Living Well

So I only set one goal for the month of July, and it was a good one!

Mostly this is because I was so busy prepping for my Israel trip that I couldn’t think too hard about the month ahead.  But also, I really wanted to live well on my trip abroad.  And live well…I did!




This was a super active vacation with walking and hikes almost every day.  Yet, I still attempted to run (two short runs in the crazy heat) and did yoga in the mornings when I could.




Since we were typically on the move, there wasn’t much downtime for snacking.  But there was plenty of fresh and colorful veggies at every meal and I can see why the Mediterranean diet is so popular. 




Mentally, I was able to stay present and journal every day.  This made for a fantastic vacation which started the month off right.  Since then it has been all about marathon training with a little Bikram yoga thrown in for fun!




I have been catching up with my family and friends and the BOY and I hosted a Mediterranean BBQ with some of the best food we’ve ever made!




It’s amazing to me that tomorrow will be August.  How does summer always seem to fly by?!


What was the highlight of your July???




August Goals

My main goal is to support my marathon training so that I can stay healthy and happy as the miles increase! 

The plan is to do this by…

-Finishing Hal’s Book


-Eating Clean

-Sleeping Often

-And Living Well!




My secondary goal is to raise money in support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a St. Jude Hero!

The Desert(s)

Taking a break from complaining about the Chicago heat and my lack of marathon training success to go back to Israel and into the desert.  You may want to pop some popcorn and pour yourself a cold drink because there are TONS of photos to see and enjoy in this long post!




We’re starting with the Negev and a stay at the Bedouin Hospitality tents.




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I had heard that the Bedouin’s serve an amazing feast and was thrilled to sample dinner seated on rugs in the hot desert air.




Dinner is eaten with your hands, using the laffa (absolutely incredible bread) to soak up the flavors and seasoning in the chicken, rice, hummus, tahini, and salads.




I think this was the only time on the trip, I ate until I was beyond full.  And it was totally worth it!  The Bedouin’s are known for their strong coffee and sweet after dinner tea.  But my favorite part of staying at the tents (of note, I actually got to stay in a little cabin and not sleep in the hot, crowded tent) was breakfast.  While we watched people ride along on camels, I dug into a fried egg, smothered in hummus and cucumber salad, and wrapped in laffa.  It was pretty unreal!




Our next stop in the desert was Makhtesh Ramon, a ginormous crater in the desert which you can read about HERE or on Wikipedia.




And see plenty of pictures below.








Jen 2


After the Makhtesh, we drove north (still in the desert) to Ein Avdat, where former prime minister David Ben Gurion and his wife Paula are buried.  This desert park has glorious views and is also the home to many ibex (goats).








The desert views took my breath away!  I had no idea there was so much beauty in the sand!  On our way to the next destination, I got my first sighting of the famous Dead Sea.




We made one more stop to explore some waterfalls and ponds in a newish looking park overlooking the sea before checking into our hotel for dinner.


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We spent that night at a hotel at the base of Masada tucked between the Dead Sea and the impressive mountain overlooking the country of Jordan (which I attempted to capture in the photo below).




The next day, most of the group was up WAY before the sun to hike to the top of Masada.  We had the luxury of sleeping in and taking the cable car to the top gliding over the many who were beginning to snake their way down to the base.








The cloudless blue skies were picture perfect!  Prior to my trip, I didn’t know much about Masada, but this historic site had plenty to see and explore.


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Plus some magnificent views!






After spending time around the Dead Sea, I was beyond excited to see and experience it!!!


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The first step is covering yourself head to toe in mud.  Then you let it dry, rinse it off, and walk right into the sea.


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Where you really just do float!




It’s surreal and unlike anything else that I’ve experienced!




I’m not sure when we left the Negev and entered the Judean Desert, but our last stay was at another kibbutz in the Judean desert where we spent the last few nights in Israel.




With its desert mountain views, it was much different than the first kibbutz we stayed at.




And WAY hotter.  I guess that is the desert for you!




I’m sure it is obvious by my passion and photos that it was tough to leave this incredible and unique country!  I feel so lucky to have been given the chance to visit Israel, and I am really hoping to get back there again soon!


If you missed it, here are my previous Israel posts…

Arriving in Israel

The Holy City of Tzfat

Tel Aviv



Out of all of the places we visited, Jerusalem was my favorite!  One of the reasons is that we got to explore different areas of this dynamic city over the course of a week.  The other reason is because it is an absolutely stunning city!






