell you.

 

A couple weekends ago two of our really close friends got married.  It was an absolutely fantastic day, the ceremony went off just as was planned and the Bride and Groom had a great time.  I was so very happy to be not only invited but to also be a part in helping them plan and get ready for their day.  Having only known them for a few months, it’s truly amazing just how close we’ve become.  I can’t express enough or in the proper words just how humbled and grateful I am to the pair of them for allowing me to spend time with them and share in their joy on that day.  Love you both R&K!

 

This past weekend, another pair of our friends moved into their new house! And we, of course, helped them move!  Now, I know that does not necessarily sound like a barrel of laughs, and it was some hard work, but it was also absolutely great.  We got to spend time with friends, help them move onto their next big step, and generally just enjoy everybody’s company.  And while helping them move, unpack, and settle into their new place, I had time to look back, reflect, and focus on just how far this life that I’m living now is to the ones that I’ve lived before.  Doing physical labor, but laughing and joking at the same time. Everybody coming together collectively to help out, and then sitting around a table (which is gorgeous!) for a well deserved dinner.  I am struggling to figure out if life gets better than that.   The house is gorgeous, the couple fantastic, and our time spent together equally precious.  Congrats R&E!

 

What else, what else.

 

The job hunt is not so much a hunt as it is shooting arrows wildly into the forest in every direction, only to have them shot back at you with no points and no fletching. Not helpful.  But! perseverance will prevail!  Employment will be gained! Somehow.

 

Now, the biggest new thing happening to me personally is that I’ve committed to a Personal Trainer. Tom is going to be kicking my butt left, right, and sideways twice a week for 45 minutes.  After 7 months at the gym, and a significant amount of body tightening up, It was time to get even more serious.  I’ve got weight I want to, must, lose and it’s not going to come off on it’s own.  And while I’ve stuck with going to the gym at least twice a week for 7 months, I need something more. I need to keep pushing myself even more, harder than before.  I must lose this weight.  The rest of my life depends upon hitting that healthy moment and then keeping going.  And that’s not an exaggeration.

 

Today was my second session with Tom and everything went well.  Really well, actually.  But it was the last ‘exercise’ that got me into a contemplative mood.  Essentially all I had to do was lay down on the ground on my chest and then stand back up again five times, and then lay on my back and get up again five times.  Sounds simple, right? Wrong.  It was definitely not easy.  There was so much involved, just so much energy and movement and muscles.  It was by far the hardest exercise that I did.

 

Just like life.  It’s fairly easy to get knocked down time and time again.  It’s the getting back up that’s the hardest part.  And all of this, the man who is supporting me, the friends that I’ve found and love, and the gym, this is all part of me getting back up off the ground.

 

And this time, I’m going to remain standing. And then, start running.

Knotty Knotty

I’m a tangled up Puppet…

 

I’ve been humming that song for a few days now, while sitting on my couch, surrounded by my new stash of yarns, while my Finished Projects pile up more and more on a shelf in the bookcase.

 

I’ve taken up Crochet again, and this time, it feels serious. I’ve learned new stitches, I’m finding it a bit easier to read patterns, and I’ve finished probably as many projects in two weeks time than I think I’ve started in three times as many years.  It’s finally all making sense in my head!  It is seriously quite exciting!

 

So if anybody was wondering just where I have been, and why I have not been posting as much as I was, it’s probably due to the fact that I’m on the couch, West Wing playing in the background (or Mad Men), buried under a pile of wool and acrylic yarn twisting and knotting my way to new and exciting objects.

 

I’ve been working on hats, I’ve finished up a small bowl, I’ve even got a trivet!  two shawls, a scarf, 4 headbands (two with flowers), and an evening bag!  A baby blanket and a baby hat, and an adorable stuffed snake!  I’ve got one more hat underway at the moment, and a new shawl in the making.  And after this, who knows?

 

I am getting good at this!  And I am enjoying it so much!

 

Oh and on top of the crochet, I’ve got a garden underway on my porch! Mainly herbs, but I’m also growing lettuce and spinach as well!  But that is a post for a later time.

 

I have to get back to my crochet! There’s a deadline for the shawl that I’m working on right now! I want it to be done in time for a wedding that’s in 2 weeks! Yikes! So it needs to be finished soon.  So that if I don’t like it, I have enough time to find another pattern!  I’ve done this once already.

 

This is possibly turning into a serious obsession for me.  Which is dangerous!  But oh so much fun!

My Boyfriends Friends

What great people.

 

I mean it.

 

I am so fortunate in life to be not only in this place and in this time, but to be blessed with such beautiful wonderful people around me.

 

They are caring, warm, loving, polite, and respectful.  They are brilliant, insightful, glamorous, and interesting.

 

I could not, in my life, have imagined myself in a better place than I am right now.  happy, loved, and with a slowly growing group of friends that are absolutely fantastic.

 

What brings this on? Simple.  We went on a picnic yesterday with some of Ee’s friends and basically all ended up at the last minute grocery run together, because nobody was really prepared for a picnic.  Cheese and salami and fruits, and bread, and salads.  And without saying anything, or making a statement at all, they picked up smoked salmon and some shaved roast beef because they knew I didn’t eat pork products and they wanted me to have something to eat other than just bread and cheese.

 

We went out for lunch with another friend to dim sum, and she made sure that there were options on the table for me that weren’t pork.

 

I am so very blessed to be surrounded by these people, and so very amazed and even humbled by their overwhelming kindness, generosity, and their acceptance of me.  At a time in my life when I could very much feel so very alone and lost, they have made it possible for me to not be so homesick.

 

My boyfriend’s friends have found a way to make me feel at home, and for that, I can never thank them enough.

 

Love you guys.

