Art Garfunkel is Not Dead by Susie Lubell

The view from our town after the biggest storm since Noah and the Ark

On the day before the storm I actually didn't even believe the weather report. I mean how could the weather drop thirty degrees in three days.  It would take an act of God to make it snow tomorrow, I think. But that's exactly how it played out. In EPIC. BIBLICAL. PROPORTION. As usual.

On the first day of the storm which was Thursday morning, we wake up to a foot of snow on the ground. I think, ok, it'll be like last year when it snowed for a day and melted by the next day. We get notice that school is canceled and Mr. Rosen gets the call that roads to Jerusalem are closed so we hunker down for a snow day, a novelty in this part of the world.

I take out all the old ski clothes but the kids don't want to put on that crazy stuff. They head outside in their sneakers and jeans until they are freezing. Then they put on the snow clothes. The baby is excited to see the snow from behind the sliding glass doors within the comforts of our warm and dry living room. We bundle him up and take him outside for a few pictures and he makes it known that he hates us and snow.

My mom is visiting and is less delighted by the snow. She puts on three more layers and goes outside to frolic with her grandkids. They build a mini-snowman on the roof of the car. I make chicken soup. The kids watch a movie. We read books. The snow is pretty and still coming down. Snow is fun.

On the second day of the storm we lose power around 2 AM. My mom wakes me up at 4 AM because she is freezing. I go downstairs to see if any circuits have popped. It looks like the neighborhood is out. I crawl back into bed and pray to the Electric Company.

By 7 AM everyone is up and freezing. We put on more layers. I make oatmeal. We get on our phones to see if anyone on Facebook knows what's going on. No one else in town has power either. No school again. Another foot of snow has fallen. I start making onion soup. It's looking like another long day. The kids can't figure out what to do with themselves. My son can't work on his lego project because he can't feel his fingers. The baby is barefoot.

Why is the baby barefoot?

Everyone wants to play cards with Grandma. Grandma wants to go home. The kids take food coloring outside and make snow cones. I do dishes. Grandma reads her book as the steam rises from her nose.

By 4 PM the electricity is back on in our house. Mr. Rosen's parents have arrived from down south to see the snow as has his sister and her family. We make tea and enjoy the heat. We think the worst is over. Maybe we'll go to the museum on Saturday, we think. By 5:30 PM it is snowing again. Everyone drives home for fear of being stuck here. We prepare Shabbat dinner. Shnitzel, butternut squash soup and beet salad. We hear a knock at the door and it's our house cleaner who lives in an apartment down the street. He asks to borrow a heater because he doesn't have one. We give him a heater and invite him to stay for dinner. The lights flicker a little and we worry about the power. We light Shabbat candles and a few extra just in case. After dinner I run the dishwasher, do a load of laundry and charge all of the laptops and phones. I have a bad feeling. Everyone goes to bed early. The three kids sleep on the floor in our room since we gave their heater to the housekeeper.

On the third day of the storm, the baby wakes up at 6:30 AM and wants Cheerios. We go downstairs and I see the power is out again. I make oatmeal and boil water for tea. I put on my down jacket and ski hat. The tea warms my hands. The kids watch a movie. The baby stares out the window and talks about the snow. The snow is on the car. The snow is in the tree. Aba is in the snow. The doggie is in the snow. I make more chicken soup. Facebook friends report that Israelis are hosing down their driveways to get rid of the snow. I wonder how Israelis manage to win all kinds of Nobel prizes andnot know that when water freezes it makes ice.

By 3 PM the kids are annoying each other. The kids are annoying everyone. The baby is sleeping under six blankets. I try to summon up my inner home schooling super mom to think of crafts to do with the kids. I can't feel my fingers and decide that crafts are stupid. We are checking our phones for weather and Facebook updates. The snowfall has abated. Phone reception is spotty. Grandma announces that Art Garfunkle died.


She remembers meeting him at her senior prom. He was her best friend's funny looking date. 

So sad to lose him.

I ask where she heard he'd died and she says she saw a picture of him on an Israeli website but it was in Hebrew so she couldn't read what it said. My phone has no internet connection so we are left to mourn Art Garfunkel for another hour. We sing Feeling Groovy and Sounds of Silence. Grandma finds Mr. Rosen's harmonica and plays Oh Susanna for the kids. Internet is restored and I google Art Garfunkel and it turns out he'll be recording a new album. We are relieved. There is still no heat. Grandma is starting to lose it. I make carrot soup. Snow sucks.

On the day after the storm, electricity is restored. We are elated. School is canceled.  We are destroyed. No one can get to school because the roads are too icy. Can we not salt the roads here people? Is there no spare salt in this country? Did Lot's wife not turn into a PILLAR of salt? Isn't Jerusalem like less than an hour from the Dead Sea, or as I like to call it: THE SALTIEST PLACE ON EARTH?  For the love of ginger, three feet of snow has fallen and the country has completely shut down. Grandma goes to read like her fifth book in four days. We are happy to have heat and hot water. Everyone showers for the first time in five days. I make tomato soup. I have now made every fucking soup I know how to make. I make grilled cheese sandwiches. I go for a walk down the street and see a car has plowed through our neighbor's gate and nearly into his house. Serves him right for hosing down his street. I come home to find an enormous snowman near our walkway. He is wearing my scarf and has on a cowboy hat. He is outstanding. Leftover soups for dinner. We read stories and go to sleep all five of us in the same room again. I admit, it's cozy.

On the second day after the storm, we wake up and school has been canceled again. Some of us moms decide to burn down the school. Instead we drop off the baby and head toward Tel Aviv. Chunks of snow fly off our car as we descend from Switzerland. By the time we park in Jaffa, the last chunk slides down our windshield. We have coffee and snacks in a cafe and walk around the flea market for an hour or so. By 3:30 it's time to head home.

On the third day after the storm, school starts at 9:30. Mr. Rosen goes to work. Grandma and I meet a friend in Jerusalem. The sky is blue. The drivers are cautious. Art Garfunkel is not dead. Life is good.


Arrivals by Susie Lubell

Artwork by Lori Portka
I love airports. Some more than others. I especially love when I'm going somewhere, although after traveling half way around the world and back again this summer with my three kids (and without Mr. Rosen), I was perfectly happy just to be picking up on my trip to the Tel Aviv airport last Thursday. Especially because Grandma is here! For three whole weeks! So we'll be doing a lot of exploring and coffee drinking and shopping while the kiddos are in school.

But back to those airports. I was standing just outside of customs in the arrivals terminal waiting for her to pass through and watching while people from all over the world arrived, greeted by loved ones and friends. It was pretty moving, I must say. I saw a man about forty-five or fifty greeted by his eighty year old father and oh how they kissed and hugged on each other. I imagined that he's been living in the United States for the last thirty years and how life just happens that way but it's a little bit heartbreaking when it does. Because now his father is older and the travel is harder. And the kids are in college. And money's tight...

