Friday, June 14, 2019

Cork ( city, tree, material)

Cork, the city in Ireland, is on my bucket list. They say it sits on an island in the middle of a river (Dee River). It's the second largest city of Ireland and it is highly cosmopolitan. Moreover, it is the starting point of a trip to the port of call for the famous Titanic ship before it left for its tragic end.  
How cool is that?!

Cork - the irish colorful city  (Web picture)

The cork tree (oak tree Queros Suber) is a predominant tree species in Portugal. (There are some fascinating pictures of these trees on the Web worth viewing!).
When I visited Portugal, many years ago, I  knew almost nothing about the tree and its end product. I don't even recall touristic information on cork as important income source for this country.

cork tree (web picture)

Cork, the layer of bark harvested from the cork oak, is a natural, sustainable  material with lots of good uses.
I've got some small cork items at home (coasters, stoppers, pot bottom plates, lids, and even shoes- the inner sole). I want some more, but... there are only few shops that deal with cork in my area, and they are not nearby. Looking on their online sites, I've got put off by the prices. Cork , both the material and the finished items are imported, and thus, not cheap.

cork plant pot

cork magnet with pencil on the fridge door

cork  bulletin board

cork asian figurine with straw hat and necklace

set of ceramics for tea/coffee/sugar with cork lids

cork coasters

the tin side of the above coasters

three cork trivets 

two cork lids and two cork wine bottle stoppers

tiny former honey jar and its cork lid

Cork reminds me of another  natural,  echo-friendly material with practical uses, but... expensive -  bamboo. Bamboo furniture, for instance, is solid, yet easy to handle and  take care of. It is ideal for young couples who move often, and perfect for people of the third age for whom wood is too heavy.
We succomb to plastic in the end .
One should do something about that, so that we choose the right options for both us and the planet.

Anyway, if and when I go to Portugal again, I know what I'll fill my suitcase with.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Ramla, Lydda, and...Honor Killing

The names Ramla and Lydda belong to two central  little towns, adjacent, and similar in structure, size, and population.
Ramla 's known for its White Tower, Lydda (Lod - modern name) is home to the israeli Ben-Gurion international airport.

(Pls. type the name Ramla in the search box, and you get to my posts on the White Tower and the  Ramla-Lod market).

The White Tower of Ramla

Both towns have a significant arab minority (centered mainly around the old part of the city), and that expresses itself in the history, religion, architecture, and culinary aspects of the place.

muslim women at Ramle open market 

Despite  their central position ,interesting history,  several touristic attractions, and a famous  market -  non-residents keep away from visiting the two towns, unless strictly neccessary. The reason - violence - as a result of drug transactions , and/or aimed against arab women, on the ground of protecting  'family honor' . Sometimes, an innocent passerby might get hurt or even killed during a murder deed or a fight.

Yesterday, I went to Lod by train, and from the train station took the bus to the old town. This part of town has a bus terminal, a small city market which gets bigger on Tuesdays with the addition of a flee market, religious institutions, archeological remains. 
It was at midday,  the heat was scorching and as I was dressed in black I totally attracted  the sun rays. Not a very pleasant feeling.

city market - apparently renovated

city market  

at the end of market street - an in indian jewish synagogue

across the synagogue - the ruins of an ancient soap factory

the 3-language explanatory tin sign near the soap factory

back to back ;  mosque in the background

Across the parking lot  seen in the above picture - there's an alley with a holy muslim place (entrance forbidden) and a greek church which is visited by tourists.

the alley - tourists in and out of  the greek church

 door of the greek church; above, stone plate with greek inscription 

Coexistence of religions gives much hope. A bit further, near the mosque there is a church and a synagogue. The last two even have a common wall!! Peace and coexistence are said to reign in this place. Nice, isn't it?

the trio: mosque between the church and synagogue.

In spite of technology and education, the issue of family 'honor killing' (domestic violence) is still valid.  Rumors can be enough to tarnish family reputation, and trigger an honor killing . 
In March this year, a bride- to- be was shot and killed  in Lod,one day before her wedding!  How very tragic!

young muslim woman in jeans and...head cover - in Lod

muslim girls chatting in Ramla's covered market.