Fort Minor

So, there’s a song by this group called Fort Minor and I enjoy it a bit.  The chorus begins with ‘where’d you go?’ and I figure that’s a question that I should be answering.  The long and the short of it is, I’ve been working.  And then sleeping.  And then working.  The original 4 week assignment has turned into almost 3 months, and we finish up on July 29.  Although that feels so very far away.

 

Also, I’ve been sick.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m back in a call center and still getting my body used to being bombarded with germs from every direction, so that when one person gets sick, everybody gets sick. Or if it’s because of the weather change down here and it being Winter but not really a winter that I would call a winter so I don’t get as bundled up as I should.  Or if it’s because of the humidity and moisture in the apartment having finally settled into my lungs and refusing to go away.  Or, if it’s a combination of them all.  Suffice to say, I’ve been sick.  Stuffed nose, chesty cough, I even lost my voice the other day.  I start to feel better during the day and then the night hits and my body feels like giving up all over again.  I’ve been eating right and drinking plenty of fluids, so maybe all I need is rest. I’m not in work today simple because I could not find the strength or the energy or even the desire to move or do anything but hide in the bed.  Headache, nausea, and some light other intestinal problems along the way as well.

 

So today is for resting, and medicating, so that I can go back to work tomorrow, finish this week off strong and use the weekend to complete my journey back to healthiness so that I can stop feeling so damned miserable.  Being miserable is not a fun thing.

 

What new adventures am I having?  Well, we went out about two weekends ago and I bought myself a big monitor.  my little netbook is still running everything, but I can now see more than I thought possible.  the screen is about twice the size of my netbooks screen.  Awesome.  I have bought myself some early birthday presents as well.  A new bento box and lunchbag, and some video games for the computer.    Last weekend we went out and bought a dehumidifier.  To try and get rid of the excess moisture problem.  It’s a 20L tank and thank god for that.  We turned it on after we brought it home, around 5pm and left it to run over night.  When we got up the next morning, around 7am, the thing had sucks about 17-18L out of the air.  And I wonder why I’ve been feeling sick and chesty?  We’ve run it on and off again since then, but haven’t gotten the amount out again, thank goodness.

 

I’ve been exploring the goodness of a wok.  I finally got around to seasoning the wok that we bought back in february (God bless Youtube!) and we’ve been making some tasty stir-frys ever since.  And I’ve been investigating Tofu.  and the many different ways to make tofu. We’ve marinated it and eaten it just like that.  We’ve marinated it and baked it in the oven.  And we’ve added it to the stir-frys.  I think that I am starting to not only get the hang of tofu, but also to liking it.  I am not, however, going to be giving up my meat.  Tofu is just another alternative at the moment.

 

But mostly, I’ve just been working.  And I love the work. I love the people and the company and I even enjoy the customers.  Hard to believe, but it’s true.  Unlike American customers, it seems like Kiwis will readily tell you that they’re not really mad at you personally, but they are going to yell anyways, but please don’t take any personal offense.  And some of them, most of them, are quite easy to turn around and calm down after they’ve been allowed their moments of yelling.  It’s amazing.  I’ve been cursed at once by a customer.  And when I informed that customer to not curse at me, she immediately apologized and was calm from there on out.  I do enjoy the work.  And were it work that I could continue to enjoy in the manner that I have been (M-F 9-530) then I would most happily continue there.  But, it is a call center, and that means working rotating hours with rotating shifts and rotating days off.  It would mean never getting a normal sleep schedule, or a normal day off with Ee.  And that’s really not anything….

 

I came down here to start a new life, and go in a new direction.  And right now, in my mind, that new direction includes weekends with my partner and nights curled up on the couch watching a dvd.  Not days off in the middle of the week and coming home from work just as he is going to bed.  I’ve done that life before, it ruined the relationship.  And I didn’t come halfway around the world for that.  No.  As much as I love the office, I think it really is in my best interests to keep searching, to keep looking.  To explore more options and grow more as an adult.

 

But as a first experience working for a New Zealand company? I couldn’t have asked for more.  I think, however, I may want to look into the public sector.  Maybe a government job, if possible.  Eventually.  But for now, I’m going to go back to resting as I am feeling rather worn down, and I want to get better, faster.

 

So that is where I went, and where I’ll be.  Next update will probably be before Rotorua and after Orcon.

My Daddy

There’s all sorts of stereotypes and caricatures out there of the little Jewish girl and her Daddy.  Stories and tales and jokes made about the olive-skinned girl with the dark curly hair, the slightly prominent nose and those xdark brown eyes putting her hands on her hips, stomping her feet and whining in a tone that would make Fran Drescher shudder, “But Daddy!”  And of course the very next part of that story or joke or comment is that the Daddy in question folds and gives the daughter everything that she is asking for.   While I can’t completely deny that I did everything in my power growing up to get things from my Daddy, I can easily say that I never had to resort to such lengths.

 

My Daddy comes from a fairly small family, made smaller even by the family politics that he wanted to avoid. He married my mother and then promptly did everything he could to take care of her and his new family.  He worked long hours when we were growing up and made the hard choice to move us from Philadelphia to Delaware, away from his own mother, to help us get a better life.  We went to good schools, we never wanted for anything.  We were never hungry or naked (except for bathtime), and we went on vacation of one form or another every year.  A fond memory was when we went to Disneyworld for the first time (yes, the first time), My Daddy had set up a scavenger hunt for my brother and I to follow around the house, ending at the VCR where we pressed play and the information movie on Disneyworld started.    There were other vacations too.  Williamsburg, Boston, Cleveland, Scotland and London.