I saw three kids run to greet their dad, the oldest son jumping into his arms with such affection that his kippah flew off. It was like watching a dog, no longer a puppy, jump into his person's lap and bowling him straight out of his chair. I imagined that this aba had been in Rome or Moscow on business for the last two weeks. He was obviously missed.

I saw tourists arrive. Bleary eyed from the long flight but excited to see a place they had until now only read about. Maybe dreamed about. Israel is that kind of place. Many of them are shocked by how modern it all looks. They were expecting white robes and camels maybe.

And then I saw Grandma. With that look like, I am too old for this, but actually appearing her stylish and put together self, twenty hours of travel and all things considered.

So much joy and love and anticipation at the airport. I was reminded of this incredible painting I was gifted earlier this year from an artist friend who inspires me so. Maybe you know her. Almost two years ago Lori Portka embarked on A Hundred Thank Yous project and created a hundred paintings for a hundred people in her life for whom she is grateful. And by some miracle I am one of them. This is my painting. She painted it before we left for Israel, wishing me ease, sweetness, beauty, joy, love and abundance on our journey. I couldn't have conjured a better or more appropriate blessing for this wandering Jew. Now it hangs happily in my studio across the world.

You need something of Lori's to brighten your house too. Visit her shop where she has a new 2013 calendar that is HUGE and gorgeous and features more than a dozen of her wonderfully uplifting works of art. She also has an amazing Month of Thank Yous Gratitude Pack which includes 30 frame-able postcards and stamps she designed to send them off to the people you love (who can then frame them).  She also has prayer flags and posters and prints and cards and it's all just so overwhelmingly beautiful.

Just like at arrivals.

The honeymoon is over by Susie Lubell

Hoffman was right, whatever that means
I guess Hoffman was right, whatever that means.

We arrived in Israel a year ago. Today. A year ago today. I remember thinking to myself in the days leading up to our departure, I wonder how long we have til there is another "incursion" in Israel. Another operation. Or assault. Or war. I wasn't worried. If I was worried I would not have gotten on the plane. I had always felt safe in Israel. Though the years I spent here were always just before or just after a major something or other.

Anyway, I have the answer. A year. It took a year for something to escalate to the point where my people in America are emailing me to be sure I'm safe. I guess the honeymoon is officially over, thank you very much Hamas.

It's really been far less than a year, since missiles have been falling on southern Israel every few months, even weeks, since we arrived. My in-laws live in the south as do many of our friends. I used to live there too. But I have kept the radio and the television off. And it is only today, now that Israel has finally retaliated, that we have made the mainstream news. Because the 2,000 rockets that were fired from Gaza this year alone were not so newsworthy. Maybe if they had better aim. Or if we didn't have the badass Iron Dome anti-missile technology. Booyah!

But as bad as it is (and it's bad for our residents of the south), I went to the mall yesterday to mail some packages at the post office and buy my daughter some leggings for winter. The mall was bustling. And I heard as much Arabic as I did Hebrew. Let me just say this, for my left leaning Californians, if a Jihad attack of this magnitude had happened in the US you can bet that no one with a hijab would leave the house for a month in fear of random retaliation. Not true at the Mall of Jerusalem. It's business as usual.You can be full on burkified and still buy your daughter leggings for winter. I'm starting to ramble.

I have refrained from posting much on Facebook even though I know the news that most people will hear is not the whole story. I don't have the whole story either. I don't know what it's like to live in Gaza. I feel compassion for those in Gaza who just want to live their lives and hate the violence as much as I do. I have to believe those people exist. I wish we heard more from them and less from the militants and cyber bullies you hear from on twitter. Boys on both sides, come on. Spare me your my dad can beat up your dad bullshit. It's embarrassing. I do have some idea about what it's like living in southern Israel with reports from my people there. Cloudy with a Chance of Missiles, by my friend Faye Bittker, sums it up pretty well.

But back to my life. Today Mr. Rosen and I decided to celebrate our anniversary anyway by having breakfast together in Mahane Yehuda, the open air market in downtown Jerusalem. Which was also bustling. I had a cheese bourekas with sliced egg and tehina and Mr. Rosen had the spinach one with spicy sauce. And we had sahlab, a warm orchid milk drink topped with peanuts, coconut and cinnamon. Then we bought fixings for a delicious shabbat dinner tonight with Mr. Rosen's parents, (who are hoping for a siren-free night's sleep) including some goods from the Persian spice cutie pie who can always get me to try something (an then buy it) just by cocking his head to the side and winking at me. Mr. Rosen fell for it too. We even went ahead and bought a "shuk bag". One of those rolling bags you absolutely need if you're schlepping 20 kilos of food home from the market. So I guess that means we'll stick it out for at least another year, since now we have a shuk bag and everything. Stay tuned.

 Beautiful Nachlaot neighborhood, Jerusalem

Street art, Jerusalem
She needs a better shuk bag.

My spice guy.

Nachlaot neighborhood, Jerusalem
local color

Shalom by Susie Lubell

East and West
Shalom, mixed media.

It's been a year since we left Mountain View, our home for eight years and the place where our three kids were born. I remember the days leading up to our departure. All of the stress and running around. Packing and putting all of our stuff in the container. Selling whatever wasn't coming with us. Tying up all of the loose ends. Closing accounts. Collecting paperwork. Trying to sell our car at the very last second. And all the while trying to keep life as normal as possible for our kids. And trying to pay just a tiny bit of attention to our NEWBORN. Remember him? He's paying us back now for our neglect back then. We even trick or treated on our last Halloween, which was frankly the very last thing I wanted to do.

And then on November 1st we bid shalom to the Bay Area and drove in our rented van down south to Grandma's where we'd stay for a week before heading out to New York and finally Israel. It was a time of many goodbyes and many hellos and many times we didn't know if we were coming or going. It was a very unsettling time.

But now we are settled in so many wonderful ways. We have a community of friends. We have happy, adjusted kids. We have a quirky house big enough to host our many, many visitors. We have satisfying work. And I'd say, despite our every day struggles to reconcile our western mentalities with the reality of life in the Middle East (and I'm not talking about the threat of war with Iran or suicide bombings. I'm talking about things like terrible customer service, bad driving and the ubiquitous issue of littering) we're basically at peace with our decision to live here.

Shabbat shalom.

