Friday, September 15, 2017

It Rained!

For the past few mornings, it's been very overcast.  In Boston, I would definitely say rain was moving in.  But here, alas, it's early in the season (we didn' and nothing happened.

Driving the kids to school today, there was a lot of talk about how "it looks like it's going to rain" and, actually did!

I even put the wipers on for about four times ("Okay, kids--get ready!  Something we all haven't seen since March--the wipers on!)

And it got wonderfully cool and the air smelled so good (Question: "When is something negative really positive?" Answer: "When negative ions make the air smell so good after it rains!").  I was so looking forward to getting home and jogging in the great weather.  Oh well, the morning rain was shorter than my morning commute and it was partly cloudy and warm by the time I got home.  But those ten minutes sure felt good.

PS: "Famous Rabbi" (not sure those two words go together), Rav Shalom Arush, author of "Garden of Emunah" spoke at Penina's school yesterday.  Coooool!

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Shalom Shachne's Guide to Household Pests - Israel Edition

From Shalom Shachne:

As in every other facet of Israel, things are different than what we are used to in USA.  This includes the varieties of household pests.  Some of those are more familiar to Americans, for example, the ubiquitous pigeons roosting on roofs and balconies of all the houses in our neighborhood.  However, nothing we had in Massachusetts compares to a quiet, yet always unexpected house guest: the lizard.  Or more specifically, the gecko.

Geckos, are kind of cute, although a bit eery, due to their very large eyes.  And when they unexpectedly run across the floor of your house, your initial thought is that you just saw a centipede out of the corner of your eye.  However, once you focus on the little critter, you realize that all the legs you thought you saw are really just a set of four moving really fast.

Hemidactylus mabouia (i.e. gecko) courtesy of Wikipedia

I've tried to convince the girls that having a lizard in the house is actually kind of cool.  (When I was a kid, I always wanted to have various types of lizards as pets.  And actually, our former housemates, Howard and Paul Savin who had the bedroom next mine in our house in West Windsor NJ, had a family of garter snakes as pets in a terrarium in their room.)  But my best efforts are to no avail, and inevitably there is a lot of screaming when a gecko is unexpectedly encountered inside the house.

To their credit, the girls feel a lot more sympathy for these guys when they are outdoors.  We recently had one take up residence in the archway outside our front door.  I haven't seen her in a while, but she used to come out night and hang upside down in the archway.  The girls got kind of used to her, and we nicknamed her Lizzie, in honor of Miss Frizzle's lizard mascot (in the Magic School Bus series).  Penina especially got attached to Lizzie, and we used to open the door at night to watch her crawl around upside down.

In an effort to further increase Penina's good feelings toward our reptilian friends, one night as we were watching Lizzie, I told Penina:  "You know lizards are really good, because they eat bugs".  (And probably the only thing that makes my daughters scream more than lizards are bugs: moths, beetles, what have you.)  Sure enough, no sooner had the words come out, when an innocent little moth fluttered down on the archway to bask in the glow of the outdoor light bulb.  And, as following the script perfectly, Lizzie, made a quick lurch toward the moth and swallowed it whole before our very eyes.  Point made...

Our story begins a few weeks ago, when poor Ilana, feeling very over tired, was making her way upstairs to bed, when she let out a blood curdling scream.  I ran out of my office (working at night as usual) to find out what happened.  Through the sobs, I made out the words "centipede" and immediately suspected one of our little gecko friends.  After a few minute stake-out, my suspicions were confirmed, when I saw a tiny gecko, not much bigger than top joint of my index finger, scurrying around on the landing.

It was fruitless for me to continue trying to convince Ilana that she should not be scared of such a tiny creature.  (And a very cool lizard type of tiny creature at that!).  And despite marshaling my best arguments, all 3 girls were now huddled on the sofas refusing to let their feet touch the floor until our lizard problem was solved. 