 

My Daddy made sure that while growing up I was being educated well.  I would bring my homework home and after finishing it, my Daddy would go over it with me.  Vocabulary words were always a favorite, as the usual task was to write the word out and then use it in a sentence.  But that wasn’t advanced enough for my Daddy.  Oh no.  The challenge was to use all of the words that week in as few sentences as possible.  I remember it driving my teachers crazy, but it was the challenge that my Daddy set forth for me.  Daddy had no problems helping me with reports, sometimes going so far as to teach me how to footnote and write in styles that i shouldn’t learn for years to come, just to make it a bit more challenging.  Mathematics were always a struggle for me, but I always knew that I could trust my Daddy to help me through them.  Whether it was a new approach to fractions (using a pizza pie), or just help learning my multiplication tables (A deck of cards), Daddy was always there to help me with schoolwork.  And when school became too intense in other ways, Daddy was always there.  The Principals of my schools knew my father and they knew better than to argue with him.  Daddy only became involved when it was necessary, like making sure the Jewish Holidays didn’t count against my absence records. Daddy and Mommy both volunteered every year when I was in the primary grades, coming in around Hannukah and Purim to give a presentation to the other kids in my school about what the holidays were and what they meant.  Daddy even took off from work one day when I was in the third grade to be our chaperone for the school trip to Washington DC.

 

My Daddy wasn’t just amazing when it came to school, but he was also supportive in everything else.  One of the rules that we learned quickly while growing up was that we could ask our parents anything, and we would get the answer.  There wasn’t a time growing up that I remember being treated ‘like a kid’.  Oh sure, there were moments where I was pretty childish, but then every kid goes through that.  But there was no questions that could be asked that would ever result in “you’re too young” as the answer. We had rousing dinner table discussions about everything, from school, to moving, to the assassination of JFK, there was no topic that was considered too adult.  I don’t ever remember having “the talk” with my Daddy, or my mother for that matter, but sex was not something to be hidden or not talked about.  We just never needed to have the talk, it was understood.  I remember the day that I woke up, I think I was just about to turn thirteen, it was two weeks before my birthday and I woke up and went to the bathroom like normal.  Only this time wasn’t normal.  The first person that I called was my Daddy.  I don’t know why, but it never even crossed my mind that it was unusual to do that.  I wanted to let my daddy know that not only would I be a grown up woman in our religion’s eyes, but in the eyes of nature as well.  Telling my Daddy never seemed weird, until years later some people commented that it was just odd.  Whatever, I say to that.  A girl should be able to tell her Daddy anything and have him understand.

 

My Daddy has been very understanding with me, especially as I got older.  I finished high school and went away to University.  I picked the campus that I liked, the school that I wanted, and my Daddy simply told me that he wanted me to be happy.  And when I failed my first semester so hard that it left scars, I called my Daddy and he understood.  He never once yelled, but simply said that I had to do better and he told me that it took him a few years to figure out what he wanted to do.  As the years went on and school continued and one boyfriend after the other rose and fell my Daddy would voice his displeasure, but he never did anything but that.  And his displeasure and disapproval was often enough.  My Daddy understood that I needed to get out of the wing, out of the house, out of Delaware to fully grow.  And so he let me go.  It hurt him a bit inside, but he let me go, because it was best for me.  My Daddy has always done what he determines is best for me.

 

My Daddy is my hero.  He let me discover life on my own and when it became too much, my Daddy rescued me.  He never once told me that I had to live with the mess that I had made.  My Daddy never once pushed me away into the darkness and left me to flounder.  When I thought my life could not get darker, when I was drowning in the inch of water left at the bottom of the barrel, my Daddy fished me out, dragged me to the surface, and saved my life.  He gave me a firm place to put my feet, a safe place to rest my head, and the rock to lean on while I tried to get myself back together.  Never once in my life have I ever said “Daddy I need help” and My Daddy hasn’t been there for me.

 

There’s a thing, with writers, that we try to find all the words to cover everything, to make it clear and true and ring deep into the hearts of our readers.  That’s a difficult thing to accomplish with emotions.  I could write the words, “I love My Daddy” and they would convey the emotional impact well enough, but not deep enough.  There are some things in this world that have to be felt, that have to be truly experienced to understand, not just read.  I am the woman that I am today because of My Daddy.  He raised me as best he could, did everything in his power to guarantee that I had every possible opportunity that I could have ever wanted.  He sent me to England with university, he took me to see stage shows, the circus, Disney on Ice, and a million other things all because it was good for me to have the culture (and because I asked).  My Daddy has suffered through Thundercats and through WWF.  All because it made me happy.  He has put me through University, helped me buy a car, rescued me from my own stupidity, and he has done it all while providing food, shelter, and security for the entire family.  My Daddy has finished his Doctorate and he takes care of his patients, working ten hour days, if not sometimes longer.  My Daddy has run a side business helping to educate urology nurses across the United States and sometimes Canada.  My Daddy has done all of these things, and still been there for when I needed to talk.

 

I have memories that will never fade, of laying on the couch with my Daddy watching football, or the Three Stooges, and eating pistachios from their shells.  Of my Daddy hugging me after my Bat Mitzvah, and of my Daddy hugging me one April in Maine.   Memories of my Daddy at my high school graduation, and of My Daddy driving us through the Scottish Highlands at night.  Memories of dinners at restaurants where it wasn’t needed to tell me to behave, I already knew how.  Of swimming pools in various hotels across the country, of talks about the craziest things from the time I was old enough to have memories.  I have never wanted for anything in my life that I did not get, eventually.

 

I’m far away from my Daddy now, living on the other side of the globe, a completely different hemisphere and time.  I am happy here, I am finally coming into my own being, coming into the point of being who I am.  I can’t give my Daddy the hugs that I would like to.  I can’t make him dinner and try to get him to work on his blood sugar.  I see my Daddy via skype on the weekends, and sometimes that’s enough.  Other times, I miss my Daddy and would like to give him a hug.  But I have to live my own life, make my own way.