Cherry on top by Susie Lubell

Roadside ice cream stop

Well we survived Yom Kipur this year, but only barely. I will say that as challenging as the day itself was, the eve of Yom Kipur was quite enjoyable. How can I explain it? It's like Christmas Eve (in Amish country) meets Critical Mass. Once the sun sets, kids from all walks of life hit the streets on bikes because no one is driving. NO ONE. People don't drive. I think it's because they're atoning for how badly they drove the whole last year. And it's the holiest day of the year too, so there's that.  It also means that kids roam the streets freely. I overheard one second grader tell his dad he was going to a neighborhood about a mile away in the dark with his buddies on bikes. See ya, was the dad's reply. So we went out too and saw just about everyone we knew in this town. It was quite an experience.

And only a few days later we are coming off of an even bigger experience. A seven family camping trip up north on the Dan river. It was a hundred degrees; we had to sleep outside since it was stifling in the tent; the kids got eaten by mosquitos (I find I don't get bit when the baby is nearby since he's so juicy). But in the spirit of Indian Summer, we went in search of cool water and found a lovely (freezing) spring where we went for a dip and had lunch and a quiet patch of the Jordan river bank where we watched the sun go down.

All in all we kept cool as best we could, enjoyed the company of new friends and delighted in the incredible food that everyone sizzled, fried, chopped, sauteed, baked and shared. On the way home we stopped for lunch at a family friend's house where I mostly sat on her air conditioner while she served us fresh goat cheese, eggs, salad, avocado, fresh fruit and brownies. It was serious post camping pampering.

And then the (literal) cherry on top came on our three+ hour drive home when we pulled over to change the baby's diaper. It was a random side road off the highway which apparently is a main (dirt)  road to one of the Arab villages (cities) nearby. The kids got out and stretched, we changed the baby and had some fruit while several cars and trucks sped past us. Then an ice cream delivery truck drove past and stopped.  I knew in my heart that the driver had stopped to give us ice-cream. Which he did! A young man popped out of the passenger side, ran around the side of the car and a few moments later came back with five cherry vanilla ice-cream popsicles. He handed them to me and said, you're five right? Happy holidays! Then the driver leaned out and wished us a happy holiday too. Indeed, a little happier made by cherry popsicles!

Up next, a peek into our sukkah this year. Mr. Rosen's parents showed up even before we returned from camping and built the thing, decorated it and had dinner waiting for us too. We need to buy a lottery ticket and really ride out this wave...

So long McMiserable, hello McFerrin by Susie Lubell

Hangar 13
Hangar 13, Port of Tel Aviv

Twenty years ago I saw a rising Israeli singer named Achinoam Nini play at the Berkeley Hillel for $5. Soon after that she sang Ave Maria for the Pope and launched herself into international stardom. Last night Mr. Rosen and I left McMiserable and the other two in the capable hands of Mr. Rosen Senior to see Achinoam Nini play with Bobby McFerrin and a few other Israeli artists at the Port of Tel Aviv. Hangar 11 to be exact (my picture of hangar 11 is not as nice as this pretty one of hangar 13 at dusk). We almost didn't go when the baby spiked a 103 fever an hour before our estimated departure. But I looked into his watery eyes and said, listen baby. Don't worry. Be happy. Or maybe I said that to myself. Or maybe Mr. Rosen Senior said that to me. Either way, we bid our threesome farewell and headed off to the big city.

I think I've mentioned that we kind of live in the sticks out here in the Judean Hills. Sounds pretty rustic and biblical, which it kind of is. But an hour away is an oasis of culture, style and traffic. The Port of Tel Aviv was completely overhauled starting about ten years ago. Not quite sure when they finished but it's basically a long boardwalk on the Mediterranean and a series of hangars filled with shops, cafes, restaurants, and concert venues big and small. We don't get out much, for the obvious reason that we have three small kids and fall asleep in our clothes at 9:00 every night, so this felt like a real treat. Plus it's always fun to watch city folk being their stylishly awesome selves. And my hair volumized to twice it's normal girth with all the humidity.

And the concert was amazing. Bobby McFerrin is pretty spectacular and Achinoam Nini was equal parts adorable in her admiration of this musical legend and astounding in her own vocal virtuosity. They could definitely be a superhero duo together. Form of an iceberg!

We ended the evening with a delicious pastrami sandwich, fried spicy potatoes and apricot soda at Delicious Deli Bar (that's calling a spade a spade in my book) in the hangar across the street and then headed home happy and full in every sense.

Bobby McFerrin concert with Achinoam Nini, port of Tel Aviv
The part where he invited people to come dance on stage. 

Spain week at the port market in Tel Aviv. Me gusta mucho.
I might have to head back today for Spain Week at the Port Market which looks like it will feature a lot of meat. Me gusta.

When your sixty-four by Susie Lubell

Israel Independence Day
 Flags for Independence Day

We got back yesterday from a long weekend in northern Israel. It was Memorial Day on Thursday and Independence Day on Friday so Mr. Rosen and the kids had a few days off. Memorial Day here is very different than it is in America. There are no door-buster sales, for one. Nor does it mark the season for wearing white pants. It's kind of a serious day. None of the cable television stations broadcast and network TV is all either interviews with high up veterans or patriotic performances. There's even a nationwide moment of silence for two minutes in the morning. An air-raid siren goes off and everyone stops what they're doing. Even cars stop in the middle of traffic (though that's an everyday occurrence also). And then at sundown, the Independence Day fireworks begin and the country is happy once more.

Anyway, we headed up north and spent a few days based in Tiberius exploring the upper Galil and Golan Heights. We hiked up to the top of the Arbel, a beautiful cliff above the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). We had lunch in a banana grove above a cave with open tombs and bats (for real!). We found a great little restaurant at Yehudia junction that's open 24 hours, 365 days a year, even Yom Kipur and serves a tasty roast beef sandwich. We hiked up a stream to a very old water milling station and the kids got soaked. We visited a friend of the family and spent the day swimming at her community pool. The next day we drove home along the eastern border with Jordan and watched the green fields of the North fade to the crispy tan of arid land. We made one final stop for lunch in Abu Ghosh, an Arab town outside of Jerusalem, and enjoyed some grilled chicken skewers and middle eastern salads.

To be honest, when we got home I was wrecked. For the obvious reasons - kids fighting in the car, baby up at 5:00 am, packing and unpacking and daypacking and repacking. But also I think my brain is just completely saturated. It's so much to absorb! And more than just the sites. It's the constant juxtaposition of old and new. Glittery and gritty. Orchards and desert. New construction and demolition. Poverty and wealth. Sea and sand. It's one minute we're mourning and then next we're celebrating. It's our own brand of extremism and it's exhausting.

But never mind all that. Happy 64th birthday Israel, you crazy spring chicken. I hope I'm as feisty as you are when I'm your age. Something tells me you won't be retiring next year...

