Sunday, February 26, 2006

Spring Sighted around the Corner

Here’s the tree out in the front yard. Looks pretty bare, doesn’t it?

Tree in bud

Well, not exactly. Look closely ...

Tree blossoms against a gray sky

More buds, as it gets ready for spring ...

Buds on the tree

(Yes, it looks lovely, but I don’t get too sentimental about it. In a few weeks, seed pods from this tree and all its siblings are going to start blowing into my window, and I’ll be spending weeks sweeping them out of my apartment.)

Now, down by the bus stop, beneath a soft drizzle ...

Buds and blossoms

This is the top of a barley sheaf that’s just starting to come up. Barley doesn’t ripen until about June here, so this is the very first stirring of this year’s crop. I had to put my hand beneath the fine green projections because my camera wouldn’t focus on them otherwise.

Top of barley sheaf

This is my favorite time of year in Jerusalem. So many wonderful wild plants come up, and so many of them are edible, too!

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Of course. What else?

Here are Her Ladyship and Missy together. They’re getting along much better these days. It’s a joy to watch.

Her Ladyship and Missy getting along

Here are a few solo shots of Missy.

I’m hiding. Bet you can’t see me!

Missy hides among the leaves

OK, I climbed the tree. Now what do I do?

Missy in the tree

This cat was patrolling outside a public building, helping the security guard do his job. Notice that her left ear is a bit flat on top. That’s a sign that she’s been spayed. Her eyes are so dramatic—I wonder what kind of eye liner she uses.

Tabby cat on patrol

And here’s a pretty black cat I met in the garden of Ticho House downtown. Besides her white locket, she has several white toes on her hind feet. (In this photo, they are obscured by the drip-irrigation hose.) She consented to give my fingers a sniff, but wouldn’t get any closer. Oh, well.

Black cat among the flowerpots

(Check out this week’s Friday Ark at the Modulator. The Carnival of the Cats will be up on Sunday at Animal Family.)

Around and About

Some pictures from this week:

First, a small wasp on a mustard blossom:

Small wasp on mustard blossom

Next, a close-up of a stinging nettle:

Stinging nettle

A snail among leaves:

Snail among leaves

And now for something completely different: a wooden model of an airplane on a terrace:

Wooden model of airplane on terrace

Finally, a blue speedwell.

Blue speedwell

The Museum of Psalms

I was due to meet a friend for lunch downtown last Friday afternoon, and she called to tell me she was running a little late.

No problem, I thought. I’ll just see the sights right here. Even though I live in Jerusalem, my life is that of a regular working person, and I don’t get much time to see the gems that are in my own back yard. Well, here’s a chance.

So I headed up Rav Kook Street, little knowing what was awaiting me.

I know this old wooden door from years back, but this was the first time I was passing it with my camera at the ready:

Old wooden door on Rav Kook Street

Then, to the left, I saw the spacious, olive-tree-lined alleyway leading to Ticho House, and decided to explore.

What I saw there aroused my curiosity at first. A museum dedicated to the Psalms? I thought. It’s probably about how people have recited the Psalms for generations and how it brought them solace. Stuff like that. Very nice, but probably not very interesting.

Was I ever wrong. The place knocked my socks off.

This is the entrance to the courtyard in which the Museum of Psalms is located.

Entrance to Museum of Psalms

Viewers get their first taste of the incredible artwork that awaits them in the outer hall. (I lay down on the floor to get this picture. Although it was well worth the trouble, the picture doesn’t even come close to doing it justice.)

Museum entrance

The inner entrance:

The Museum of Psalms

Plaque at entrance to museum

Part of the text of the plaque reads:

The Paintings of Moshe Tzvi Berger
Depicting the verses from the Book of Psalms in the service of God, the Jewish people, the nations, and to all who do not live by bread alone, but who seek spiritual progress and enlightenment of the soul

Once you walk in, you find yourself in an old Jerusalem courtyard home. (The artist lives in the very same compound.) There are old wells outside, covered now for safety reasons, but one is covered with glass and you’ll see water inside if you look down. The home itself is one long room after another, spacious and airy, and filled with the most incredible paintings you can possibly imagine.

For reasons which I’m sure my half-dozen readers will understand, I didn’t take any pictures inside the museum. In fact, I don’t even want to try to describe them. Fortunately, the Museum of Psalms has its own website, where you can browse Moshe Tzvi Berger’s amazing artwork to your heart’s content.

When my friend arrived, we had a lovely lunch and then I took her to the museum. “You have to see this place,” I told her. “It’s incredible. You’re going to flip.”

She did.

So what are you still doing here? Go! Go!


Out from Under II

This time it was a bad cold—so bad, in fact, that I went to the doctor for a strep test. Fortunately, it wasn’t strep, and now it’s almost over.

But it did mean that I spent a few days sick at home, with a temperature. No fun at all. I couldn’t even make a batch of soap, since I don’t work with dangerous chemicals (lye) or potentially dangerous tools (my stick blender) when I have a temperature.

I made a batch last week, though—Castile soap. Here it is:

Batch of Castile soap

Good news: the whole batch is spoken for. Yes!