Our first stop in Jerusalem was this overlook with a picturesque view of the old city.




From this view, it is obvious that there is a lot to see and learn about this city with historical significance to three major religions!




After some photo opportunities and discussion about the current affairs of Jerusalem, we reboarded our bus for the old city.


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We entered the Jewish quarter at the Zion Gate.


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There aren’t words to describe the feeling of walking under these ageless walls and emerging in the old city of Jerusalem.


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This area is a beautiful combination of historic city and new world!


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Our path ended at the famous Western Wall.






It was amazing to finally be here, watching people local and from across the globe convene at this landmark.






I wish I had an entire week to spend just here in Jerusalem.  And, there is so much more to Jerusalem than just the old city!


We also spent time at…

Yad Vashem









Mount Herzl




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The Shuk (Market)

Based on the amount of pictures I took, this may need a post of its own!






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Ben Yahuda Street





Plus…more falafel!



Have you ever been to Jerusalem?

Would you like to go?

A Mediterranean Feast and Homemade Tahini Sauce

While I was in Israel, the BOY and I decided it would be fun to host our families for a Mediterranean themed day complete with food and photos.  Although the BOY has not been to Israel, some of our family members have (his parents were there over 30 years ago), so we encouraged everyone to bring their photos and stories.  It’s no secret that the BOY’s favorite food is Mediterranean food, but we’ve never made a middle eastern feast before today!




Today’s Menu

Olives and Cheese

Hummus and Pita

Chicken and Kofte Kabobs

Seasoned Potatoes

Mediterranean Salad

No Bake Strawberry Pie

Pistachio Salad


We picked up some olives and salad ingredients yesterday at the grocery store.  The BOY had researched the meat, so I left that to him. 



Beef and Lamb Kabobs


I whipped up a batch of Garlic Hummus and my first ever homemade tahini sauce.




I brought this sesame paste back from Israel.




It is a homemade sauce sold at the Shuk (market) in Jerusalem.


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When I bought it, I got a lesson in tahini making from the shop owner and memorized what he told me in hopes of making a tahini as tasty as I had in Israel.  I was told that when you combine the ingredients, it will look like they won’t work and then all of a sudden, you will have tahini.




Which is exactly what happened.  I didn’t get measurements with my recipe and was just told to add equal parts sesame and ice cold water and then salt, garlic powder, and lemon.




In my first batch, I used a little too much lemon, but was able to adjust it for my second batch (and then combine them together).




I have to admit that I didn’t measure out my ingredients and added extra water, salt, and garlic per taste, so take the measurements below with a grain of salt (or a dash of tahini).


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The BOY did fantastic seasoning the meat with some of the new spices that I brought back from Israel and he grilled everything perfectly!



Za ‘atar and I can’t remember!


Our feast was unbelievable!  Thanks to Naf Naf for the fluffy pita!




We all dug right into our meaty pita sandwiches, adding in the potatoes and smothering it all with tahini.




It was like being back in Israel!

The BOY and I can’t wait to have another Mediterranean night!  I may even try to make falafel again!



Do you like Mediterranean food?

What do you think the red spice is?



Tahini Sauce

Recipe from Israel



1/4 cup sesame paste

1/4 cup ice cold water (plus more as needed)

~1/4 tsp salt

~1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2-1 tbsp lemon juice



Add in 1/4 cup sesame paste with ice cold water*.

Sprinkle in salt, garlic powder, and lemon juice.

Whisk until well combined, adding in tablespoons of cold water until desired consistency is reached.

Serve with rice, couscous, meat, or veggie pita sandwiches.


*Note:  I placed water and a few ice cubes in a bowl for a few minutes and then took the water from there.

Tag Along in Tel Aviv

We only had about 24 hours in this city, voted the 3rd most interesting by Lonely Planet in 2011, but we packed in some history lessons, current events, beach time, and night life.   Tag along for the highlights…


The Beach















Independence Hall











Rabin Square










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Lunch at Hippo

Serving Sabich on Lafa or Pita (YUM!)










Best lunch EVER!





Next Stop…Jerusalem!



The Holy City of Tzfat

On our first Friday in Israel, we drove up into the mountains of the Galilee to visit the Holy City of Tzfat.  Although not one of the most well known cities in Israel, this 4000 year old city is one of the 4 Holy Cities and is the center of kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.