Memorial Day, Israel
 Memorial Day wreaths

The Arbel
 View of Lower Galilee from the Arbel

Banana blossom
 Banana blossom

Secret cave under banana grove with tombs and bats.
 Secret cave under banana grove with tombs and bats

Hike in the Golan
 Water mill hike in the Golan

Pretty weeds
 Pretty weeds in the Golan

Garden gnomes near the dead sea
 Garden gnomes near the Dead Sea

 Camel in finery

Abu Ghosh 
Graffiti in Abu Ghosh

This year in Jerusalem by Susie Lubell

Staples of Passover
Religious Jews hoarding Passover staples

Psst. I'm still alive over here. We are coming off a nearly three week Passover school holiday break and I have been remiss about posting blog entries. I have however been posting lots of pics on Instagram and I invite you to follow my meanderings over there. I'll follow you right back. It's quite fun! A billion dollars worth of fun, so says Facebook.

I wasn't prepared for such a long break in the middle of the year. But we threw together a pretty fun itinerary packed with visits with friends, travels north, south, east  and west, a trip to some enchanted caves, a fantastic seder, a surprise and mysterious visit from Elijah the Prophet and camping in the desert. We even had lunch one day with Mr. Rosen at his work in Jerusalem.

I will say that spending Passover in Israel is a very rich experience. Between the meticulous nation-wide spring cleaning (removal of all bread and crumbs from the home), hoarding of eggs, potatoes, onions and matzah, and the throngs of Israelis hiking about the country, it's really a lot to absorb. Never mind that we personally experienced no less than five out of the ten plagues (blood, lice, boils, hail, and darkness). Let's just say it's enough blog material to last forty years wandering in the desert, if only I'd had the energy to write it all down. Dayenu. Maybe I'll be more on the (matzah) ball next year.

For now's here's a smattering of pics from those three weeks. Enjoy!

Dead Sea with view of Jordan
Dead sea and view of Jordan

Saba grating the bitter herb with traditional protective eyewear.

Seder table including rice cake "matzah" cover for our glutton free guests

Saba carrying his weight
Elder carrying small Israelite during the exodus.

Passover hike in the Negev
Obeying the voice of God, Moses and Miriam put their arms around each other.

Camel helping us reenact the exodus
Biblical ride

Stalactite/mite awesome
Enchanted stalactite cave

Not bear proof, but hyena proof.

I found an oompa loompa from the tv room up on this ridge! Doopadee do!
The oompa loompa I found on top of Tzin Wilderness

Descent to Nahal Gov
Descent to Gov River Valley

Escaping the burning sun
Respite from heat.

Desert in bloom

At Kibbutz Sde Boker

A day in Tel Aviv by Susie Lubell

Fabric store, Tel Aviv
Fabric store on Nachalat Binyamin, Tel Aviv

Grandma flew home early Wednesday morning and the family is in a funk. Even with the rain and snow and leaky guest room we managed to have a pretty great time. I'll try to get some pics up from our travels over the next few days.  I don't know if it's because I'm new here but I just find I can't get enough of the view. The gritty cities. The rugged hills. The markets. The cafes. The graffiti. The museums. The shops. (The museum shops). I just find it all overwhelmingly inspiring. On Tuesday last week my mother-in-law babysat for the kids in the afternoon allowing us to spend the whole day in Tel Aviv (with the baby). We started out at Nachalat Binyamin, an open-air craft market downtown. Then we had lunch at HaMitbachon (the little kitchen) which specializes in home-cooking. We had the beef cous cous and eggplant spread on fresh baked bread. Yum. Then we walked a few blocks to a particularly charming neighborhood called Neve Tzedek, one of the first neighborhoods in Tel Aviv which is currently enjoying a renaissance. Boutiques, cafes and restaurants o'plenty. And the buildings, home to the rich and famous of Israel in many cases, have all been beautifully rennovated. And since it was the day before Purim, many locals were out in their scary/silly/skanky best. Here are a few of my favorite corners. I'll be back soon with some shots of Jerusalem too.

Tel Aviv
Purim party posters

Paper mâché bowls, Tel Aviv
Merav Danny, Nachalat Binyamin

Pottery, Nachalat Binyamin
Daniela Dori, Nachalat Binyamin

Painting by ossha, Tel Aviv
Osnat Shavit, Nachalat Binyamin

Ribbon store, Tel Aviv
Ribbon store, Tel Aviv

Hamsas, Neve Tzedek

Ginger, Neve Tzedek
Ginger, Neve Tzedek

Tel Aviv grit
Gritty corner of Tel Aviv

Ayala Bar
Ayala Bar Shop, Neve Tzedek

Big in Japan by Susie Lubell

Photo and art credits: Bella Sinclair

Today's guest is the one and only Bella Sinclair, a favorite illustrator of mine and a generally delightful person, beloved by many. She's an Illustration Friday enthusiast and her work is pure magic. I'm especially enamored by Bella's rendition of Hayao Miyazaki's large monster bunny, Totoro. I knew that Bella had spent some time living with her family in Japan and since her own blog is focused mostly on her illustrations, I crossed my fingers she'd agree to be in the Strangers in a Strange Land series so that I could learn more about her. And about smart toilets. Who knew?

1. How did you come to land in Japan?
My husband's company transferred him to develop new business in Asia.  Manhattan was wearing him down, and I could tell he was itching to fly across oceans.  So when an opportunity came up in Tokyo, we took it.  I was reluctant at first.  Okay, I'll admit it.  I cried a little.  We had a house I loved in the suburbs that we had just finished renovating.  Most of my friends were there, and I felt rooted.  But I eventually got over my initial shock and fear and absolutely loved it in the end.

2. Do you speak Japanese or did you take any language courses before you arrived?

I took a year of Japanese in college, but that had been eons ago.  Once I got to Japan, I started taking lessons again.  Unfortunately, the area where we lived was full of expats, so it was easy to get by without using much Japanese at all.

3. If you are not a native speaker, do you have any funny stories about language errors?
Actually, I learned not to speak Japanese to people because they would assume I was fluent and speak back to me at a million words a minute.  So I didn't have any language errors that I can remember, but I do have an amusing story.  My Japanese teacher and I would often make small talk during our lessons, and one time she was describing dishes that she likes to cook.  She kept saying, "sea chicken." 
Huh?  "Sea chicken?"  I was completely  baffled. Yes, sea chicken."  And then I realized that she was talking about tuna!  Chicken of the Sea! 

4. Tell me about one of your lowest moments?

Our time in Tokyo was a fantastic adventure, perhaps being some of the best years of our lives.  The only low point was when my husband suddenly passed away.  It would be a difficult time for anyone, but having to deal with the hospital and police and funeral parlor in a foreign language made me feel even more isolated.  Luckily, I had a friend who was fluent in Japanese who helped me through it all.

