Eggplant Caponata

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I found this recipe a few years ago and have made it for Pesach ever since. It is also lovely in summer.

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can mushrooms, drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1/2 cup sliced green olives
3 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for at least 1/2 hour. Stir frequently. Cool and refrigerate before serving.
Serves 12-16.

If you have leftovers or just wish to alter the recipe a little, you can add tuna to the pot once it has cooled. I am sure boiled potatoes work well too.

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Gertruda’s Oath

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Gertruda’s Oath by Ram Oren is a beautiful account of a true Holocaust story.

In 1938 Warsaw, Gertruda Bablinska sees a job ad that will change her life for ever. Jacob and Lydia Stolowitzky, a wealthy Jewish couple, are looking for a nanny for their two-year old son. Influenced by the antisemitism which permeates Poland, Gertruda is reluctant to accept the job but she desperately needs the money. She soon grows fond of Michael and becomes devoted to the family who employ her.

A year later the war breaks out and Jacob Stolowitzky is stranded in Paris. His wife Lydia is persuaded to leave Warsaw and flee to Vilna where the Jews hope thy will be safer in a Lithuania which is under Russian rule. Lydia’s health deteriorates and on her deathbed she asks Gertruda to promise that she will raise Michael as her son and eventually take him to Israel.

The book also focuses on Karl Rink an ordinary German who is married to Mira, a Jewish woman. They have a daughter and lead a quiet and happy life until Karl is laid off. Lured by Nazi rhetoric and the hope for a better life, Rink naively accepts an invitation to join the SS. He won’t listen to his wife’s fears and prefers to believe that soon everything will be back to normal.

One day Karl Rink is sent for by the Nazi hierarchy who demand that he divorce his wife but Karl loves her and doesn’t obey. When Mira disappears, he realizes it is high time to send his young daughter to a kibbutz in Israell and get her out of the country before it is too late. Troubled by his conscience, Karl Rink does what he little can to make life easier for the Jews he comes into contact with, one of whom turns out to be Michael.

The story develops and we follow Gertruda’s determination to be true to her word and find a safe place for Michael to grow up. Near the end, personal life story meets History when the two embark on Exodus 47.

As well as being a powerful account of Gertruda’s struggle to keep her promise, Gertruda’s Oath is a book about the choices ordinary human beings are faced with and how theses very choices can turn them into heroes.

10 Reasons to Visit Sweden

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– The scenery: the landscapes are magnificent. You are never far from a lake or the sea and there are lots of forests.

– The cities: Stockholm and Göteborg are two large cities with plenty to offer. There are numerous interesting museums and art galleries, synagogues with regular services, canals, lots of shops and restaurants. With under one million inhabitants for Stockholm and half a million for Göteborg, they have a reasonable size that makes them very pleasant to visit.

– The food: the Swedes eat a lot of fish and are very careful to serve both fresh and tasty food. The breads and desserts are quite nice too.

– Languages: 99% of the population speak English. If you are more adventurous, mastering a few basic Swedish words and expressions is not too hard. In addition, Swedish grammar is not very different from English grammar.

– Swedish literature: I am a fan of Swedish crime fiction and enjoy crime stories when I need to escape. I recently discovered Johan Theorin‘s novel Echoes from the Dead and strongly recommend it for its atmosphere.

– Cuture: Music: Swedish pop music has not acquired international fame but some groups and individuals are quite pleasant to listen to. If you have a little time try Kent, Jonathan Johansson or Håkan Hellström.
Movies: you all know about Ingrid Bergman but the Swedish film industry is still strong and alive. The Millenieum movies are worth watching, so are the Kurt Wallender series or the films by Lukas Moodysson.

– The welfare system: low unemployment, no beggars in the streets, free lunches at school for all, 480 days of paid parental leave for each child, daycare, etc. This is better explained by Gabriel Stein in The 10 best reasons to move to Sweden or My truth about tax in Sweden.

– Health and the environment: much before it was fashionable, and necessary, the Swedes have cared for their health and their environment. Recycling, walking, cycling or public transport (rather than driving), affordable organic produce, waste management, homemade food, nature protection are part and parcel of their every day life.

– LGBT rights: according to ILGA-Europe, Sweden is the second most gay-friendly county in Europe.

– Last but not least, the Swedes: the Swedes are usually welcoming, unassuming and kind. They are very proud when you take an interest in their small country and are more than happy to share the things they enjoy.

JPiX- The New Spring Edition

This is the Spring edition of JPiX, the Jewish Photo Bloggers’ Blog Carnival. Click on each thumbnail to access the full post. Special thanks to Leora for keeping this meme alive and for being so patient with me whenever I have had problems or questions about JPiX.

Photos by Israeli bloggers

Robin at Around the Island shows breathtaking shots of nectarine blossoms, anemones and Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter:

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Batya who blogs at me-ander shows photos from her blog – a bar mitzvah, how she learnt to be a video news photographer and the coming of spring:

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She also shares photos from her walks in Svut Rachel and Jerusalem:

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Cosmic X in Jerusalem shows Palestinian Talmud Enthusiasts while Sharon Altshul who blogs at The Real Jerusalem Streets presents a series of photos inspired by Herman Wouk’s book The Will to Live On, This is our Heritage. As for Naomi Elbinger, she shares a picture of her great-great-grandmother Gitel with a shpitzel.