Tzfat is also known for its synagogues.




After getting off the bus, the first vendor we saw was selling fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juice for just a few shekels, which was refreshing on this warm and sunny morning.




The streets of Tzfat are narrow and old.  We wound our way through past the beautiful shops and vendors.


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Our first stop was the Ashkenazi HaAri Synagogue.


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Interestingly this synagogue was established by Sephardic immigrants during the 16th century.  There is a rich history here along with a vibrant young population.


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The inside of the synagogue was beautifully decorated and well kept.




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After the synagogue, we met with a local artist interested in Kabbalah.  We then wondered through the city admiring it’s beauty and observing the locals preparing for Shabbat.










One of my favorite views of the entire city was through this barred window in the bathroom.






I used this view to play with my new camera’s effects taking this picture below…one of my favorites from the entire trip.

I have titled it A View from the Lou…ha ha!




As the city prepared for Shabbat, we returned to the Kibbutz for a festive celebration and a quiet Saturday catching up on sleep and relaxation after an active start to our trip.




I feel like we only got see a small section of this historical city, and I would love to visit again.  There is much more to see and shops to explore!

Arriving in Israel and Staying on a Kibbutz

So like my laptop computer, I decided to shut down for a few weeks while I was traveling in Israel.  However, unlike my laptop which quickly restarted and returned to its full, colorful glory, it has taken me some time to get all of my processes up and running again.  The good news is that this is because I was fully immersed in my travel experience and Israeli culture soaking up EVERY SINGLE moment.  The bad news is that it means I have no idea where to even begin blogging about my trip.




I recognize that not many people that I’ve met have been to Israel.  (You definitely should have seen the checkout woman at Target’s face when I told her where I was going while she was ringing up my travel toiletries).  So I’d love to convey the beauty and heart of this tiny, but powerful country!  The flight there was long, but well worth it, even if I couldn’t sleep.



After over 20 hours of sleepless travel!


We spent our first few nights on a Kibbutz in the Golan Heights.  I didn’t know what to expect staying at the B&B on a Kibbutz, but it far surpassed my expectations.


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And not just because of this glorious view!




Our first day was as busy as can be including a visit to Mount Bental and my first view of the Syrian border.


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Followed by our first Mediterranean lunch…an amazing falafel sandwich made by the crazy falafel guy!




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I should probably take this time to tell you that I ate the most fantastic food on this trip!  I could seriously eat hummus and tahini three meals a day.  After lunch, we went kayaking down the Jordan River.






As we drove back to the Kibbutz after an exhausting day, the sun was setting behind the hills.




We stayed at the Kibbutz for the first 4 nights which allowed me to establish a little routine.  In the morning, I’d make some tea to drink out front in the courtyard while journaling or reading a magazine and try to keep the friendly kitties out of my room.


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During the day, we were usually out and about exploring the north east region of the country, but there was still plenty of time on the kibbutz for morning yoga, a crazy hot run, and a cool down in the pool.








After 4 days, I was sad to leave but looking forward to moving on to Tel Aviv.  I definitely made a note to myself that I would love to come back and explore the Golan Heights and Sea of Galilee, and I would make reservations to stay back at this kibbutz.


Have you ever stayed at  kibbutz?

What did you think?

Jet Lag


View from Masada


I don’t have a better word to describe my current state, but I did want to say Hello as I am trying to stay awake late enough to get my sleep cycle back on track.  I also wanted to say a huge thank you to my Mom, the best guest blogger ever, who not only wrote a post, but took time to respond to your comments.  I had the most incredible trip moving nonstop throughout the entire country of Israel, and I will definitely share some of the highlights once I get myself pulled back together : )

Off the Grid (and the Continent)

My bags are packed (yes I fit everything into my weight limit), and my mom will be here any minute to drive me to O’hare.

When I first heard about this opportunity to go to Israel, I wasn’t sure if it was all going to work out.  Yet somehow it did, and here I am about to leave for the airport.  It’s safe to say that I am still in shock, yet also ecstatic that I will be participating in this amazing trip.




Quite obviously, I will not be taking my computer (or even my cell phone) with me.  I am going to try to post a few pre-written things, so we shall see how that goes.  I look forward to sharing my adventures and catching up with you when I return.  Hope that you are all enjoying the start to your summer!


Where is the coolest place you’ve been on vacation?

Where would you like to go?