5. What was the best part about living in Japan?
The Japanese are a wonderfully refined, polite, and honest people.  And they take pride in keeping things clean and orderly.  People smiled and nodded hello.  I felt very safe and hyper civilized.

6. Did you ever feel totally at home?
Oh, yes!  We had our routines and frequent haunts.  And between work and the international school, there was no shortage of English speakers.

7. What did you miss most about the United States?
Definitely mobility!  We didn't have a car in Tokyo, nor would I have trusted myself on the roads.  So every time one of my kids had a playdate at a friend's house, I'd have to carefully map out the subway route to get there and back.  And sometimes, their friends lived in places unreachable by subway, which meant we had to jump in a cab.  A playdate could easily cost me $40.  It almost made me wish my kids had no friends.

8. What are some of the things you didn't know how you lived without before you moved to Japan? (i.e. foods, customs, culture...)
Did I tell you about the smart toilet that stays perpetually warm, automatically opens and closes and auto flushes?  Aaaaah, pure heaven!  And Japanese pastries, oh my goodness!  They make bread that is so incredibly light and fluffy. 

9. How did the kids adjust to the move?

Kids are mighty resilient.  My girls were in the fourth grade and kindergarten when we first got to Tokyo.  Being that we went to an all-girl international school where lots of kids come and go after a year or so, they did not feel singled out or unusual.  They made the transition quite easily.  There were a lot of British and Aussie teachers at the school, and my little one actually started to pick up a British accent.

10. Was there any chance of "blending in" or did you always feel like "the American"? Did it matter?

Blending in was easy where we lived.  We were in an area affectionately (or not) known as gaizin ghetto.  The neighborhood was crawling with foreigners and you could practically hop from one embassy rooftop to another without touching ground.  We lived next to the French Embassy, and down the street was the German Embassy, and a little further away was Finland and Qatar and China and so on.  So many different people, so many different languages.  As long as we stayed where the embassies were, we blended in just fine.

11. Can you reflect on any cultural differences that were challenging to navigate or led to a funny situation or misunderstandings?
My Japanese teacher would come to my apartment on Tuesday mornings.  I remember one time, my husband was still there because he had decided to go to work late that morning. My husband and I were very informal about comings and goings.  "Bye."  "Bye."  "Hi, I'm back."  "Hey."  But I guess in Japanese culture, the man is king of his domain.  My Japanese teacher was very apologetic and embarrassed to be there, feeling that she had invaded his territory.  And she physically made me get up to give him a proper, ceremonial send off.  What did she want me to do, fluff up his jacket and lay out his shoes?  I had no idea.  So my husband and I just stood there, staring awkwardly at each other for a moment.  Then he said, "Bye."  And I said, "Okay, bye."

12. Did life there have any impact on your illustration style?
Definitely.  You cannot live in Japan and not absorb all the kawaii or cuteness.

13. What lessons can you draw from the whole experience?
You know what?  I've learned that I'm a lot tougher and more resilient than I thought.  Life can change in a blink, and everything you know can be gone tomorrow.  But new adventures await, and I will go on.

Thank you Bella! Your mad skills and sense of humor shine in every illustration. Get a taste of the kawaii that I'm talking about over at Bella Sinclair's Doodlespot. Tell Totoro I sent you.

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly in San Sebastian by Susie Lubell

all photo credits: Jane Green

It's time for our second installment of Strangers in a Strange Land. I came to find Jane Green and her beautiful blog Spain Daily through another blogging friend when she was hosting a weekly photography prompt called Corner View.  I still look to Jane for photography inspiration. She has a way of sneaking in on people's lives and capturing the exact moment that tells their whole story. That goes for her incredible pictures of architecture and scenery too, of which there is no shortage in beautiful Spain. She also has a knack for shots of tight little matador tushies. And who doesn't love a little eye candy now and then, am I right?

But for all of her candid shots and explorations of daily life, she's not one to write at length about herself. So I'm honored that she was willing to participate in this series. As usual, her humor shines through. Enjoy!

1. How did you come to land in Spain?

2. Did you plan to stay as long as you have?
My first trip to Spain was to San Sebastian for just three weeks to see “how I would like living there.” The sun shone every day, I met wonderful people, and the food was amazing! (And there were palm trees!!!) I went back to the states, packed up my life, and moved there two weeks later.

It turned out to be a freakish warm winter where I went to the beach every day. The following year things were back to normal where it rains for 9 months a year. But, by then I was hooked. I still think Jorge had something to do with it ;)

3. How was your language acquisition? Did you learn Spanish when you arrived or did you already speak the language?
When I got to Spain I considered myself almost “fluent” in Spanish.  I had taken it at school for 7 years and got straight As. The first day of my visit I ordered a café con leche. The waiter handed me a pack of cigarettes, I paid, walked outside, and cried...

4. If you are not a native speaker, do you have any funny stories about language errors?
One of the funnier ones. (There are many.) I wanted to start working as soon as I got here. One day I saw an add in the newspaper for chicas (girls) wanted for Bar Americano (American bar.) Here I was picturing a “Friends” type bar where everyone knows your name kind of a place. Turns out- “chicas” are prostitutes and Bar Americano is a brothel. I think Jorge laughed for a month!

5. Tell me about one of your lowest moments?
See number 4 ;)

6. What is the best part about living where you do?
I love that my kids get to grow up here. We have beaches, mountains, and cities (plus France, Portugal, Italy) at (or almost at)  our front door. Add to that art, history, and inexpensive haute cuisine ... I think it has made them much more open minded. At least that´s what I tell myself when I´m craving a walk up Walnut Street and strawberry pancakes. 

7. When did you realize where you are home? Or are you not there yet?
Nope, still not there. I don´t think I´ll ever be. But what´s strange is that I don´t feel like I´m home when I´m in the States either. I´m away for such long periods of time that I always feel a little out of the loop when I´m there too. I think it´s a really common feeling for people living abroad- and one you get used to.

8. What do you miss most about the United States?
Don´t get me started...Besides the obvious, I miss big bookstores, my favorite coffee shops, breakfasts out, diversity, creativity, even the guy that does the voice overs on TV...

9. What are some of the things you don't know how you lived without before you moved to Spain? (i.e. foods, customs, culture, shoes...)
Tortilla de patatas... soooo good!

10. Did you raise your kids bilingual? How's was that?
 Yes, definitely! From day one, Jorge spoke to them in Spanish and I spoke to them in English. And from the day they spoke their first word- it was in Spanish to Jorge and in English to me. We really didn´t give it much thought. And the kids just knew. (It´s my gift to them.)