 

Luckily for me, I had My Daddy to show me the way.

 

I love you, Daddy.  Happy Father’s Day.

Seder

To continue with my educational portion of my blog, I will now expound upon that which was mentioned yesterday and explain what Passover means to me in this modern time.  There are many sides and aspects and thoughts about this, so I promise I will do my best to not confuse or lose you in the thought processes, but I  cannot be certain that I will be successful.

To begin, lets start with the Seder itself.  Seder is the Hebrew word for “Order”, so when you hear somebody invite you to a Seder meal, they are inviting you to not only a Passover dinner, but to an Ordered Meal.  Everything within the Seder has a place, a meaning, and a purpose.  Sadly I do not know these steps and meanings off the top of my head and I did not pack a Hagaddah to bring with me when I moved.  However, if you are curious about the ins and outs of every nuanced step of the Seder, you can find the information on the internet, or purchase a Hagaddah from any bookstore of any reputation.

Most of the Seder is the retelling of the story of the Exodus, please see yesterday’s post.  There are other stories that are told depending upon your family’s traditions.  On every table there is the Seder plate, the matzah plate, and a goblet of wine for Elijah.  More recently, some families have started to add a goblet of Water to honor Miriam, Moses’s sister and a prophetess of her own right.  Some say, but I won’t wade into that argument here.

This is my new Seder plate that my father bought for me and sent me here.  It’s rather lovely, isn’t it.  The squiggly looking letters are Hebrew, and the english translation is just under them.  Starting at the top of the star and moving counter clockwise you have the Bitter Herbs, Egg, Parsley, Horseradish, Haroseth, and the Shank Bone.

This is an unusual plate, I actually believe it’s Sephardic* in origin because it places the Bitter Herbs and the Horseradish separately, whereas the Ashkenazic** Seder Plates usually combine those two together as Bitter herbs and the 6th place belongs to salt water. Each item has a symbolic reason for being on the plate, and each connects back to the story of the Exodus, and of the Jewish people.

  • Bitter Herbs- Usually Horseradish, freshly ground, this recalls to us the bitterness of life in bondage.  It is eaten twice during the Traditional seder, once by itself on Matzah, and then in a sandwich on Matzah with the Haroseth
  • Egg- this is often hard boiled and then roasted in the oven, but that is purely for health safety sake, and also so that if it gets dropped, you don’t have egg yolk oozing everywhere.  In Israel, and most of the world, Passover is a spring holiday, and Eggs symbolize new life, a new year, and a new beginning.
  • Parsley- Or really any greens are acceptable. I have seen some people use lettuce leaves when they could not afford parsley.  This also symbolizes spring, new life and growth.  Parsley and other leafy greens also used to be used in the Temples of Israel to help spread blessings via smoke and water. During the Seder, the Parsley is dipped into the salt water and eaten.
  • Salt Water- This is a vessel that is filled with a mixture of salt and water, enough salt to the point that it tastes of tears and the salt will not dissolve anymore.  It is kept room temperature, or slightly warmer.  The symbolism is clear enough that it is for the tears that the Jewish people have cried over the years.  Not just in bondage and suffering, but also in Joy and Reverence.  A reminder that one Emotion can be different from the other, but the reaction can be the same.  Even in our sorrow, we can find Joy.
  • Haroseth- Now, this is the fun one.  Ashkenazic Jews usually make this mixture with apples, raisins, walnuts, and wine.  Sephardic jews often use the raisins, walnuts, and wine, but instead of apples, they use dates.  The different recipes for Haroseth numbers in the thousands, with every family having at least one of their own.  From chunky to almost paste like.  The symbolism is the mortar with which the Hebrews built the temples and pyramids for the Pharaohs while in bondage.  It is mixed in a sandwich with the horseradish and matzah, once again to remind us of our time in slavery being both bitter, but also a bit sweet, as we who were a scattered people before Joseph led us into Egypt, we left with Moses a nation of people, bound together by suffering and belief.
  • Shank bone- Usually the shank bone of a lamb, roasted in the oven.  Sometimes, in lean times, it is permissible to use any bone you can find. I have admittedly used a chicken bone in the past.  This is to symbolize both the new life that spring has given us in the fluffy little lambs, but also the sacrificial lamb that was killed to provide the blood for marking the lintel and posts of doors so that the Angel of Death may Pass over the houses of the Hebrews while enacting the 10th plague.

Also on the table is the plate of matzah, which is covered and consists of 3 slices or crackers of matzah.  Why 3?  Because according to Jewish Tradition there are currently only 3 Tribes of Israel left, Cohen, Levite, and Israelite.  The Cohen (I know, you have friends with that last name) are the Priests, descendants of Aaron and the other Priests of the temples.  Levites are the shepherds, Descendants of Moses and the other teachers and Rabbis.  The Israelites are everybody else that’s leftover.  After the Diaspora (the Babylonians invading Canaan and doing their typical uprooting the population and scattering them to the winds) it became difficult for most Jews to remember their Familial and Tribal ties, or to even hold to them.  These people are the Israelites, the lost, the Tribeless. They’re not truly treated any differently save for a few ceremonial differences.  Truth holds, the Israelites outnumber the Cohens and the Levites.  By the way, it’s pronounced Coe-Hain, not the way you’re thinking it out in your head.

Goodness I’ve rambled on some more.  Alright, lets see if I can’t wrap this up a bit quickly.

