Passover Mushroom-Potato Pancakes

Earlier today – day 5 of Passover – I was looking through my bag of tricks for something new, something different … something for a truly satisfying dinner that does not involve matzah in any way, shape or form. (Ok, so the placemat still screams Pesach.)

Passover Mushroom-Potato Pancake with Green Salad

If any of the above strikes a chord, this recipe is for you – particularly for the non-kitniyot consumers out there. It is adapted from a non-Passover recipe that I found in my cookbook library in a volume entitled: Jewish Cooking from Around the World (1986), by Josephine Levy Bacon. My version is a bit different – less potato, more mushroom. The following recipe serves 2 adults with leftovers for a second meal. Because I am not cooking for a crowd this year, I cut the original recipe in half; if you have more people it is easy to scale up.



2 Eggs

1/2 Cup Almond Flour

1/2 Potato Starch

1 Tablespoon Water and 1/2 cup additional water

1/4 tsp salt

Sunflower Oil or Oil of your choice for making pancakes

Potato/Mushroom Filling

3 medium potatoes – boiled, peeled and mashed*

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 large portobello mushrooms, diced, or other 6-8 ounces of other mushrooms as available.

2 Tbs parsley, chopped

1T Extra Virgin Olive Oil / Sunflower Oil

Salt, Pepper to taste


**3 ounces Cheddar Cheese, grated


*The easiest way to boil potatoes quickly is to slice them into 1 – 2 inch sections first, and the easiest way to peel potatoes is to boil them first.

** This recipe can be made dairy free with omission of the grated cheese.


  • For the pancake batter, mix all of the ingredients until the mixture is smooth, adding the 1/2 cup of water gradually, and then let the mixture rest for 30 minutes covered. The 30 minute wait is Josephine Levy Bacon’s advice in her original recipe. The pancakes come out really well this way – who am I to argue with success?
  • While the pancake batter is resting, you can boil the potatoes for the Potato-Mushroom Filling, if you have not already done that. (Sometimes I do pre-boil potatoes for convenience during the Jewish holidays – they all seem to require potatoes!)
  • Sauté the other vegetables in Extra Virgin Olive Oil / Sunflower Oil (I use a mixture) or you preferred oil. I generally start with the onions and garlic, adding the mushrooms and parsley when the onions are translucent. Once the vegetables are cooked, mix in the mashed potatoes and set aside.
  • Returning to the pancake batter, I found with the mixture of almond flour and potato starch the batter had settled a bit during the 30 minute rest, and needed a good stir. Apart from that, it makes delightful thin pancakes. To make the pancakes you will need your best smallish non-stick pan – basically the size pan you would use to make an omelet. Heat the oil in the pan over moderate heat and add 3 Tablespoons or so of batter, swirling the pan to distribute the batter. Cook 2-3 minutes or until the pancake is set and moves easily in the pan. Flip and cook another minute on the second side; place the cooked pancake on a paper towel and start the second pancake. The goal here is not to let the pancakes get crisp – they should remain soft and pliable, like a crepe. As a point of reference, I made 8 pancakes with this recipe.
Crepe-like Pancakes
  • Once you have made the pancakes, you are ready to fill them, adding approximately 2-3 tablespoons of the cooked vegetables to each pancake before rolling it up and placing it in a shallow casserole dish.
  • Top with 3 ounces of grated cheddar cheese and bake at 375 degrees (moderately hot) oven to melt the cheese.

These Mushroom-Potato Pancakes make a delicious change from the usual Passover fare – without any special, exotic ingredients. I hope that you enjoy this as much as we do.

Bon Appétit!


Hints for Hamentaschen

This morning I am getting the jump on my Hamentaschen for Mishloach Manot, which are gifts of food given to friends and family on Purim.

Purim starts here in Zichron Yaakov tomorrow evening and in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, although the parades of costumed kids began last week. So today/tomorrow I am baking and putting together small gifts of at least two kinds of food – including Hamentaschen – to share with our community here.

Is it my imagination, or does Purim seem to start earlier / last longer every year?

Sometimes I just make poppy-seed as here in 2017

In case you have not seen them, Hamentashen are a traditional 3-cornered cookie also known as Oznei Haman (Haman’s Ears in Hebrew), traditionally made with poppy-seed (Mohn) filling. If you don’t care for poppy-seed, you can find them with jams or even chocolate or Nutella.

(There is also another important element of gifts to the poor – element of focusing on those in need, not just our own friends and relatives – which I am not writing about today, and just wanted to mention because that is just as important for the holiday.)

I follow the old Chabad recipe – the one that comes in the middle of the Chabad Jewish Calendar. I find it to be reliable and it’s nice to return to something tried and true every year. I do find that sometimes the dough is a bit sticky, and I also like to occasionally branch out beyond poppyseed (mohn) filling. (With apologies to my son Aaron, I am not ready for peanut butter!)

You may also have your favorite recipe and fillings – and here in Israel there is no need to bake at all – the shops have been full of beautiful hamantaschen cookies for at least the last month!

