Thursday, August 26, 2010

Memories of High Holidays Past...

As the new Communications Chair for our synagogue, it is my duty to assemble the quarterly bulletin that goes out to shul members.

Of course, all the typical items go in: rabbi's message, mazel tovs and condolences, upcoming events, times and dates of the upcoming holidays, and any other important stuff.

I thought it might be nice for the members to contribute to this upcoming issue, and sent out a notice for members to submit memories they have of the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah) they experienced while growing up.

Unfortunately, there haven't been too many takers, but most of the memories already submitted  are associated with wearing new clothes, family togetherness at synagogue and at the meals, long, drawn-out services.

If I had sent out the call to you, what -- if any -- memories do you have from your distant past, or even not-too-distant past of marking/celebrating the High Holidays in your childhood or teenagehood?

Maybe I'll have more takers via the Internet.... :)

(I will share my memories perhaps in a separate post.)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Fractured Travel Tales

Yes, I'll admit it's been a LONG WHILE since I last blogged. Of course I'm busy reading everyone else's words, but I couldn't seem to find any of my own for blog posts. But I'm back -- in blogland, in my city and in my country.

The past two weeks were spent in the States on the West Coast, on a fly-drive vacation with my hubby and three kids and multiple suitcases.

Travel tip #1: DON'T OVERPACK!!! TRAVEL LIGHT. TRY FOR JUST CARRYON LUGGAGE. I failed on all three counts. In fact, each of us failed on all three counts...thanks to my supposedly wise mom advice. I was wrong, I admit it. Okay, so let's try this trip again, and do it the right way.

Travel tip #2: Bring along your GPS if you're planning a driving or even a walking holiday. We brought along "Kate", our female, English-accented GPS. Now, some women aren't ALWAYS right, and Kate falls into this category, but for the most part, she got us where we had to go, even if she did sometimes prefer to take the scenic route.

Sorry, people, I'm not accustomed to paying for checking in baggage, nor am I accustomed to being denied any snacks on a flight, so these were an eye-opener for me. Or maybe it's just American Airlines pulling that shtick these days...

I was off to a good start (read in sarcastic voice) at the Toronto airport, when I was stopped after my carryon bag went through the X-ray machine. ZIP open went the bag, TOSS out went the jar of Pond's skin care cream, the bottle of hair spritz, and the bottle of face spritz. Okay, so maybe I don't travel often enough and I don't know the ground rules of flying with teeny tiny bottles of toiletries....

Speaking of which, how do I really know that those teeny tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner or body lotion given to guests in hotel rooms are what they say they are? How do I know that the green, pleasant-smelling stuff coming out of that teeny tiny bottle isn't simply some soap blend that they don't sell in Canada? Am I lathering up my precious locks with soap or shampoo? And who gets to fill those bottles -- or refill the partially used bottles -- in those family-friendly, businessman-friendly or simply luxe hotels? We sampled at least one of each of those types of hotels. The best toiletries were in the family-friendly hotels, hands-down.

So our itinerary consisted of these main locations: Los Angeles, Monterey, San Francisco, Sequoia National Park, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon* ( a story in itself), Phoenix. My husband drove over 2200 miles in 16 days to get us where we had to go. He did a mighty fine job, along with Kate coming between me and him in the front seat.

Some observations:

--there are a TON of very overweight people in the U.S.; they don't seem to care how they look
--there are a ton of tattooed people in the U.S.; they don't seem to care how they look
--it seems that the more overweight a person is, the more tattoos they have -- but then again, I guess there's a correlation in that statement: there's more skin to work with if a person is more overweight!
--Israelis are EVERYWHERE; Hebrew is commonly heard in outlet malls, specifically in mall kiosks selling healthcare/beautycare products. I had conversations with several of these Israeli salespeople, who were pleasantly pleased when I started conversations in Hebrew with them
--I didn't have to do any real conversion calculations this trip, as the Canadian dollar is quite close to the U.S. dollar. Years ago, I'd have to stand there and round out numbers and figure out numbers and see if a purchase was worth it.
--Before planning a 4 1/2 hour drive to Grand Canyon, be advised when "monsoon season" is. Our visit was rained out -- make that "STORMED OUT" -- by the time we reached the park, so we turned around without even seeing it. Instead we simply settled for an IMAX film of the Grand Canyon a couple miles down the road

Travel tip #3: Make sure you know how to operate a videocamera for optimum use; don't just point and shoot. Focus, shift, close-up, pan. Do this before day 14 of your 16-day trip.

Travel tip #4: Be certain to bring along chargers for videocamera, all digital cameras and personal computer. Oh ya, and replacement batteries do help.

I'll throw out at you some things we saw and did:
--Warner Bros. studio tour
--Hollywood Blvd./Walk of Fame
--Skirball Museum
--Venice Beach/boardwalk
--Rodeo Drive
--Cannery Wharf , Monterey
--Aquarium, Monterey
--Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco
--Golden Gate Bridge
-- tour of Alcatraz Island
-- Chinatown, San Francisco
--lots of uphill and downhill climbs in San Francisco, on foot and in our rental
--Sequoia National Park, General Sherman tree viewing
--Las Vegas lights
--Hoover Dam
--Car Collection, Imperial Palace
--waterfall at Bellagio
--so close to, yet so far from Grand Canyon
--Phoenix Diamondbacks baseball game

Overall, wonderful memories were formed. Wonderful photos and videos (okay, wonderful videos once I learned to properly use the camera!) were taken. Great food was sampled. Fabulous hotel mattresses were slept on. Many majestically beautiful sights were viewed, and then again, some bizarre people/characters were seen!

Great family time was had. And that's what made it the most special.