During the course of the night, as the story is being told, 4 glasses of wine (or juice if you’re too young and your parents are sticks in the mud) are drunk.  Except, almost.  During the reading of the 10 plagues, we dip our pinkies into our wine and remove 10 drops of wine from the glass.  Why? Symbolism.  While we hold that the plagues were necessary for our freedom, a lot of innocent Egyptians suffered, those that did not have the power to set us free still suffered because of Pharaoh’s hardened heart.  So, in a show of almost solidarity and sympathy, we remove ten drops of wine from our glasses, signifying that while we are happy to be free, our happiness is not complete, because of the suffering of others.

Deep, huh?

I don’t know if you noticed what I did there, but I moved the story into the present time.  That’s something else about the Passover Seder and the telling of the story, it’s subtle and not a lot of people notice it.  It’s almost second nature, but the story is to be told in the present tense.  As though the Exodus was just the last week and we are retelling it to our new neighbors.  This is just another way of connecting us here in the present to our ancestors in the past.  Another Tradition.  One thing you’ll notice is that the Jewish religion and people are filled and built upon Tradition after Tradition after Tradition.

I digress.

After drinking our wine and feeling sorry for those that suffered in order for us to be free, the youngest child possible at the table asks 4 Questions.  Why is this night different from all other nights? Why do we spend this night reclining, when on other nights we can either recline or sit up straight?  Why do we dip our greens into the salt water? Why do we eat the bitter herbs?

All of this is answered during the story, other than the reclining.  Reclining while eating was a privilege of the rich, of the Masters, not of the slaves.  Slaves ate quickly and sitting up straight, always afraid of punishment.  Now that we are free from our bonds, we have the freedom to eat however we please, but on this night, we recline to show that we do not take this freedom for granted.

Almost done, I promise.

There are a few things left to happen, including dinner.  There is the breaking and hiding of the Afikomen, and the inviting Elijah in.  Now, I do not know and have never really heard any symbolic meaning behind the Afikomen, so I will simply tell it as I know it.  The Afikomen is the center matzah from the stack of 3 that is on the table.  During the meal it is taken out to show the bread of Haste that we eat to remember our flight from egypt, and then it is broken into two pieces.  One piece is placed back into the stack to be broken up and eaten from later, the other piece is, at some point during the meal, hidden.   Why? I have no idea.  But it is a big game for the young children to go and find the afikomen.  There is usually a present for the child who finds it and brings it back to the table.  The Afikomen is then divided up again and is used as the Dessert for the Meal.

Elijah is another deal.  Throughout the night the goblet of wine is filled and waiting for Elijah to visit.  Before dinner the children go to the door and invite in Elijah, and any others who may be outside and be hungry for dinner.  By the time the kids get back to the table, the goblet of wine has been emptied by the Prophet while he stopped in briefly to enjoy the meal.

There are larger implications of Elijah’s visit, namely that if he actually does visit and stay, it will be to announce the coming of the Messiah within the next year.  But that’s a completely different story for a completely different time.

Whew.

You think it was long to read?  A traditional Seder will last about 4 hours, not necessarily including dinner.  Most modern families skip the longer parts by putting The Ten Commandments into the DVD player during the day, asking the 4 questions, singing a few songs, and then inviting in Elijah.  My father and Uncle Brent could do the entire Seder in under 20 minutes.  And then you eat.

Food is traditionally lamb or chicken, with matzah ball soup and other jewish side dishes that I have yet to learn how to make (although tzimmes is fantastic and I really need to perfect it..).

By the end of the night you are full, you are happy, and you are surrounded by family and friends. I am strengthened every year by the thoughts that everywhere in the world, everywhere from Israel, to new Zealand, to The US, to Iran, to Kenya there are Jews everywhere celebrating the holiday with me, singing the same songs, saying the same prayers, and waiting for Elijah.

And that connection to the greater world, the knowledge that no matter where I am, the traditions have been held onto and passed down and are being repeated everywhere makes me feel even more spiritual than insignificant.  But explanations on my religion and my faith are not why you’re here.  I promise, I’ll get back to more fun things like food and travel soon.

I hope you have enjoyed this two part explanation of yet another segment of the complex person that I am.  I am considering making a whole section of this blog about Judaism, or at least My Judaism.  I wonder if anybody would be interested in reading that?  Let me know!

Although I’ll probably do it anyway.

Next Year In Jerusalem!

*Sephardic refers to the Jewish peoples from the Western European countries and the middle east (Iran, Iraq, Spain, morocco, etc)

** Ashkenazic refers to the Jewish peoples from Eastern Europe (poland, Ukraine) and Russia

To Make the Best Better

image courtesy texas A&M Ag Extension

 

“I pledge

My Head to Clearer Thinking,

My Heart to Greater Loyalty,

My Hands to Larger Service and,

My Health to Better Living for

My club, My community,

My Country, and My World”

That is the pledge that I took every Tuesday night in the basement of a small community church, right after saying the Pledge of Allegiance.  Those are the words of the 4-H Pledge and saying them now to myself while I type this up means a whole heck of a lot more to me, than when I said them all those years ago.

It’s been twenty years now since I first joined 4-H, with the Broadkill Kool Kats gathered in that little church in Milton, Delaware.  It’s been ten years since I’ve been active in any 4-H events at all.  But I can still remember that pledge, and holding my fingers to my head, heart, outstretched in front of me, and then to my sides every week.

When I first joined 4-H, it was mostly because my parents wanted to get me into something extra curricular, but I refused to join the Girl Scouts.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a Brownie or a Girl Scout.  But for me, there was one major flaw.  No boys.  I had grown up surrounded by guys, and in that turn I found them easier to befriend, the thought of being in a group with a bunch of girls mortified me.  In some ways, it still does.

I didn’t appreciate back then, the good that 4-H did for me.  Even when I was leaving the organization upon turning eighteen, I still had not quite grasped just how important it all had been in shaping who I am today.  In giving me the outlook on life that I have currently.

