Friday, October 19, 2007

Academic sharing

A while back I posted that we published the first paper in the lab that included my results. That was super exciting. Now we've starting to get e mails from people requesting plasmids (little circles of DNA which encode a particular gene) that we've created that were described in the paper. That is even more exciting because it means that people have actually read the paper, and it inspired them to pursue something related to their research. This is one of my favorite things about academia, the collaborative spirit, the way that people oceans apart can work together. So we're busy sending out these plasmids to England, Canada etc. It sounds rather glamorous sending DNA all over the world, but I'll let you in on a secret. DNA is soluble in water, so what we basically do is take a solution of DNA and put a drop of it on paper. When it arrives they take the paper and put it in water and the DNA dissolves back into the water. Not as glamorous as you thought!

I also have a personal interest in sending these plasmids promptly to their destination. I'm in the middle of a project that needed the DNA of certain genes in plasmids. Now these plasmids exist, but no one I e mailed was willing to send me even one! So since August I've been trying to create them myself. A bit frustrating that I'm working for months because someone couldn't be bothered to send me a little bit of DNA! Not everyone appreciates the potential of academic sharing.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Perks of being a biologist in Israel

It's Succot in Israel, a Jewish fall festival where we leave our homes and live in huts outside. We have a particularly nice hut built by my husband out of wood on our balcony off our apartment. The holiday lasts eight days and according to Jewish law we cannot work on the first or last day, but ideally we shouldn't work at all. That was never an option when I lived in the US, and often the holiday meant trying to squeeze in the important bits with work/school etc. Living in Israel in my field it is perfectly acceptable to not work for the entire holiday. It's great to actually celebrate and enjoy Succot. Hope you're feeling the chag, wherever you are!

Monday, September 3, 2007


We're all busy. I rarely speak to someone with too much free time on their hands. Often things that are important to us slip. When I was in Penn I used to have at least one chevruta (learning partner to study Jewish texts) a day. Then I made aliya and after a short stint at midrasha it dropped to 2 to 3 hours of learning a week. When I got married it turned into once a week and when I had a baby it dropped to nearly nill. Sigh.

But then came KMTT. It's a podcast with five high level shiurim in English (there is also a hebrew site called Keshet) a week. Every day as I drive to work (and if its been a calm day on the way back too) I listen to a shiur. Now I come to the Shabbat table with something I learned about the parsha. Before every Chag I have a chance to think about it beyond what I'm serving. This half hour of Torah makes me think about being Jewish which is really important to me, despite the fact that life is a mad rush. Once I was even lucky enough to hear a series of shiurim by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik recorded in the seventies. That was a treat! Another Torah podcast I listen to regularly is Kosher Tidbits by the OU. If you commute, jog or have a lunchbreak in a quiet corner check it out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bread Crumbs

Thought I'd post a simple tip. Since I often make challah almost every week I'm often left with the pieces that don't make it into my husband's sandwiches. I save all the bits in the freezer and when I have time I put them in the oven at 275 F for about a half hour. Then I just whirl them in the processor with a steel blade and I have homemade 100% whole wheat preservative free breadcrumbs. Essential for any home in Israel where shnitzel is consumed regularly.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Last post was about being a biologist, now here's one about being an Ima. Since all of the readers (at least the ones that comment) are moms with much more experience than me I thought I'd throw out a question on the web.

I have a clever, beautiful, determined one and a half year old. Her sleeping habits have patterns of flux and stability. For quite some time she had a bedtime routine and then went into her crib and fell asleep. Sometimes smoothly sometimes with five minutes or under of crying. Then we went on vacation and she slept with someone else for nearly a month. It seems like she got used to it. Recently she started crawling out of her crib instead of crying for five minutes and going to sleep. We decided it was time for a big bed. She has the same bedtime routine and usually falls asleep pretty well. But for the past week or so she's been waking up at 3 AM and since she's in a big bed she climbs out and walks to our room. Then either one of us goes and lies down or sits in her room till she falls asleep which often means that we fall asleep with her or stays awake for close to an hour which is how long it takes for her to fall asleep. Or we give up and she sleeps the remainder of the night in our room. I've had enough! How do you convince a one and a half year old that she has to sleep in her bed!

