September 30, 2010

Portraits in Orange

Scoots hasn't gotten his own blog post in a while and since writing is not happening tonight, I thought I'd dedicate this one to a couple of cute photos I got of him while snuggled in our IKEA pillow/fold-out blanket that we love.
Holding paws

I'll try to be a better blogger this weekend and actually give you guys some substance!

September 23, 2010

Crossing the Street

As I sat on my balcony yesterday taking a break from my work day (at home!), I observed a strange lesson. The kids in the kindergarten across the way were learning how to cross the street. I don't actually remember how I learned how to look both ways and then cross so it was a little fascinating to see how they were doing it.

Holding hands, a pair of blue backpacked little boys looked carefully down one side and then the next for approaching cars. Their teacher was a couple steps behind, allowing them a little independence in their lesson. They had to make the decision for themselves whether it was safe enough to cross. They let quite a few cars pass before a car finally stopped to let them cross the not-so-busy street.

In the end, I think they learned their lesson about being cautious, but I hope for the sakes of their companions that they also eventually learn the lesson of not having to wait for every car within a one mile radius pass before they can cross. I mean, a car four streets down will not hit you as you cross the road - unless you're wearing black at night and it's driving really fast. Just my thoughts yesterday- is it obvious I'm not a parent?!

September 20, 2010

How School Should Be...

When we think back about our days in middle school, we often can come up with a short list of memories. I'm sure for you that might involve some friends, teachers, and classrooms but not much else.

Last week, I went with 70+ eighth grade students to a small town called Hirschegg, Austria. We stayed at different mountain huts, hiked, repelled off rocky cliffs, and practiced some full-on rock climbing.

To many of you reading this, you might think that doing any of those things with a group of 13- to 14-year-olds doesn't exactly sound like fun. Especially the part where they do your safety check and belay you up and down a 30-foot rock face.

Well, I can let you in on a little secret: for as quirky as we all can be in middle school, the chance to work with young minds has always been rewarding. While being on the job for 24 hours a day for 5 straight days really thins out my "hourly" pay, but the chance to build solid relationships with my students will be what pays off in the coming months. And don't worry - I dropped in mini-science lessons at every turn unless the students brought it up first.

Macro Picture Blog Post Awaits

September 12, 2010

The Oasis Tour of Israel

Apparently, I just exhausted the fourth and final natural swimming spot of Israel. Well, we didn't exactly swim this time; we did that in the Red Sea last time. And it wasn't salty enough to make us float; that was the Dead Sea two-and-a-half years ago. It wasn't so cold that we only tiptoed in, that was the Mediterranean in March. I guess you might say that we "anchored" in the bath-warm summer water of the Kinnerat (Sea of Galilee). Its the blue dot under the "A" to the right.
Photo by Eldad Drori

Ayelet, her parents, and I made the cross-country trek in Israel during our recent visit. We drove all the way from the west coast to the east coast and back in a day! Actually, it's not too uncommon since our drive from Tel Aviv was only about 2 and 1/2 hours. And since we packed our swimsuits when leaving chilly Germany, we were going to matter what.
Photo by Eldad Drori

Photo by Eldad Drori
It was a quick dip in the Kinnerat, just before sunset. As far as I could see, we had the entire lake to ourselves. There was little speculation from Israelis we had talked to about it being too empty, but maybe it was because of the demand to go to a nearby crocodile farm (sorry, inside joke).

Cousin's Wedding in Israel

We were in Israel two weeks ago for my cousin, Dana and her now-husband Roee's wedding. The last Israeli wedding I had been to was my uncle Shai's wedding and I hardly remember much of it because I was young. This time I had known the couple for a long time (they had been dating more than 10 years) and of course, I was old enough to remember it. Plus, it was Greg's first Israeli wedding! And his chance to join us for a family reunion of sorts.
L to R, youngest to oldest: Na'ama, Tali, Rakefet (Duti), Smadar (Dari), Rina and my grandma/safta Tzipi
My family's not super big, but my mom has four sisters and this was the first time they had all been together for years. At last count, I have 16 cousins and two second cousins (kids of my cousin Gal) on that side of the family. It was a lot of fun to see everyone, but it was hard remembering names of the extended family who I probably hadn't seen in years.

Generations: Na'ama, Safta Tzipi, the bride Dana and I chilling in the lounge, pre-party
It was a huge wedding (600 people total) in my grandmother's yard, but Greg and I were surprised that it didn't feel crowded. They had made a perimeter of haystacks, a massive dancefloor, a chill lounge, beautiful chuppah and packed the yard with tables, food buffets, coffee and dessert bar and regular bars.