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At I Wish I Were a Photographer,Toby shares pictures of Israeli skies:

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At Our Shiputzim, Mrs.S. shows two family outings: Avnei Eitan and a visit to a boutique olive oil plant in Katzrin:

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Rahel who blogs at Elms in the Yard shares some colorful shots, Raina has a conversation with a crater lake and Samantha at Samantha’s Project 52 shows a havdalah photo:

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Snow and no snow in Israel shown by Cosmic X in Jerusalem, Sharon Altshul and Batya:

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Photos from the United States

Jewacious is back to blogging with a recipe for a honey cake, a beautiful sky, photos of the Skirball Cultural Center and book recommendations:

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Leora from Here in HP shares numerous her chanukah photo gallery, a painting, Purim containers and JPiX’s new page:

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Phyllis at Imabima shows a photo for Rosh Chodesh and two collages for Chanukah, Sarah at Sarah’s View displays vegetables from the Santa Monica Farmers’ Markey while Frume Sarah at FrumeSarah shares very special photos for Tu BiShvat:

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Purim photos: Trip’n Up shows Purim harbingers in Neve Daniel, Sharon makes clear that Purim is not just one day while Pesky Settler shares pot-op treats and her daughter’s fancy dress:

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Leah who blogs at Chossid shares numerous shots from Crimea: her best photo 2011, KosherFest and Tuesday Inspirations:

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She also show photos of Israel, New York and Chanukah and Purim in the former Soviet Union:

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I hope you will take the time to visit the photographers’ blogs and leave comments. If you wish to know more about JPiX and/or submit a post with images for the next edition, just click on the logo

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Four Minutes

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The original title of this German movie is Vier Minuten; it was simply translated into English as Four Minutes. If you are a regular movie goer, you know that the German film industry has released some pretty good films in the past few years – The Lives of Others, Good Bye Lenin and The Hedge of Heaven come to mind. Four Minutess is no exception.

Chris Kraus first got the idea for this movie when he read in a newspaper the story of an old lady who had been teaching the piano in the same women’s prison for 60 years. He imagined an old woman with talent but a guilt-ridden past meeting a violent but gifted inmate. The old lady foresees that the young woman can go far however the latter is reluctant to accept the teacher’s idiosyncracies and rigidity.

Traude sees it as her mission to retransform Jenny into the musical wunderkind she once was. Though generations apart, together these two women struggle to seek a way out of their lockdown lives through an uneasy alliance built around music. Through flash-backs, memories of Traude’s Nazi-dominated past and a doomed lesbian affair with a political activist resurface as she interacts with her volcanic student.

The story is powerful and emotional, so is the soundtrack.

Jericho

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It had been ages since I last read lesbian fiction in English and I was not quite not sure what to turn to. I googled a few key words and came across raving reviews of Jericho by Ann McMan.

I had never heard of the author but the comments on Amazon and Goodreads made me want to read it. Thanks to the Kindle app on the iPad, I was able to read a sample of the book and got hooked immediately. I purchased the whole book and read on. I went on until I could no longer keep my eyes open; something which incidentally had not happened to me since I first read Pride and Prejudice during my college years.

Jericho is a romantic story between two women, Maddie and Syd, set in rural Virginia. Syd (Margaret) Murphy is relocating to Jericho where she has an eighteen-month contract to set up and run a new library while Maddie has moved back there to take over her deceased father’s medical practice.

Syd is running away from a failed marriage and has no precise plans about her future. Falling in love with a woman is certainly not on her agenda. Yet this is what happens. The two women meet by chance, a friendship develops but when friendship turns into love, both women need to confront their own fears and anxieties.

Jericho is an exciting début novel with unforgettable main characters and a fine cast of supporting characters. It is wonderfully written: the vocabulary is subtle and precise, the tone playful and the dialogues are well-crafted. It is also packed with literary and musical references as well as evocations of mouth-watering meals and good wines.

I strongly recommend this refreshing and delightful novel.

Good news: Ann McMan is currently writing a sequel to Jericho.

Finding and Settings Limits

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These past few weeks I have been very busy and stressed as a result. I am not quite sure what burn out exactly implies but I think I was nearing the danger zone.

School and the way we teach have evolved. There are lots of bright and positive aspects to the situation but also some more frightening and negatives ones.

Because my students do not work enough on their own, I have multiplied group work but also feel that everything that is produced needs marking. This means that for some classes I spend at least 50% more time grading papers and projects.

I am also available 24/7 via emails even if I do not check them on Saturdays. For instance at present, some of my students are away doing internships but they still send me work and reports to read and correct.

Thus although I have been on holiday since Friday I have marked about 100 papers in five or six days. I have also been busy writing school reports online. Today I decided to stop for a few days and step back but this is not as easy as it may sound and I keep thinking of all the things that I should/could/can do for work.

I find it very hard to set myself limits and stick to them. I do not want to appear lazy but this often means that I end up working too much for my own good. Dear readers, how do you set yourself limits and does it work?