So I had to somehow catch it and remove it from the house.  (For those of you who have been in our house, you know that I do not like to kill any pest, and always do my best to catch them alive and release them back to the "wild".)   But this little fella was really fast, and I wasn't sure how to get him. 

So we turned to that great solver all problems, the Internet.  Chana Googled how to catch a lizard, and turned up the sage advice to try to entice to run into a box.  We happened to just have an empty box of Ortega Taco Shells handy in the kitchen.  (Disclaimer: no money was received for product placement in this blog post.)  So I put the empty taco shell box near the tiny gecko, who was otherwise trapped against the wall under the bookcase on the landing.

Much to my amazement, the little fella was completely cooperative.  After a short moment of indecision, he scurried into the box, and waited there patiently while I ran around trying to find something to seal the open end of the box.  I transported him safely out the front door, and he was eventually convinced to run out of the box to freedom.

Sensing a good system here, I saved the taco box in my office for future episodes.  Score another win for the Internet.

A few nights ago, (Thursday night to be exact), I was working in my office when I saw out of the corner of my eye, what looked like a centipede running across the floor of my office.  (At this point you are all trained to understand that centipede is what people of slow reflexes and vision see when a gecko is in the house.)   Since my office is filled with all sorts of delightful devices and stray possessions (including a set of barbells left to me by a former employee), I didn't have any illusions that it would be easy to do a repeat performance.

However, I set my trusty taco box by the back of the bookshelf where I last saw my friend dart.  This gecko was a bit bigger than the last one, about the length of my middle finger, and I was also concerned he might put up more of a fight.  After a few minutes lackluster chasing around the office, I decided to let bygones be bygones, and get back to work, while my gecko friend did whatever he had to do.   After a few hours, I didn't see him any more, and I optimistically thought that perhaps he had gone back out of the house the same way he had gotten in.

Motzei Shabbos, while Ellen was cleaning the Shabbos dishes and I was in my office learning Daf Yomi, I heard a yelp from Ellen saying that she saw a (you guessed it), centipede.  I called out to let her know it was just a lizard, not to worry.  Sure enough, she confirmed the lizard hypothesis shortly afterward.

A few hours later, after everyone had gone to bed, while I was finishing up in the living room.  I saw the gecko (same one from my office on Thursday.  I'm sure of it), proudly standing in the middle of the living room, as if he owned the place.  I rushed to do battle with my trusty taco box, however, similar to my office, the living room also has lots of juicy places to hide, where a determined little lizard can squeeze into a small space out of reach of the humane but equally determined opponent.

This time there was no cooperative traipsing into the taco box, and despite my skillful placement of the taco box by each of his hideouts, the little bugger instead ran from one place to the next with impunity.   Finally, he made a serious blunder, running to hide by my sefarim bookshelf, behind the twin owls floor statue.  Here everything was flush against the wall.  "Ho-ho, I've got you!", I thought.  However, he again evaded the taco box, and made another dash for it.  However, making a "V" of my feet (heels together, toes out), I trapped him as if in a very short taco box, shaped like a pair of shoes.

At this point I wasn't sure what to do, and was contemplating just plucking him up into my hands.  However, he made the first move, and decided for whatever reason to climb onto the side of my shoe.  I had a brief moment of panic as I imagined him running up my leg inside my pants.  But, thank G-d, he seemed well contented just to cling to the side of my foot.

Sensing imminent victory, I began gingerly walking to the front door, being careful not to put my foot down in such a way as to crush Mr. Gecko.  I walked as quickly as possibly, given my gecko-burdened food.  It seemed like time was of the essence, since at any moment, I was sure he would leap off and we would begin the chase around the living room again.  I got to the front door, which one of my daughters had considerately triple-locked especially to add more time for the lizard to escape, and thankfully made it out the door before he realized what was happening.

After going down two steps, Mr. Gecko decided he had hitched a ride long enough, jumped off, waved goodbye (I think) and was off into the night.
or maybe he's just hanging out on the ceiling right outside our door?!

I have more to say on the subject, but I've just seen a cicada dart across the floor of my office, so I'm going to be otherwise occupied.