More good news: Last week I auditioned for a local stage production. The audition went well, and yesterday morning I got a call telling me I made the callbacks! They’re due to be held early this week. Feel free to wish me a broken leg.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cat Adventures at Home and Away

I met a long-haired red tabby cat who looks for all the world like Frisky’s cousin. Since I’m a Frisky fan, I felt I had to take a picture of him. As I was getting the camera ready, he came towards me to make friends.

Long-haired red tabby cat being skritched

“Ah, yes. Right there. Wonderful.”

I was a bad girl in this one, compromising Her Ladyship’s dignity by putting a toy mousey on her back. Bad human! Bad! Bad!

Her Ladyship with a toy mousey on her back

Finally, here’s Missy in deep concentration, playing with a feather.

Missy plays with feathers

(Check out this week’s Friday Ark at The Modulator. The Carnival of the Cats will be at Bloggin’ Out Loud on Sunday.)

Winter Flowers

Rakefet (cyclamen) blossoms:

Rakafot (cyclamens) in bloom

Sunday, February 12, 2006

They Say Cats Are Very Clean

Well, whoever “they” are, they’re absolutely right. Cats are very clean indeed, especially this one.

Cat-shaped soap mold

It’s an RFOAC (reasonable facsimile of a cat), of course: one of several very lovely soap molds that a generous and good-hearted fellow blogger enabled me to purchase.

But as luck would have it, the soap inside is from the same batch that I had the mishap with last week. The pH level seems to be coming down, though, so there’s hope that eventually it will be usable. I like the way the colors came out: the natural color of the soap, along with the orange dye (it’s actually food coloring), go well with each other, almost creating a red-tabby-like effect. Maybe one day I’ll graduate to calico—now that would be a challenge!

In the meantime, once the soap inside the mold is hard enough to remove without further mishap, I’ll lay this batch aside and start work on a new one. And then that generous and good-hearted blogger had better watch out, because as soon as I can manage it, he and his family are going to find themselves with a bunch more cats than they already have.

Shepherd’s Purse

Two close-ups of one of my favorite herbs, shepherd’s purse. (You can find more information about it here.)

Shepherd’s Purse

Shepherd’s Purse grows during the rainy season in Israel, and withers in late spring. The seed pods (the heart-shaped projections on the plant that look like leaves) harden and turn brown, eventually releasing the tiny tan seeds.

And yes, the stuff does stop bleeding, practically on contact. I have direct experience of that. One dry winter morning, when I was staying with a friend, I woke up with a nosebleed. My friend, who happens to be a birthing coach, had some tincture of shepherd’s purse made from the fresh, wild-growing plant. A quarter teaspoon in some hot water was all it took, and it even seemed that the bleeding stopped the moment the liquid made contact with my tongue.

Powerful stuff, that.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Cats about Town

Here are some cats I saw around Jerusalem over the past week or so. First, a tuxedo cat from downtown:

Tuxedo cat in downtown Jerusalem

Silvergirl and son (Silvergirl is in the back):

Silvergirl and son

Camouflage kitty?

Cat among the leaves

Here is a calico cat who got my attention at a local ATM. (“You will pet me. Now.”)

Calico cat on the ATM

This tuxedo cat stands guard in front of an apartment building near where I work:

Tuxedo cat standing guard

Check out this week’s Friday Ark at The Modulator. This week’s Carnival of the Cats will be held at Watermark.

Current Events

I’ve been following the Cartoon Affair, and to be honest, the reactions of the Islamists reminds me of a two-year-old throwing a tantrum.

What’s the matter—they can dish it out, but they can’t take it?

The only thing I have to say to them is: Grow up.

Out from Under

Blogging has been sparse over the past several weeks. But now that I’m out from under the big pile of extra work that I was doing, it should be back up to speed.

In order to celebrate my having completed the enormous pile of extra work (affectionately referred to as The Translation That Ate Chicago), I made a batch of soap—my most ambitious recipe to date. All was going well until I made the mistake of taking it off the flame too early because I thought it was done. (I plead being a novice.) So now it’s back in the pot, continuing to cook until it turns from a mess of alkaline goop into usable soap. For the soapers out there, I probably could have treated it like cold-process soap and let it sit for a month, but I do want to get it done.

I’ve been giving out samples of my first batch to some friends and co-workers, and so far the reviews have been excellent. It’s Castile soap—or, for the purists, 95 percent olive-oil soap with five percent castor oil added for a good lather. (Castile soap is, legally speaking, a soap that contains at least fifty percent olive oil, but some soapers say that only one hundred percent will do.) I’ve used it myself and at the risk of tooting my own horn, I think it turned out well. Further good news on the soapmaking front: one of my friends liked the samples so much that he has ordered a bunch of bars for himself and his family! Looks like I’ll be whipping up a big batch of Castile this week, and I can’t wait.

One funny thing happened, though: I left a small bar of the soap for a co-worker who would be coming in the next day, when I wouldn’t be there. Because of its color and fragrance, she thought it was chocolate and bit into it. I’d thought someone would be there to tell her what it was, but that didn’t happen. Oops!

Back to the current batch: I was pretty worried that I had ruined it. It’s my first attempt at using cocoa butter in the mix, and I’d been hoping that it would turn out well. I e-mailed my teacher in a bit of a panic, thinking that I had spoiled it beyond repair. What a relief it was when she told me that the only way to ruin a batch is to burn it. Fortunately that’s not happening; I keep a very close eye on my improvised double boilers.

And that reminds me: time to check them again.