There were several tiny things on my route that brightened up reality:a painted plant pot,  a mural with a camel at the bottom of a building, a painted phone cable box, an old building with some special windows,  a nice door gate.

plant pot outside the church's door

painted phone cable box

lively mural with camel and sands

beautiful black gate door

old structure with interesting window design

At the end of the tour, before heading home, I treated myself to a turkey meat schawarma (schawarma - meat roasted on a revolving spit, and then 'shaved' to be put  with salad, hummus, tachine, fries in a pita/baguette/lafa/or on a plate.). Life is good!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Experiments and Decisions

We all have to make nutrition-related decisions based on factors such as  quality, taste, price, availability, shelf life. For instance: organic vs.inorganic products; tap water vs. bottled water. 

I sometimes do little, rudimentary, home experiments to help with my shopping decisions. Although  I have  preferrences as a result of these 'experiments', I often give in to price and availability, and... 'sleep well'  with that.

How come? Well,  my major conclusion is that most health issues stem  from lack of moderation and balance, less from eating conventional grown items (yes, with traces of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones), or drinking tap water.

Eggs are a good example .  They have been linked to high cholesterol (major risk factor in cardiovascular diseases).
On the other hand,  their protein is of the highest quality regardless of production method.  Without good protein one might experience among other bad symptoms, hairloss and weight gain.

So, the bottom line would be moderation. One  boiled egg per two (2) days , is probably safe in the cholesterol area, and provides the protein neccessary for body functioning. One could also choose to eat the whites only,  have a tiny bit of the yolk or not  yolk at all.

Price and availability do play an important part in my decisions. The small apple with the worm (organic growth) is tastier, probably healthier, than the one with the traces of pesticide (inorganic), but  more expensive , and  not always available at the nearby grocery store. This applies to almost all fruit,legumes and veggies, 

Goat milk yogurt is definitely superior to cow milk yogurt (because of its probiotics benefits), and the taste is great.
Lately, the price of goat milk products has gone up steeply, so I  switched to balkanic cow milk yogurt for the time being (produced by the same firm - Gad Dairy)  ; it's cheaper and tastes good.

goat youghurt and cow milk youghurt in similar bottles

Tap water is cheapest and of optimal availability. However, after doing some  experiments in the kitchen (boiling the water and examining the deposits on the bottom),  I've decided in favor of bottled water both for cooking and drinking.

bottled water

(For my indoor plants - lucky bamboo - I buy distilled water at the pharmacy; that seems to be the best water for keeping them well).

In this post, I'm not referring  to people with allergies or specific health issues. I'll only mention a case that gives hope to many.  Sometimes at the supermarket, I meet a lady who has gone through any allergy one could possibly imagine (according to her stories).

Doctors have failed her, and she cannot always afford all those free gluten, free lactose, free sugar, free whatever, food items. So she has found a way of her own ,essentially  based  on  veggies, fruit, rice, and fish (all available at the local supermarket). In addition,  she also keeps away from doctors and medications.
Well, not only is she alive and active, but she even looks much younger than her 76 years.

Friday, May 17, 2019


Yesterday, I had some errands to run in an adjacent town. It was getting dark and I hurried to catch the bus back home. Suddenly, I stopped walking as  I came upon a  kids' capoeira performance.

I was attracted by the rhytmical music, the brazilian-portuguese language of the instructor, the special percussion drum, and of course, the versatile  performance of the small group.  It was a mixture of  acrobatics and  apparent fighting moves. 

They  were obviously enjoying every bit of it: the dynamics, the interraction with the others, the physical challenge, the rhytm.  It started with them standing in a circle, then two entering to play simulating a fight without touching the opponent.

That brought back memories of a conversation I once had with an adult capoeira  fan. Both he and his wife participated in adults' capoeira events, as well as in their kids' capoeira performances. He said that it was family strenghtening, that it helped kids to do well as part of a team and as individuals, and that it was one of the best extra curricular activity options.