Any advice would be appreciated!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

My First Paper!

Although it might not be apparent yet from any posts I am a graduate student in Biology. Last summer my lab submitted the first paper that included my work. It was accepted with some hefty revisions including two experiments to add. I worked on one experiment alone and the second I worked on with a lab member. We worked on that one experiment from Succot to Pesach. And it didn't work! We finally gave up and sent back the paper. It got rejected with a letter brimming with mussar, why didn't you include the experiment we asked for! After we recovered we sent it to another journal and with some minor revisions it got published right away! Yay! Now I have a paper, and if you search for MY name in Pubmed (a science and medical database) you see it come up! I haven't posted in ages (I was on vacation abroad) but this was a worthwhile reason!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hevel Heveilim 122

My post on working moms in Israel is in the 122nd Hevel Heveilim. HH is a carnival of all things Jewish and Israeli. There is a wide assortment. Check it out, there is something for everyone HH #122.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Adjusting to Israeli Cooking

When I made aliya it took a while before I adjusted to Israeli cooking. The zucchinis looked different and there were so many dairy products I had never seen before. What exactly is gvina levana? Where is my cheddar? I've assimilated some Israeli cooking (I've even made Kubeh soup - just the soup not the Kubeh -that is for another post) and I like some of the changes. Here is my first recipe that I've created that really shows Israeli influence. Not an American recipe I've adapted but an Israeli one I've made using Israeli ingredients. It is for pashtida - somewhere in between a quiche and a kugel. It's crustless but often dairy and more egg based than a kugel. It's a hit for a weekday supper or a seuda shlishit.

Tuna Pashtida
250 grams cottage
250 grams gvina levana
2 cans tuna
1 can corn
¾ cup bread crumbs
2 eggs

optional spices:
2 teaspoons onion soup mix
a pinch of type
seasoned salt

grated yellow cheese (keter, edam)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients except cheese. Pour into a baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes.

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee

I read an interesting parenting book not long ago called "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee" by Dr. Wendy Mogel. I found it to be delightfully common sense. She speaks about certain concepts in childrearing which she calls blessings. For example on the chapter on the blessing of uniqueness she speaks about the fact that although we want our child to be good at everything because then they will have the best chances of succeeding in an unpredictable world, that is unrealistic. It seems only in childhood do we expect people to be good at everything. She notes you wouldn't ask your car mechanic a history question or your pediatrician an Art History question (those weren't her exact examples). But children are expected to get 100% in every subject. She also speaks about how we cannot protect our children from everything and if we do one day it will come crashing down because when they are faced with their first challenge they will fall. That comforted me when my daughter came home from Maon with a bite mark on her arm. When I write these things, they seem common sense, obvious. Maybe they are to seasoned parents, or maybe I've intuited them myself to a certain degree already. It was a smooth, easy, feel good read.

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Working Mother in Israel

Is it hard to be a working mother in Israel? I think it is hard to be a working Ima anywhere. Honestly, I haven't been an Ima anywhere else so I don't know if I can objectively answer the question. Yet, prompted by a comment on a previous post I'm willing to explore the theme.

The Israeli workforce is relatively family friendly (especially compared to the US). As a graduate student in Biology I work from 8:30 AM till 3 PM so I can get home on time to pick my daughter up from Maon (daycare). I remember doing a summer internship in Sloan Kettering where a newly married post doc admitted to aiming for 12 hour work days. A social worker I know (whose daughter in law is a biologist) claimed that biology is a greedy profession (along with the rabbinate and medicine). There is always more to do, an article to read, a PCR to run, some DNA cloning to work on, buffers to make . . . And still in Israel many women work in the field and are home to pick up their children, especially religious ones. Often they have understanding husbands, but 95% of the time they are home with the kids by 4 PM when most Maons or Tzaharons (after school programs) end. From what I hear from friends in the states you can't do that in most professions except teaching. Furthermore, its wholly acceptable to stay home for any of the holidays that your kids get off for: Lag Baomer, Erev Chag etc. In America I always remember my parents using precious few vacation days for actual Yom Tov, taking off Chol Hamoed was rarely an option. Taking off for sick kids is also well accepted. So jobs in Israel are often sensitive to Imas.