Everything started on a personal level, with project books every year. I hardly ever finished mine, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t useful.  Everything from animal care to geneaology was offered and I had friends who raised chickens, sheep, and pigs, while I worked on sewing projects and making bread.  As a whole for the County we put on Horse shows for local equestrian enthusiasts and students, we cleaned up beaches of trash and filth, we had nights of food tastings and competitions, including my favourite event where each participant chose a country and made a traditional food from that nation.  Everything was geared towards helping children to learn.  To become better adults in their later years.

And what happens during that awkward transition time, when you change from being a child to being an adolescent? That horribly painful time when your body doesn’t work right, everything is changing and nobody is nice to anybody else?  In 4-H, you become a Junior Leader, and you get responsibilities.  While other places are unsure of how to treat adolescents who are trying to become young adults, 4-H is there with the answer, treat them like young adults.

We were given classes on inclusion, very basic psychology, life saving measures including basic first aid and CPR certification.  And we were entrusted with the care and oversight of other children.  We became camp counsellors, the people that you drop your kids off to in the morning and pick up in the afternoon in the middle of summer.  As Junior Leaders, we were given the trust that we could handle these other kids, and the confidence in ourselves to make the program on our own.  There was adult supervision, always, but only for emergencies.  Everything else was handled by the Junior Leaders.

And we handled it just fine.  With responsibility comes Maturity, and with maturity comes something else.  Some other attribute that is hard to place, but is nonetheless knowable to others.   Being in 4-H, while I didn’t realize it back then, and it has taken me several years to open my eyes on it now, has not only made me who I am today, but has enabled me to make it to today.

I am getting ready to turn thirty years old.  I’ve hit a lot of bumps in my adult life, but I’ve always seemed to bounce back from them, somehow.  Currently, I am living in New Zealand and starting my life over again.  I have found myself repeatedly typing the same words while looking and applying for a job down here.  I want to have a positive impact on my community.

I no longer want a job just for myself or for the money.  I want a career that will mean something to somebody else.  A position that will help myself move forward, of course, but will also serve the greater good, the better purpose.  And up until recently, it just made sense, that was how I was.  But then a friend’s son started getting bullied at school and she was looking for something to help him with his self esteem.  I immediately suggested signing him up for 4-H.  And I made a very bold statement in doing so, I quite honestly told her that 4-H had saved my life.

It seemed so out of the blue, and yet, it was true. I owe my life to 4-H, both the organization, my County, and my Club.  My fellow members, my Leaders and Junior Leaders, all of them helped to make sure that I not only survived the living hell that was adolescence, but also have helped to shape me into the adult that I have become.

Without the sense of community, trust, and leadership skills that I learned and picked up during my time with 4-H, I am not certain how I would have made it this far, and I know that I will rely on those skills, those teaching moments to move myself, my community, my country (both of them), and my world further to make them stronger, safer, happier places.

I don’t owe everything of who I am now to this Organization, but I owe enough of myself to say thank you.  And to eagerly, heartily, and readily recommend to anybody with children that 4-H is one of the best options out there to help your child through a difficult time.  They will find friendships, they will find laughter, and they will come away from it all knowing that they can make the world a better place.

-Sarah K

Broadkill Kool Kats, Sussex County 4-H, Delaware, USA

1990-1999

Menu Planning

So, we went food shopping last night.  and now my fridge is full of wonderfully delicious stuff.  mostly meat and veggies.  So, now I have to figure out what I’m going to do with it all this week!

 

last night, I hardboiled some eggs, so I think I’ll mix up some egg salad for tomorrow’s lunch.

 

I’ll take the 3lbs of ground beef (or the 1.5kg of mince roughly) and split it up into two packets.  One might be used to make some hamburgers later this week.  Maybe I can use the other to make some hamburger soup?  Or possibly some individual sized meatloafs! I have muffin tins now!

 

The chicken will be split up, half will be frozen, the other half will be cut up and slipped into some tandoori marinade.  Haven’t had tandoori in almost two weeks! Time to fix that!  maybe the other chicken will go into the freezer for use later in the weeks with some chicken soup!

 

I have a new food processor! So maybe I’ll take a night and make some carrot soup!  I might need to go get some potatoes and possibly a small squash to add to it.  we bough like 2kg of carrots last night!

 

Plenty of greens for soups and salads, and that’s not even counting the steaks that we have! Not to mention the cans of tuna for casserole and salad.

 

Now I should just get a brick of cheese and a slicer, so I can make some grilled cheese and tomato soup and that’s almost a full week right there!  At least!

 

OOH!

 

Challah’s Out of the oven!

 

I promise there will be a post containing the recipe and pictures to come later!  but here’s a sneak peek!

 

Home Comfort

There are some things that you begin to miss when you’re away from home.  I remember growing up and going to the week of 4-H camp down at Camp Barnes.  By the end of the week, I missed my bed and a nice long shower more than anything.  That, and not being covered with bites from mosquitoes head to toe and not sleeping in a bed filled with sand.

 

On vacations, you would miss your pets, and your bed.  Not having to sleep in the same room as your brother, or be in the back seat of the rental car and being near your sibling.  Lemme tell you, those could be some long car rides.

 

But the things that you miss on the casual excursion, the family vacation, are nothing really like what you miss when you move so far from home that you can’t quite drive back.  University saw me only 2 hours away, Maine I was only 13 hours in straight driving.  I could always go back home if I missed something.  Like making apple butter with mom.  Or going to synagogue on friday nights.

 

It’s a bit different on this side of the world.  I can’t just hop in my car and drive home.  Not just because of being an ocean and a continent away, but also because I don’t have my car.   And man, I miss my car.  I miss having that freedom of (if I wanted to) getting in the car and going out for a drive.  I don’t have that here.  Not yet.  I will work on getting wheels, but I can’t yet.