The bride Dana with cousins Shai-li and Amit
The ceremony itself was fairly quick and non-understandable to most of us because it was a religious service and most Israelis aren't religious. However, the marriage has to be done by a rabbi because of law. After they proclaimed Dana and Roee married, everyone rushed the chuppah, shouting mazel tov and trying to reach the bride and groom with their kisses and hugs.

Dana and Roee laughing under the chuppah
After that, the singing and dancing began. Dana even sang a song to Roee to celebrate. It was very sweet. Around midnight, Roee's family had a henna because they're Moroccan Jews. As far as I could tell, it involved cellophane-wrapped trays of goodies being passed around, lifting the bride and groom on their shoulders, henna paste and Moroccan dress.
Greg and I chilling out in the lounge before the party started
Dana and Roee ended the night cutting their cake and hanging out with the friends who remained. It was a beautiful night and we were thoroughly exhausted by the end of it. You can see all the photos from the night here:

September 10, 2010

Traffic Seen from the Tram

Yesterday evening I took the tram home from work, something I only do on sunny days because it's faster to take the underground. I'm glad I did though because there was traffic on the roads and I discovered a new hidden pleasure. Never before have I enjoyed traffic so much! You see, the trams here run on separate tracks so when there's traffic on the roads, they're not affected by it.

I can't even begin to describe the awesomeness of speeding by all those stopped cars with only one or two people in them. Whenever one tried to turn over the tracks and the tram driver layed on the horn (which is no quiet thing), the cars didn't dare move an inch further. It was great! I love living in a city where mass transit is respected and efficient.

September 8, 2010


As you know from the previous post, we went to Austria for a rainy weekend with my parents. The region we went to is called Salzkammergut and is beautiful. Even when it's rainy and cold, driving through the wooded, rolling hills and various lakes is quite nice. However, I'd recommend going when it's not raining because the biking and hiking as well as water sports in that region are worth the trip.

We stayed in a little town called St. Wolfgang. We managed to find rooms at a local hotel after pissing off the receptionist with car antics - parking on the wrong side of the road while on a steep hill; trying to get into the parking lot without the key and without a clue of where to go, forcing her to run out cursing into the light rain to stop the crazy tourists in the car (aka Greg and Eldad). Beyond that, we didn't anger the locals too much.
Seeschloss in Gmunden
On Saturday, we checked out the ice cave and then drove on to Gmunden to see the city. Unfortunately, we missed a promising ceramics market although it was interesting to Greg and I that there appeared to be no worries about afterhours security of the ceramics. The vendors just rolled down their tent sides, clipped them into place and left their fragile merchandise unguarded. Gmunden might be a lively old town at any other time, but sadly, not at 6:30 pm on a cold Saturday night. In any case, we got to see their cute Seeschloss (sea castle or palace).
I promise to stop talking about the rain in the next post because it'll probably be after we return from sunny, warm Israel! We're there for a few days for a cousin's wedding so it'll be nonstop action with the fam.

September 6, 2010

Ice bears spotted

The mountain tops were blanketed under clouds all weekend as Ayelet, her parents, and I spent the weekend in the Austrian Alps. So what do you do when the weather is rainy and in the 50s??? You figure out a way to make it all seem warm and less wet. We went into an ice cave (Dachstein Welterbe).

We started our journey up the steep mountain in a cable car - no more unknown mountain hikes like in Garmisch. We went from the rain at the bottom of the mountain right up into the clouds where it was coming from. All you could see in the distance on our short walk up the hill were the tall pines about 30 feet away.

Now, don't tell on us for this next part because we did see a sign for no photos at the entry. However, I really should have asked for an explanation from the tour guide about this policy. In the future, I think instead I will just test how many people ask me not to take photos from now on. Anyway, enjoy our photos.

The entry was cold, like a walk-in refrigerator. However, there was no ice to be found. We quickly flipped through our English pamphlets(the tour was only spoken in German) and realized it was still above freezing in the first chamber. We walked with our group through the cave bear graveyard (no bones seen) and passed through a large steel door to a claustrophobic freezer. I couldn't get the images out of my head of the gigantic boulders that had fallen from the ceiling after thousands of years of freezing and thawing. I spotted one rock that looked like it was ready to break and passed my scientific observation onto Ayelet. She was not too pleased about my curiosity [AG: here you could substitute the word "paranoia" for "curiosity" ;-) ] at that moment.

Luckily, the small tunnels opened up into giant caverns with waves of frozen water. The temperature now sat around the freezing point and every now and then sprinkles of water pelted us from the rock above. We found many dry spots to pause and take pictures before leaving our dark surroundings for a balmy blast of heat outside. Mission accomplished on making 50s feel warm! The sun never really did come out for us all weekend, but the ice cave made it a memorable trip without comparison.

Ayelet and Eldad on the cable car