שבוע טוב
Shavua Tov
(Have a good week!)


Friday, September 8, 2017

The Incredible, Changeable....Living Room

It doesn't slice, dice or help prep dinner, but it does accommodate a larger number of people than we usually can.

Here is what our living/dining room usually looks like:

This setup is fine, except when we are more than eight people for Shabbos meals.  Which is almost all the time, since we try to have guests for both dinner and lunch (we try to have a balance between people we are already friends with and new folks

After a meal when we opened the table and put all the kids on the side near the sliding glass door and told them to crawl under the table if they wanted to get out ("not ideal" is really an understatement, although the kids were all 9 and under [i.e. so they thought it was really cool that they had permission to crawl under the table]), Penina came up with the genius idea to try to move the living room around.   And it worked! Everything fits exactly when we move it around (i.e. we are very happy the living room club chair is not 2 inches wider, or it wouldn't fit).

First thing: the shtender (to stand and learn at) goes into the office, as does the ottoman.

Second step: all chairs to the side and club chair in interim mode.  We can't move the table with the club chair in its usual spot (have I mentioned it's a bit of a tight squeeze here?!)

All done!  Now we can fit ten to twelve seats for Shabbos!  The club chair is to the side in what we refer to as "the reading nook" (during the week it holds Shalom Shachne's dining room chair that is now up against the sliding glass door).  The nook is cozy and out of the direct line of the air conditioner (the largest sofa is right under the a/c and usually requires a blanket if one plans to sit there for more than a few minutes).

Now if I can only get the same expandable model in the kitchen ;)

Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Back in the Swing of Things

It's been an interesting week getting back in the swing of things here.  Being away has seemed to turn back my way of looking at things to more like it was when we first arrived (and a very happy two year aliyah-versary to us!).

For example, I walk around and can't get over how GOOD it smells here, due to the large amounts of herbs that are planted by the roadsides.  I'm walking to the mercaz and suddenly, pow, the smell of fresh sage washes over me!

It took us almost four days, but we're unpacked, we finally have a restocked refrigerator, all the glass recycling has been dropped off (that's a different post, but let's just say that those of you who can curbside recycle your glass are VERY lucky), almost all the crazy overdue library books have been dropped off with many mea culpas.....And, the big news in these parts--Ilana and Penina have started back at school (thankfully, I get until Monday for ulpan)

Schools have been starting slowly over the past few weeks--yeshivos started two weeks ago and Bais Yaakov schools started Wednesday, but today was the big day, with over 2.5 million kids in Israel starting back at school.  The traffic (such as it is, it doesn't hold a candle at ALL to Storrow Drive in rush hour) was bad today, as it seemed that every parent with a car wanted to drive their kids today (as one of those parents, I don't fault anyone else for the same attitude).  Wishing all kids everyone a year full of learning, fun, friendship and, of course, tasty snacks!

I had an interesting experience last night going to a vort.  My friend Moshe from ulpan, who is a great-grandfather many times over, called the day before to tell me his granddaughter had gotten engaged earlier that day and there would be an engagement part Thursday night (the timing is not an "only in Israel" thing, it's common in religious circles.  The couple will almost surely be married within 3-4 months).  I was very happy to go give a "mazal tov" to him.  When I arrived, I realized I had a slight problem--the party was in a synagogue social hall (i.e. much bigger than in someone's house) and there was a keyboardist (i.e. it was really loud and my friend is a senior citizen, in case that wasn't clear from the fact that he's a great-grandfather) AND there was a mechitza separating the men's and women's side of the event (ie. so I couldn't just go over and offer my congratulations) AND Moshe uses a wheelchair and was facing the other direction.  Doh!  Luckily, one woman I knew who was attending pointed out the kallah and her mother so I could introduce myself and say mazal tov to *them*.  The mother kindly got someone to go over to Moshe, explain the situation and turn him around so I could wave :).  It's another chavaya (experience)!