In terms of surviving on low salaries, it is hard for some to make the adjustment, but you have two choices. Either you can try and import your previous lifestyle here, or you can create a new one. If you forever try and live in Israel on Chutz L'Aretz standards then it will be hard. There is a certain culture of materialism that I'm happy to have left behind. I enjoy new clothes and fun kitchen gadgets, but in the US I find myself shopping (not for food) three or four times a week. Here I buy something when I need it. Salaries might be low, but that means that there are less expectations to have lots of stuff and I don't think people suffer as a result of it.

Of course being a working Ima is hard. You wake up early to get ready and your kid(s) ready. You get to work and feel like you need to make the most of your time because you're there less time than the men and single women. You rush home and try and have quality time with your family and prepare a healthy supper. Bath, bed, stuff around the house, maybe a few minutes to yourself and then sleep. The next morning it starts all over again. It is difficult, but I don't see why it's different than anywhere else in the world.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

My First Carnival

I came across a carnival today that I couldn't resist. (For those of you who would like more info on what a carnival is see wikipedia on the topic. It is a kosher food carnival hosted by muse .

Since I was young I've had a love of cooking, as a biologist I'm always trying to understand how it all works. I recently got a great cookbook by Shirley Corriher which explains a lot of food science. Like how gluten works. Gluten is a protein in bread. When it joins with water it makes chains which form into sheets. The yeast makes gases which make bubbles between these sheets and make your bread rise. If there are no sheets of gluten to hold the gasses they just evaporate. With this new understanding I began a quest to lighten my challah which ideally is 100% whole wheat. Before I read her book it often came out rather dense. Now it is light and springy.

Here it is:

1 package yeast (Here in Israel I use the fresh powdered variety but in the US I used Fleishmans)
1 ½ cups leukwarm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup oil
2 eggs
6-7 cups flour

Mix the yeast, water and two cups flour at low speed for five minutes (with fresh yeast no need for proofing if its dried yeast proof it first). Let this mixture sit from a half hour to an hour to improve flavor.

Stir in sugar, eggs, salt and oil. Add in the flour one cup at a time until the dough forms a soft ball that holds together. It will be soft, it is better to add less flour than more, if you add too much it will be heavy. How much flour can depend on the humidity and temperature of the day. It takes time to know how much to add.

Knead at medium speed (number 4 on a kitchenaid) for five minutes. This might seem excessive. When I make Challah now my kitchenaid dances across the counter so I stand nearby and restrain it every so often. This extended kneading is essential to develop the gluten and makes for a light bread. Let rise until doubled in size.

Turn out and devide into challot (It can make 4 small or 2 big). Take Challah. Let rise again. Brush with egg and sprinkle on seeds. Boil a few cups of water. Preheat oven to 325 F. Put the boiling water in an empty pan on the bottom of your oven (or bottom shelf if oven is electric). This creates steam to help the challah rise high in the oven before the top crust forms. Once the crust forms the challah can't rise any higher, so if you add the steam the challah rises for a longer period of time in the oven. Put in the challah on cookie sheets. Raise the oven temp to 350 F. Bake until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped and the top is golden (usually about a half hour).

If I don't need all the challot for Shabbat I braid them and freeze them. Then I just thaw them, let them rise and bake them!

Shabbat Shalom!

Who am I?

You might have seen the title of my blog and think that I don't know how to type. Not so, in fact I type much better than I write. The title is meant to convey a certain ambivalence because obviously one person cannot sum themselves up in a word or two.

I'm an Ima (mother in Hebrew) which means I am a Jewish Mom (who happens to live in Israel). Along those lines I'm also a wife.

I'm also a biologist, a PHD student working towards her doctorate.

I haven't quite decided what I will write about on this blog. Some topics will include parenting, food and food science, Judaism, being a PHD student, being a working mom, life in Israel. This is not a definititive list.

I've been a lurker on other people's blogs for over a year now (more on that another time), I've enjoyed seeing interesting things that other people wrote and some have even inspired me to think. I thought it was time for me to add my own two cents. Hope those who visit enjoy, think and comment!