11. Are you still "the American" or do you blend in at this point?
 I´ll always be “the American”  If you heard my accent, you´d understand. ;)

12. Can you reflect on any cultural differences that were challenging to navigate or led to a funny situation or misunderstanding?
 There are, I just can´t think of any at the moment. The Spaniards eat every part of the pig, cow, fish, shrimp.... I´m sure they have to do with food... :) That, and I´ve had some funny situations trying to figure out how to flush a toilet.

13. How has your experience colored your photography?
I think life is slower here, so it´s easier to live in the moment. Plus the fact that I´m surrounded by beauty.... but then again, beauty is everywhere, if you are looking.

14. What lessons can you draw from the whole experience?
 I´m the first to laugh at myself.... and never underestimate the power of diplomacy...


Gracias Jane! Clearly a sense of humor is a must for any expat. Note to self. Head over to Spain Daily to get a glimpse of daily life in Spain. Jane even has an ETSY shop where she sells a selection of her beautiful prints.

A Studio with a View of Munich by Susie Lubell

I don't remember where I first discovered Stephanie's artwork - she's been featured all over the blogosphere and published in several books and magazines - but her signature style drew me to her blog where I found a kindred spirit. In fact her responses to my interview questions completely resonated with me down to the tiny details - like missing cranberry juice! (Seriously, Rest of the World, how are we Americans supposed to treat our urinary tract infections without cranberry juice!) She's been living in Germany for the last 15 years and now with her German artist husband and her two beautiful girls she juggles her studio work, her ETSY shop, her 12 countries in 12 months project and her teaching schedule. Her upcoming e-course Creative Courage is a practical guide that will help you clarify your own unique path and give you the tools you need to start making your goals real. It starts January 9 and you can sign up here.

1. How did you come to land in Germany/Munich?

I came and stayed for love :) Way back when, while I was studying Art back in the US, I met a German physics student who was working on his Ph.D. We fell in love, got married, and moved to Germany. We started out in Berlin, then moved to Heidelberg because of his job, then moved back to Berlin so that I could complete my Master's degree. After several years, that relationship ended - although we are still friends - and I met my husband Florian, who is also German and an artist. In 2005, we both completed our studies in Berlin and moved to his hometown of Munich.

2. Did you plan to stay as long as you have?

I had no idea. When I came over, I was 24 years old, fresh out of university, and I had two suitcases full of my belongings. Completely naive, but ready for adventure. I remember thinking that the food tasted more intensely in Europe, everything seemed richer and more exciting.

3. How was your language acquisition? Did you learn German when you arrived or did you already speak the language?

I spoke about 10 words of German when I arrived. After one month of living in former East Berlin (where at that time most people didn't speak any English in the shops), I realized that I HAD to learn German if I was going to be able to communicate with others in any kind of coherent way. Even with friends who spoke some English, at dinners and parties they would tire fairly quickly and start speaking German again. I tend to talk a lot, so I had a strong motivation to learn German quickly.

I went to a private language school where I took daily intensive, immersion classes in German - about 3 hours per day plus homework. We didn't have much money, so I think my language school was one of the cheapest in Berlin. This meant that the classes were really huge - about 25 students - and full of people from literally all over the world. From Russia, Turkey, the Philippines, Iraq, Brazil, Malaysia, Bosnia, Iceland, and so on. I think I was one of the only Americans, but it was good because I was forced to speak German with the other students even in the breaks.

4. If you are not a native speaker, do you have any funny stories about language errors?

I learned German such a long time ago, so I can't remember any really funny stories about specific errors at the moment... But what was difficult for me (and sometimes still is) - was getting used to the extreme German directness. I remember being at a dinner party and one woman said very loudly proclaimed in German, "Well I don't like Americans because they are always fake and you never know what they think about you." This woman knew that I was an American and her comment was somewhat directed at me, but I was so flabbergasted that I had no idea even how to respond, especially in German!

I'm from Tennessee, and with my Southern upbringing, I was completely unprepared for situations like this. In the meantime, I have learned how to be more direct - and to take things people say about the US or American culture less personally. Sometimes I agree with them too! My German is fluent these days, so I can get involved in a discussion, rather than just helplessly sitting there not knowing what to say.

5. Tell me about one of your lowest moments?

When we made the first move from Berlin to Heidelberg, I didn't have any friends, it was the coldest winter in years, and I had to wait a couple of months before any language classes were starting. I spent some hard weeks there when I wondered what on earth I was doing. We still had very little money, no real furniture in the apartment... just an old black and white TV that played German movies in the afternoon. It was kind of depressing. But finally spring arrived, and I enrolled at the University in Heidelberg to take more German classes, I met lots of fellow international students, and life improved dramatically.

6. When did you realize where you are home? Or are you not there yet?

I think being an ex-pat you are always somewhere in between. I still identify myself as an American because I grew up in the American culture for the first 25 years of my life. The way I talk, the way I think is still very American. However, I do like having the perspective of viewing my home culture from abroad. It puts many things in perspective. And the longer I am here, I feel more "Europeanized"  at least partly. In 10 years, I will have lived for equal amounts of time in both cultures. We'll see how I feel then!

In the end, it feels to me like things are becoming more and more global and international. I see and hear many, many Americans in Europe, and so many Europeans have visited the States. International travel has become very commonplace, and now with the speed of the Internet and other media to communicate - I feel like we are all very connected these days, more than ever before.

7. What do you miss most about the United States?

Cranberry juice! Well, actually you can get that here now, but it is expensive. I miss going out for huge, decadent American breakfasts at diners for an occasional indulgence. I miss the relaxed way that people communicate and make small talk in an easy manner, even in shops and with strangers. And of course I miss family and friends.

I love New York, San Francisco, the beautiful national parks, and there are still so many gorgeous places I've never visited in the States. I'd love to travel with my husband and kids through the US on a monumental road trip.
8. What are some of the things you don't know how you lived without before you moved to Germany?

I truly love being able to walk everywhere to do my shopping, to bring my kids to school, and so on. The bread and pastries here are amazing (although I know we're all supposed to be eating healthy, low carb, and gluten-free these days...)

9. Are you raising your kids bilingual? How's that going?

Yes, I speak English to my kids - but they usually answer me in German. We try to read lots of English books and have English videos, but it is difficult to offset the German kindergarten and German-speaking environment. So we are working on it, and I hope as they get older, they will understand and value the importance of English. I also hope that they will go on a school or university exchange in an English speaking country one day.

10. Are you still "the American" or do you blend in at this point?

I will probably always be "the American" among my German friends, but I also feel that I blend in pretty well too. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, so maybe I am just used to always making new friends and being a little bit of an outsider. I think it also helps that I have always lived in larger, multi-cultural cities in Germany where most people come from somewhere else too.