I would also add as  side benefit that takes them away from the screens:)

group preparing to leave ;  instructor's orders

Saturday, April 27, 2019

White Plastic Cover Sheets

Passover is over, and so, we return to our daily routine of habits and activities.  
Holiday Breaks usually make me reflect a lot on the addictions in our life. Everyone is  addicted to something; the question is whether we can control the addiction or it controls us.  I'm glad to say: Yes, I  Can. 

Tradition, religion, culture - all give us  a fair opportunity to test the extent and severity of our addictions , and try to improve things (especially, in the area of the lighter addictions, to food and shopping). 

In judaism, the most holly day is the Atonement Day (Yom Kippur).We are supposed to fast on that day to repent for our sins, ask forgiveness,  and pray to be sealed in the book of life.
Regardless of the religious aspect,  I know I would despise myself for not  fasting on that one day, as the Fast helps  prove to myself that I'm more than just an animal looking for food. 

During  Passover(Pesach) week, it is forbidden to eat bread. I'm a great lover of bread as are many other people. And yet, unlike some other people, I wouldn't dream of making "bread provisions" for this short period of time. 

popular felafel booth- before Pesach

the same booth - closed for Pesach

Sometimes. it's hard to believe what people would do, to avoid the one day fasting and the eight day of abstinence from bread eating!
(For the oriental jews, with roots in North Africa and the Middle East,  life is much easier during Passover, as they're allowed by their rabbis to eat grains , seeds, legumes such as rice, corn, beans. I belong to the Ashkenazi jews with roots in Europe and their Passover has strict rules that don't allow the above). 

Anyway, I say : once a year -  fasting for one day and not eating bread for a week - see it as a chance you're given to test yourself, free yourself of bad habits, improve yourself. Take it, and make the best of it! Being able to control the smaller addictions will help you in your struggle with the heavier ones (if and when they come) like smoking, drugs, gambling.

at the supermarket (before Pesach) : pita bread, bread, cakes, cookies

 Pesach -  leavened food shelf covered with white plastic sheets

It's interesting to note that  white is the color of preferrence during both holidays:  white clothes on Yom Kippur,  white garment for the jew leading the Seder meal on Pesach, supermarkets, white cover sheets for 'chametz' (leavened food),  just before Pesach.

Friday, April 12, 2019

April's Major Events

Heads of the electoral parties - from "Haaretz" newspaper

On the 9th of April we had the General Elections;  on the 19th we will be  celebrating Passover (Pesach).. Both April  events are a bit of a madness thing.

the polling station in my neighborhood

'blue evil eye'  poster on the wall, in the entrance hall 

There were 47(!!) registered political groups  (including the regular parties) participating in the elections. That hardly looks to me like democracy,  more like anarchy.
I went "to do my duty" as a law-abiding citizen, in the evening hours, when  it's quieter, with less people waiting in line to enter the polling room.  

inside the booth with the ballots

election workers;  the blue box where we cast the ballot

 voter handing in his ID and after check, getting an envelope

After the elections, forming a coalition is not an easy task. The largest parties rarely get more than 30-35 seats each (61 is needed for a government). so negotiations start, and this is a real circus or nightmare - depends on the beholder.

I'm rather indifferent to all this  'more of the same' show. 
Politicians see only the votes that will assure them a seat in Parliament, with all the power that comes with it; they don't care about the people, or the country.
Passover (Pesach), commemorates the journey from slavery to freedom. What sort of freedom?! We are slaves to cleaning, scrubbing, burning , spending, cooking - before, during, and after the holiday.

Plate for the symbolic essentials (egg, horseraddish, charoset etc)

Moreover, during Passover, we, the people in the land of the glorious Pita bread, have to abstain from bread made with raising flour, and from grains and their derivates (beer). We are said to eat  unleavened bread, called  'matza'. One gets used to that, but it's not the greatest of eating pleasures. 

Matza, near the green bottle

The weather is fine and drags people out to trips and picnics.
Kids have vacation during the Passover week ; many adults also take the days off, so places are crowded, traffic is congested.
And yet, we don't stay at home. As long as we can stand on our feet, we are all out and about.