Thursday, August 28, 2008


SHIPUTZIM - part 4

We're now into the millionth week (what - it's not been that long? It certainly feels like it.) of my shiputzim (renovations). I am living in an absolute disaster area, and for someone like me - Marallyn calls me anal retentive - it's getting on to serious nervous breakdown time. I like everything neat and clean and orderly and in place - not even close to that now.

Our cast of characters has changed a bit. Avi and Shmuel and Liran are still with me. Max has finished his work on the soregim ( window bars), Uzi is still manufacturing my windows and doors, and Ahmad has left. Achmad is a plumber - an Arab from Abu Gosh - and quite a good plumber according to Avi, who has employed him for fifteen years. But - he and Avi had a rip-roaring fight last week and Avi fired him. Ahmad is about six-and-a-half feet tall - Avi is about my height - five-foot-two - so if they had come to blows guess who the winner would have been. No blows - just a lot of screaming in Arabic (Avi speaks fluent Arabic) - and Hebrew - that was I speaking in Hebrew trying to calm them down. No go - Ahmad is toast.

Now we have Jabal - or Jamal - I'm not sure as there are two of them with that (those) name(s) - who will lay the new floors and re-tile my new bathroom.

There is also Rahel - an Israeli who lived in New York for years - and who has a wonderful business supplying tiles and flooring and kitchen and bathroom fixtures for almost-wholesale prices. Wholesale has come to Israel and I'm taking advantage of it. Yesterday Rahel and I went out looking for toilets and brazim (faucets) for my bathrooms. We had already decided on the flooring, tiles for the new bathroom and the bathtub - so yesterday was the next-to-last shopping expedition - the last one will be for towel bars and accessories. And I managed to save lots of money. Who needs to buy retail?

Am also adding to my Hebrew vocabulary - we bought two interputzim (a fitting which allows water to come into the bathtub or toilet or sink). It's actually a German word - adapted to Hebrew with the "im" ending - and a word which I will probably never use again!

My bathroom is not exactly the biggest room in the flat - not teensy-weensy, mind you - just not palatial like those in Architectural Digest. For one solid hour Avi and Rahel and I were in my bathroom - yes the three of us - trying to finalize the exact placement of my bathub and toilet - and also the placement of all the various faucets and interputzim - who knew there were such cholices? Why wasn't Menash (my architect) there? He's off in Europe someplace - but he'll be back in time to supervise the way he wants the tiles to be laid - b'lachson (on an angle) - so that the tiles look like a carpet going up the side of the bathtub. Don't even ask.

And why am I not annoyed that Menash is away and that Avi went off to Italy for two weeks in the middle of the job? Because - I'm off on Sunday night to Budapest for a week. To tell you the truth - I think we Israelis are crazy - but a holiday is a holiday and as I don't get to see my brother more than once or twice a year at most, we will have a chance to be together next week. He's attending a kenes (conference) in Budapest over the weekend which will be over on Monday afternoon. So I'm arriving on Monday and we'll have a week together sightseeing and talking and eating and talking and just being together - and talking.

As I don't have room in my house for one more little "goody" - I actually have enough dishes and glassware and cutlery and serving pieces to feed the Israeli Army should they decide to come for dinner (just a bit of an exaggeration) I'll buy some of that famous Hungarian paprika.

Will write again when I get back.

Yalla, Bye.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


SHIPUTZIM - part 3

My kablan (contractor) is back from his holiday in Italy - he had a wonderful time, thank you very much. He returned Saturday night and began working again on Sunday - yes, for those of you who don't live here in Israel, Sunday is a "regular" day - just like Monday in the rest of the civilized world.

While he was gone I managed to do lots of things - mainly getting out of the house every day to do my errands - going out to lunch - going out to dinner - and spending money like a madwoman.

I bought a new dining table - one that opens - easily - to fit eight or ten or twelve - well, maybe thirteen in a pinch (I'm not superstitious). My old table sat up to six people -- or twelve. If I wanted to feed seven people we either had to sit very close together - or very far apart.

So - then I had to buy new table cloths - with napkins to match camoovan (of course). I actually found a lovely shop right around the corner from my flat which makes cloths to measure - and oval ones, no less if that's what you want. (Do you have any idea just how difficult it is to find an oval tablecloth - even in America?) Now I have cloths to fit every size of my table - what joy.