11. Can you reflect on any cultural differences that was challenging to navigate or led to a funny situation or misunderstanding?

One thing that drives me crazy in Germany is that you usually have to install your own kitchen and light fixtures when you move into a new apartment. The Germans defend this practice as "everyone has their own taste" and you can be much more individual in your apartment style this way... which is perhaps true, but it is kind of a pain, especially right at the beginning when you are just moving into a new place.

12. How has your experience colored your work?

My travels - especially my travel project this year 12 Countries in 12 Months  - are most certainly a big influence on my artwork right now. All of my latest collages are a result of this project, and I have lots of ideas for new collages based on materials and sketches I've gathered so far. I can't wait to get started on these new mixed media collages too.

13. What lessons can you draw from the whole experience?

Adventure is good, mind-expanding, and if you ever have the chance to live abroad for a time, you should go for it! Despite the challenges and a few hard times at the beginning, I wouldn't change a thing and I definitely do not regret my decision to move to Germany. At the moment, I'm happy in Europe and I appreciate all of the different cultures and travel opportunities here!


Thank you Stephanie! Make sure you spend some time on her blog and ETSY site. And for the love of strudel treat yourself to her seven week e-course Creative Courage.

Strangers in a Strange Land by Susie Lubell


Well a friend of mine (I'm not naming names but he's a charming Scotsman) said some of my earlier Welcome to Israel posts were a wee bit melancholic. Moi? He's probably right although a little slack from the readers! This move was major upheaval wrapped in crazy and piled high with distress. And we didn't move to New Zealand, you know. Where all you have to contend with is sheep in the road (although from the looks of this picture taken about half a mile from my house it would seem we are contending with goats on top of everything else). This is Israel after all. Maybe you've heard we're experiencing some wee conflicts.

So while I'm working on adjusting my perspective, which feels like an everyday exercise, I thought it would be fun to reach out to other transplants and get their stories of transition for a weekly blog series.

We'll get started tomorrow with the talented and delightful Stephanie Levy - an American artist living in Munich. Hope you'll join us.

Date night in Ein Kerem by Susie Lubell

Ein Karem

Mr. Rosen and I celebrated New Years last night instead of tonight because last night we had free babysitting. Anyway, tonight is a regular school night. It's not a national holiday. No one has off. They don't even call it New Years here since the Jewish New Year is in September. They call it Sylvester. Or was it Putty Tat...What was I talking about?

Yes, New Years. Well our second shipment finally did arrive on Thursday so our house was once again inundated by boxes and hunkin pieces of furniture. Mr. Rosen's parents came up on Friday morning to help build things and watch the kids and then they actually took the kids with them back to Beer Sheva to spend the night leaving us an unprecedented 24 hours in our house to GET. SHIT. DONE. We still had the baby but he's manageable.

But instead of trudging ahead when they left we decided to take a break and treat ourselves to a date in a beautiful neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem and only about a 15 minute drive from where we live called Ein Kerem which means "Spring of the Vineyard" and yes, it's as charming as its name would imply. It has a long history which is why many of the homes feature Arab style architecture and many of the landmarks are Christian. John the Baptist was born there. But now there's a giant hospital on the next hill over so lots of people can make that claim too. Sorry John.  These days it's home to a lot of artisans and funky little restaurants and cafes and galleries. And there's a bunch of stuff open on Shabbat too which is nice.

We parked the car and walked toward the main street to see that a ceramic tile gallery was open so we popped in since the tiles on our coffee table (built by Mr. Rosen) broke in the container. We ogled for a few minutes over the gorgeous tiles and then walked up a side street and noticed this little shop full of beautiful goodies. I plan to go back when it's open and buy one of everything. Finally we decided on a place to eat - a small cafe where we dined on focaccia, warm wild mushroom salad, haloumi cheese sandwich and kabobs. Each dish was better than the one before. It might have only been December 30th, but it was New Years in my mouth.

And then we spent the last day of this unbelievably crazy year finally unpacking all of our things into our new house. We're not there yet, but we're getting close. And it feels good. Look out for a home tour in the coming weeks.

Happy 2012! xoxo

Ruth's Ceramics



Ein Karem



Welcome to Israel by Susie Lubell

Welcome to Israel

Shalom! We arrived yesterday evening with all family members in tact and only missing one piece of luggage - the baby's car seat (he rode commando from the airport), which arrived to my in-laws this morning via London. When we got to passport control and the woman in the next line over cut in front of us when our window became available, I knew we'd arrived in the right country. The older kids went to sleep last night around 11pm and woke up at noon. Not bad. The baby was up pretty much from midnight until 4am. Not great.

Mr. Rosen and I ducked out at 10 this morning to start our administrative journey. We dragged the baby along in an effort to reset his internal clock. First stop, the Ministry of the Interior where we had to change our National ID cards to reflect our marriage and three kids. As we got out of the car I started to put the baby's little fleece slippers on and Mr. Rosen said, I don't think he needs those today (it's about 65 out). I knew that if we didn't put them on I would get reamed by at least eleven older women for exposing my child to the elements. We stopped for a latte at the mall under the ministry and a fifty year old man mentioned to us that it was windy outside and that our baby should have a sweater. Didn't see that one coming. While we were sitting there we also saw a young woman come in with her friends to get coffee wearing the clothes she was trying on from the store next door still with tags and a security device attached. Maybe she got thirsty all of a sudden? Only in Israel.

We headed upstairs to get passport pictures taken and we saw a a religious woman (head covering and modest flowy garb) and her teenage son (side curls and giant knit kippah) in line, both wearing Vibram five-finger frog feet "shoes". I guess the quest for good arch support is universal.

With our photos and baby in hand we headed upstairs to the Ministry. The Bedouin man ahead of us was there to register his newest child too. I overheard the clerk doing triage handing out the numbers at the front desk say to him, first wife or second? Nice. The Bedouin are still keeping it real I guess.

After waiting for about forty minutes, which was not a long wait considering the last time I was here fifteen years ago I actually learned how to knit and completed a six foot long scarf in the time it took before I spoke to anyone official, it's our turn. We are both in the system as citizens but it apparently takes the same system 72 hours from the time we go through passport control to recognize we are in country. We have to come back on Sunday. Minor setback. Fortunately Mr. Rosen can come by himself and complete the task for both of us.

Next up, finalizing the bank account that my in-laws already opened for us. On Thursdays the banks are closed from 12-4 and reopen from 4-7. Until then, the kids are at the park and the baby is asleep and mama needs to take a shower. In queue after the bank, shopping for a refrigerator, Ministry of Absorption, elementary school registration and dealing with our iPhones that don't work here. Good times. So far I have not yelled at anyone or cried or used any vulgar hand gestures.