 

I love asian food.  Sushi, pho, hot pot (i’m guessing, haven’t tried this yet.), curries.  I love it.  I could probably be happy with sushi at least once if not twice a week.  I could live off bowls of white rice with just enough of the starch to stick together in tasty and easy to pick up clumps.  Apparently I even hold my chopsticks the proper way, not the cheating way.  And I’m fairly good with them, although I am having to get used to the rounded ends as opposed to the tapered to a point that I got used to.

 

Where was I?  Right.  I love asian food.  And I am sure that I will love ‘Kiwi’ food, if I find any.  the dinner that we had out with S & H was probably close to what some would call ‘normal’ food for a former British colony.  But it’s still not quite right.  For one thing, if you say the word ‘pie’ down here, most people assume you’re talking about the savory kind.  Meat pies, of varying flavors and sizes.  E loves his steak and kidney pies.  I have yet to try a savory pie.

 

I have, however, been lamenting the loss of sweet pies.  Fruit pies.  The one I’ve been fixated on the most, and I have no idea why, has been the cherry pie.  Short pastry tender and flaky and the ruby red, sweet and disastrous filling, topped with either more pastry or if you’re really lucky topped with crumbled topping.  A forkful would garnish you that sweet juice of the cherry, the tartness of summer in your mouth, and that crumbly goodness to lick it all up with.

 

I have hunted.  I have searched. I have peeked into the different cafes and restaurants that we have passed by.  None, none of them have cherry pie.  I’m lucky if they have a lemon tart (the marvel grill and the tapas bar both had this choice).  So I am still hunting for that piece of home.

 

Another thing that I have been missing is pasta.  Good italian pasta.  with red sauce and parmesan cheese.  I have Udon, and that’s good in the soups that I’ve been making, but it’s not quite the same thing.  So tonight, while I have the house to myself, I made myself a bowl of penne.  I topped it with some spaghetti sauce that E bought me and with the parmesan cheese.  I will probably regret the amount of cheese that I used, but the taste of the pasta, the feeling of absolute comfort and happiness that went through me as I nibbled and chewed and felt the red sauce and the cheese and the bite of the aldente penne.  It was warm, it was comfortable.  It was fairly close to home.

 

Still not quite doing it for you?  Still not quite there, not hitting that button for making you feel better about being so far from just about everything that you know but still being able to understand everybody around you? Very well, my friends.  For the cure to this, I bring you, Denny’s.

 

Yes, that Denny’s.  The breakfast slams, the tuna melt, the oreo shake.  All of it, right here in downtown Auckland.  Now, the menu looks familiar, but don’t be too placated right off the bat.  There are some things missing, like the cherry pie filling that you could put on your pancakes or french toast.  Or the huge ‘Slams’ that could probably feed a small African family but feed one very hungry American adult male.  There are some new things!  Like chicken satay, or a chicken curry with rice.  Or the almost dessert option, the Banana Fritter.  Which is a banana, dipped in batter, and fried.  I say almost because I would have ordered it had I had enough room in my stomach for it.  But after an appetizer of chili fries, and a short stack of pancakes with two eggs, I had no room for dessert.

 

The food was exactly what you expected.  Freezer and prefab food, thawed and tossed onto the large grill or into the ovens and served up with consistent quality from New Jersey to Maine to Auckland.  So at least I know that between the big bowls of pasta swimming in red sauce that I can make myself and the pancakes I can get at Denny’s, swimming in butter and maple syrup, I can still find some of the comforts of home.

 

I will find cherry pie filling.  I will make cherry pie. I will make Hamantaschen next week.  I will bring sweet fruit pies to New Zealand!  Ok, maybe not the last one.  But I will at least introduce them to my new circle of friends.  And from those few mouths, I will ignite a revolution!

 

Cherry Pie for Kiwis!

 

What?  A bit much?  Just watch me.

Trip part Two

 

Landing in Phoenix was delightful.  Got off the plane, got hugs from Raza and Marko, and then I high tailed it to my next gate.  Amazingly, I got to the gate just as they were calling my boarding group to get onto the plane.  Fantastic.  The even better part, the plane wasn’t full. Nowhere even close.  So I was able to climb into one of the last rows of the plane, grab the window seat and then stretch out.  And it was then that I discovered something truly amazing, I didn’t need a seatbelt extender.  I was actually able to get into the seat, sit comfortably and still have the belt buckled.

 

Hooray for Southwest airlines!

 

The flight from Phoenix to LA was short and mercifully so.  But still enjoyable as I got to look out the window at all the scenery.  It was really quite something, just how rugged the landscape was, how amazingly barren and beautiful everything appeared.  And while flying overhead, recalling memories of old Earth Science courses, watching how the mountains and valleys had formed, the way the land had been cut and eroded and shaped into these magnificent shapes and colors.  The waterways that came down from the snow covered tops, and fed through streams and rivers and winded twisted paths until it spilled into the causeways and aqueducts made by human design to keep the land livable.  It was truly impressive.

 

And then, out of nowhere, civilization.  It was nearly instantaneous, the land became less rough, less arid and then all of a sudden, there were houses.  Thousands upon thousands of houses, in nice little rows and odd shaped neighborhoods.  I picked the correct side of the plane, it appeared, because as we were flying low into LA, I looked out my window and just off into the distance, I was able to see the Hollywood Hills.  Complete with the Hollywood sign.  It was far away and there wasn’t much definition to the letters, but rest assured, there it was.  The white letters that spell out Hollywood against the high green hill backdrop, welcoming everybody to the West Coast paragon of American Life.

 

I had made it to LA.