I ordered white ones - white is easy. Now they're getting in beige samples for me to choose from - after all, how can I use a white cloth with ivory-colored dishes?

In the meantime, my cast of characters is growing. We have Itzik - who is from OURAN - the company which makes the units which supply heat and hot water. I need to leshadreg (upgrade) mine as there are now more efficient units on the market. Then we have Uzi - who manufactures profil belgi (don't even go there - it's a special kind of window and door) - who will make my new windows and doors. He is one of eight brothers - some of whom are in the business - a very large business - and as some of them look alike I can hardly tell them apart. They are all lovely and say that their mother doesn't mind having eight sons - no daughters - because she has eight lovely daughters-in-law - all different kinds - all different colors - meaning Ashkenazi and Sephardic - from all over the world.

Then there is Max who works on soregim (security bars). But not just any old ugly bars - beautiful bars which look quite elegant. Sad as it is to admit - we do have burglaries and robberies - and the insurance companies insist on soregim. Max is Orthodox - black velvet kippa (yarmulka or skull-cap) - and only eats and drinks Kosher. Although my house is Kosher it's apparently not Kosher enough because he only drinks coffee and water here. He won't eat any of my home-made cookies - while I sift my flour (OK) I don't set aside a bit of the dough for - whatever (not OK).

And for the moment there is Liran - who works with his uncle Avi - who is my kablan.

And so it goes.

Yalla, Bye.

Monday, August 04, 2008


SHIPUTZIM - part 2

Phase one of my shiputzim (renovations) is now finished. Why phase one? Because Avi - my kablan (contractor) is now on holiday in Italy with his family. To be fair, I knew he had this holiday booked before he began my job - but I also knew that if I put the job off any longer it would go on into the winter and, as I am changing my windows, I need to do that while there is no rain.

So - as the schedule stands now - we should be finished sometime in October. In the meantime, I am living in a mess. An organized mess to be sure - but a mess nevertheless. Remember that I said that they were yekkes (see the last blog for an explanation of the word)? They swept up after themselves - they washed the floors - they cleaned my whole kitchen - and I am now busy moving my "stuff" from one cabinet to another. It gives me a chance to get rid of other "stuff" that I haven't used for years - and will probably never use.

To tell you the truth - I think I come by this meshegas (craziness) honestly. My Mother was forever changing the house. She'd wake up on a given morning - say to herself "I think I'll move the furniture around" or "I think I'll wallpaper the kid's bedroom today" - and we'd come back from school to a different place completely. My Mom was into DIY before it became fashionable.

My brother and I spent our childhood with scraped knees and black-and-blue legs. That's because the furniture was never where it was supposed to be. My Mother moved everything - from the tables and chairs to the beds to our big baby grand piano - all by herself. We were always walking into something that wasn't there yesterday. And so I carry on the tradition today. Which is why I have no trouble falling asleep in strange hotel rooms - it 's just like home - unfamiliar.

This is the first time in weeks that my house is free of workmen. And to celebrate, my two darlings - Yoav and Ernesto - and I, went out for a long, boozy lunch. [No - I did not drive.] We began with a lovely bottle of Lebanese wine at their house and then went on to one of my favorite restaurants - "Colony". A terriffic "happening" place. Good atmosphere - good vibes (do they still say that?) - and wonderful food. And another bottle of wine - this time a "Cava" - a sparkling wine from Spain.

I know it must sound strange - but I love going out to eat with people who stick their forks into other people's plates and don't mind when you stick your fork into their plates. Which is just what we always do - so that we can get a taste of everything.

We all had hatzil baladi - roasted eggplant on a bed of tehina (sesame seed paste), liver pate with cherry-tomato jam, chicken livers with silan (date honey), a mix of sweetbreads and chicken livers on a laffa (a sort of large, thin pita) - yes - we're all big on chicken livers - and musar (drum fish) with herbed potato puree on a bed of sliced roasted beets.

I'm not a big dessert eater - but I stuck my spoon into their desserts - sorbet with fresh fruit and some sort of halva (a confection made from sesame seeds) concoction with halva ice cream and shredded halva - to die for. And then we all went home to sleep the lunch off.

What a way to spend an afternoon. Heaven.

Yalla, Bye.

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