Dear California by Susie Lubell

Santa Cruz

Hi there. How are you? 72 degrees and sunny as always? Just checking in before we fly out tonight. I've been thinking about you a lot and how much we've been through together. I know I haven't always been your most loyal resident. Remember how I used to wear long sleeves and turtlenecks year round in elementary school and tell people I was originally from New Hampshire? Sorry about that. But in my defense I was never exactly your type, at least as far as appearances go. I never tanned. I was a freckle puss from day one practically. I hated the beach and no one was watching out for my skin. It was the seventies and eighties after all. So I figured we might as well go our separate ways.

But I was so wrong! There is so much more to you than your constant sunshine. I love your fruits and vegetables. I love your ocean cliffs. I love your elephant seals. I love your national parks. I love Disneyland. I love your beach boardwalks, your Hollywood hoopla and your spring skiing. I love your taquerias, your dim sum, your In-N-Out, your pho, your pad thai, your chicken tikka masala, your sushi, your grass fed beef and your tofu. I even love your neon strip malls. How's that for devotion?

So for the record I'm sorry I once wished I was from the east coast. It was immature. Now I realize just how much you have given me and how much you have to offer yet. I'll be back one day.

love always,

Same old story by Susie Lubell

Back in the day.

It turns out that having a lot to write about makes me not want to write anything. The stories pile up in my brain and then there's like a bottleneck in there. I have storytelling constipation. I happen to have the regular kind of constipation too but that's from all the moving around. So where are we these days? We're with family in New York. And we fly to Israel on Tuesday.

Our last week in the Bay Area was ridiculous. Even after sending all of our stuff on the container we still had a house full of odds and ends. We decided to have a goodbye/u-pick party as in, come say goodbye and take a can of tuna for the road. Or a toaster to remember us by. Lots of teary goodbyes. My sister-in-law and I had a sob fest that I think caught us both by surprise.

And then, without much ado, we got in our rental minivan and left Northern California. Eleven years earlier, to the day in fact, Mr. Rosen and I left Israel to embark on a new adventure together. We were only two of us back then. Now we're five. Back then we each had a backpack. Now we have eight suitcases and a twenty foot container. Back then we had palm pilots. Now we have iPhones. The cast has grown and a few of the props have changed but it's basically our same old story unfolding again. Can't wait to see how things turn out this time around.

Homecoming by Susie Lubell

Best view
Even though he won't remember a thing, we have proof the baby enjoyed his first road trip.
Especially the view.

We're back home. I think we were all happy to be home for about a day and then we started missing our trip. Everyone asked me how it was possible to travel with three kids including an infant in a van for four weeks. I can hardly understand it myself, but it was wonderful. It was a lot of work. Especially on nights when we camped. But most of the work, the loading and unloading of our gear, the setting up, the breaking down, the cooking, the cleaning was handled by Mr. Rosen. I was on baby watch. And baby feed. The breastaurant was open 24 hours. So while I wasn't on duty for any of the heavy lifting, I did put three pounds on our baby and that counts for a lot. By the end of the trip none of his clothes fit for which I take personal pride. These aren't lowfat knockers.

After Utah we met some friends in Salida, Colorado, friends who are also moving to Israel albeit three months before us. Their eldest daughter is the one that my son has been friends with since birth. They played beautifully as did their middle daughter and our middle daughter and as it happens they have a three months old. We are perfectly paired.

And then it was the final haul to New Mexico where we returned the Bear Proof Vehicle to its rightful owners and enjoyed some quality times with the Rosens. We realized early on in the trip, after the first exhausting night of camping, that this trip was not about us. It was about the kids - creating some family lore for them. Filling their summer with idyllic childhood experiences. Letting them explore. Making them watch hour after hour of classic Loony Tunes in the van.

Some of the highlights:
  • Cooling off in the creek at Lithia Park in Ashland
  • Kayaking on the Oregon Coast
  • The Wolf and the Bear food cart
  • Seeing my 5th grade teacher Mr. Marshall at the Saturday Market in Portland
  • Eating wild strawberries
  • Mt Hood
  • The hour that Mr. Rosen and I had in the morning on our anniversary after three kids inexplicably went back to sleep
  • White water rafting in Bend
  • Deserted hot springs in Eastern Oregon (deserted everything in Eastern Oregon)
  • My daughter's knock knock jokes (this merits its own post)
  • Monsoon rains in Utah
  • Two terrified kids snuggled into the same sleeping bag during a lightening storm overhead
  • Double rainbows
  • The river walk in Escalante National Monument
  • Picking apples in Capitol Reef National Park
  • Denny's
  • Rooftop margaritas with my brother in law and sister in law
  • My niece's fifth birthday at the alien themed roller rink in Santa Fe (where the baby had a blowout so big it almost dripped into my skates).
  • Friends and family we saw along the way - Danny and Tara, Danny and Rachel, Sue, John and Jessie, Jenn and David, Holly and Rob, Sim and Jen, Shirley and Ran, Yitz and Patricia, Saba and Savta. You guys made this trip unbelievable.
abedi abedi abedi, that's all folks.

Home Tour by Susie Lubell





Laundry Room

Front Porch


Kiva koffeehouse
Kiva Koffeehouse

This strikingly beautiful two bedroom / one bath sits above Calf Creek and boasts 360 degree views of Utah's dramatic Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. The property features an open floor plan, chef's kitchen with all of the latest amenities and a separate open air laundry area. While the master bedroom is extremely roomy with a lot of natural light, the second "loft - style" bedroom offer a cozy respite from the elements. Best of all, the large bathroom offers panoramic vistas for a relaxing, often exhilarating, experience. The neighborhood rates very high on the walkability scale and is only a short ride to your morning coffee. Move quickly! This property may only last another 65 million years.

Bending by Susie Lubell

Bend Oregon

A little stumptown coffee froth to show our love for Bend, Oregon - home to 80,000 ridiculously fit people who run, bike, kayak, raft, ski and swim 365 days a year. A little intimidating for this postpartum mama. We stayed with friends whom we hadn't seen in six years and, in fact, getting together required a little bending from both sides - a story for another time. Our three and their three were six peas in a pod. They played outside with the neighborhood kids (something that never happens in our neighborhood), they biked, the made up games, they splashed, they even went rafting. One of our friends in a rafting guide and took our son down the Dechutes river through Big Eddy rapids. The pictures are hilarious - a lot of terror. And jubilation at the end. We were sad to leave them.

After a night camping in Eastern Oregon at a beautiful hotsprings we drove straight through southern Idaho and found ourselves latenight at Denny's and the Western Inn. Yehaw! We're off to some National Parks for the next few days. Be back sunburned soon.