 

LAX was not a very friendly airport.  It wasn’t necessarily bad or even evil, but it was not the most friendly of places.  The brief ten minutes that I spent in Phoenix made me feel better, happier, than the three hours that I spent in LA.  The airport was dark, cold, and old.  Now, I know that not much can be done about the age of the airport, and they are working on upgrades and repairs, but there had obviously been no real change to the interior (including the seats) since the late 1960s.

 

But, I made my way from one terminal to the other, got my bags taken care of and made it to my gate.  The Duty free shop was astounding, filled with alcohol and makeup.  There were a few other shops, but nothing incredibly interesting.  I was hungry, though, having not really eaten anything since getting up on Wednesday morning.  So I stopped into the LaBrea bakery that was in the terminal, bought an Orange Juice, a Bottle of water, and a Mozzarella, sundried tomato, basil, and pesto sandwich.  It was fantastic.  I wasn’t able to completely finish it, but it did what it was supposed to do.

 

I then went and sat at the terminal, surrounded by a dozen or more college students, all heading to different universities in New Zealand from different Universities in the States, all going for a semester or a year for studying.  We sat together and everything seemed well.  I purchased some internet access and played around online for a bit, to help ease the stress and the waiting.  I filled my iPod (thank you danny!) with more music for sleeping to, and then they were ready to start boarding.  Now, they did things very interesting.

 

The business premier boarded first, and then the economy premier, and then people with children.  And then, they boarded the back of the plane.  So I was technically one of the first people on the plane.  I chose my seat wisely, as I had picked the one all the way in the back of the plane where the row dropped from having three seats, to two.  I chose the aisle seat on the first row of two, so I had all kinds of extra room for my carry on, and my feet.  Brilliant.

 

I ended up sitting next to one of the college students and we had a great time being generally friendly and playing with the touch screen in front of us.  Movies, television shows, music, all right there at our fingertips.  We could order snacks and drinks on demand in the middle of the flight right from our screens.  We could watch any movie from the list (I watched Red, it was quite delightful), listen to any music, and even watch our flight’s progress over a large map.  They gave information with accurate altitude, temperature, speed, distance remaining, and time remaining.  It was really fascinating.

 

Dinner was served shortly after takeoff, sadly I was in the back of the plane and dinner started being served in the front first.  Unless you asked for a special meal like vegetarian, as the college girl did, and you got served first.  I knew I should have chosen Kosher.  But eventually, dinner did make its way to me.  I picked the Braised Beef with roasted courgettes (zucchini) and parmesan mashed potato.  It was, as airline food goes, quite delicious.  Of course, I was starving.  I did not, however, get a chance to have the dessert, as I fell asleep very quickly after eating.  But the choices were a pineapple carrot cake or a plate of New Zealand cheeses and fruit.  I’m a little bummed about not getting that.  But I slept well.  I slept through most of the time to order drinks and snacks on demand.  But the sleep was good, and it was needed.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get my seat to lean back, so I was uncomfortable, but I still slept.

 

I woke up shortly before breakfast, which since the rear was served dinner last, we got breakfast first.  The choices were between a savory ham and cheese Danish, or a potato and spinach frittata.  I chose the Frittata which also came with a single link of chicken and apple sausage, a bowl of fresh fruit, and a container of yogurt.  The eggs were quite good, and I think I could manage to make something like that on my own quite easily.  I didn’t eat the yogurt, I just couldn’t get it down. I knew how close I was to new  Zealand and the excitement was starting to affect my stomach. I spent the rest of the flight watching the plane on the high detailed map flying closer and closer, and then altitude dropping.  It was fascinating.  Watching the plane on the screen indicate that we were flying in over the top of the islands, and then looking out of the window to see the first semblance of land appear for the first time in several hours.

 

As the plane got lower and lower, most of us were leaning towards the windows as much as possible, drinking in the pure green that met us.  I’ve seen the pictures, you’ve all seen the pictures of the green land, the absolute lush earth that New Zealand has.  None of the images do it Justice.  You think you’ve seen green, but you really haven’t.  The land here is so full of life, so very natural, its slightly overwhelming.

 

The plane touched down, and the deep breaths through the nose and out the mouth began.  I had made it to New Zealand. I was in my new home.  At least partially. I still had to get through Customs and Biosecurity.  And that wasn’t very difficult. Queue up in al long line that moved fairly quickly until you got to the window.  You hand the Customs official your paperwork, all of it, anything that you can think of that they might need. Your arrival card, your passport, and in my case, my Visa papers.  There was a slight problem where my visa showed up and then disappeared, but it got fixed.  I got stamped and entered into the country.

 

Next stop, baggage claim.  Grab a trolley, toss the suitcases onto the trolley and then head to biosecurity.  Another queue, another uniformed officer, asking the simple question of ‘do you have any food on you’.  I had brought some packaged tea with me, so I answered yes.  I got stamped through, and then your luggage comes off the trolley and onto the Xray belt.  Your bags go through the xray machine, there’s a brief moment of panic when you think they’re going to make you open your bag and you realize that while there’s nothing contraband in the luggage, you freak out trying to figure out just how you’re going to get it closed once again.

Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that, they xrayed my bag, didn’t see anything that gave them concern, and I was waved through.  Luggage back on the trolley and you take a deep breath, following the signs that say ‘Way Out’.  A large frosted glass wall separates the end of Biosecurity and the place where your family and friends are waiting for you.  Turn the corner and you appear to all those gathered, one or maybe two people leaving the airport at once, so for that brief instant you have the eyes of a few dozen people on you, wondering if this trolley coming through is attached to their loved one.

 

It took only a few seconds for me to spot E as he was waving to me and then one leg over the fence and then another, he jumped (more like strode over) the barricade and wrapped me in his arms in a tight hug and a long kiss.  Right there in front of everybody waiting for their own loved ones.  He held me close and then, we headed to the car.

 

It was time to go home.