If you are baking hamantaschen this year, here are a few hints that I hope may be helpful:

  • With Passover (Pesach) just around the corner, Purim is also a great time to use ingredients that may not be kosher for Passover. For example, you can substitute a little corn flour for wheat flour in your recipe – as long as it is not more than 25% of the total flour used.
  • I am also using (open) jam as filling for some of the cookies – we have strawberry, pomegranate and orange – and it is a great feeling to finish things before Passover.
  • If. you are worried about your dough being too sticky, reduce the wet ingredients – either cut back 1 egg or reduce the orange juice or other juice/water. In the recipe above I have substituted 1/3 orange juice and still needed to add a little additional flour.
  • If possible, refrigerate the dough after mixing for 1 – 2 hours. This will make it easier to roll the dough out, and should also cut down on the amount of flour needed to keep the dough from sticking. I have the dough in the refrigerator now while I clean up from the first step, write this, and get organized for the next step.
  • Be sure to divide the dough into 4 – 6 sections – returning the remainder to the refrigerator as you roll out each portion. This will make the rolling easier and keep the dough chilled as you are working.
  • When you roll out the dough it is also very helpful to use wax paper (or any baking paper you may have) to make it easier to get the dough to the desired thinness – approximately 1/8 inch.

These are just a few small hints that I hope may be helpful for the Hamentaschen-uninitiated. Let me know in the comments below if you have suggestions of your own, questions of concerns.

Here are my baked Hamentaschen here and would love to see yours!

Hamentashen 2023

Happy Purim!!


Training for Life(2) – Five Questions for Donna Goodwin Osher, Specialist Trainer

In 2022, I wrote here about my 2nd Middle Age fitness journey, and now I am writing again to share my recent discussion with Donna Goodwin Osher, Specialist Trainer. Donna works with both adults and young children. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

We are including photos of actual training sessions with Donna. This is what 62 looks like in my own 2nd Middle Age.

Susan: Why is fitness training so important in 2nd Middle Age?  

Donna: Of course fitness is important at every age. As we get older, physical training is very helpful to maintain mobility, improve balance and keep strong. Training helps to retain and increase bone density, which is very important for healthy aging. Core strength training is very important to stabilize and protect the spine, increase agility and make every day movements easier, as shown above.

“Staying active in 2nd Middle Age is important for physical, mental & emotional well-being.”

Donna Goodwin Osher, Specialist Trainer

Susan: How would you describe the benefits of Physical Training for people in 2nd Middle Age?

Donna: There are myriad benefits for 2nd Middle Age: enhancing energy levels, maintaining a healthy weight, and increasing social outlets. For example, I work with couples in their 60s and above. It is wonderful to see the ‘feel-good’ factor on their smiling faces.

Whether it is for an individual or a couple, physical training sessions mitigate health problems like arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and heart disease. Improving flexibility and balance helps to strengthen bones, and decrease risk of falls. We also know now that physical training benefits the brain, helping to retain mental clarity and memory.  And of course of this contributes to better quality of life at every age.

Susan: What do you recommend for people to get started in 2nd Middle Age?

Donna: Anyone can get started at any age – it is literally never too late. Go out for regular walks with your partner, with friends or on your own.

As the image above shows, you can use simple equipment like park benches for chest presses or squats. Have fun by joining a group session class, training 1:1, or with a partner to have fun together whilst reaping the mental and physical health benefits.

Susan: What do you think are the most important building blocks for fitness in 2nd Middle Age?

Donna: The most important thing is to just start where you are: walking, swimming, gentle hiking, gardening, walking a pet – all of these things are easy ways to get moving. If you are home-bound for any reason, you can also work with a trainer online. I routinely work with clients remotely.

Working out together as a couple has many proven benefits:

  • combining exercises that you do together,
  • holding hands whilst squatting,
  • chair exercises where you share a ball/ band and alternate exercises together,
  • singing along to some of your favorite music,
  • being motivated to do something shared and together,
  • having a great motivating personal trainer,
  • keeping to a routine and weekly structure together, motivating each other, and
  • enjoying each others company.

Susan: Can you share a little more about your own fitness journey?

Donna: My fitness journey started in the early 90’s in Los Angeles, CA, where I experienced many sides of the fitness craze – from Jane Fonda workouts to body builders working out at Muscle Beach, Venice. I attended crazy populated group hip-hop classes of 150+ people of all ages, and saw rollerbladers from young kids to 90+ year olds skating along Venice Beach and having the time of their lives, whilst keeping fit, healthy and in shape!

I also witnessed the flip side where portion sizes in restaurants in the USA were colossal! Free soda refill, as much as you like on tap, and  children’s ’staple’ diet was fast food, unlimited soda, and huge children’s portion sizes too!

This was the point at which I chose this profession to get qualified as a group instructor and personal trainer, as I wanted to be a part of peoples’ lives to help them reach their fitness and healthy lifestyle goals.

The rest they say is history…and 30 years later, I am still as passionate about it now as I was way back then to help both adults and young children to be physically active, strong, and fit, by motivating, mentoring and educating people and most of all, to have FUN whilst reaping all the health related benefits.

Most recently I have launched my first endorsed training course Zeros 2 Heroes, to train early years practitioners, kids activity trainers and PT’s in physical development of babies to 2 years old with the main focus of babies being ‘Active from Birth’ and postnatal mothers to ease back into a physical active lifestyle combined with her baby.

“The first 2 years of life are crucial for health brain development and motor skill movement.” 

Donna Goodwin Osher

I strongly believe that anyone, any age, young, old, all abilities and those with challenges, can lead a healthy, active lifestyle. The ‘proof in the pudding’ is that I still train clients from 3 moths old – 96 years young! And it’s never too late to start. 

On a personal level, in my early 20s I experienced a life-threatening, life-altering illness. From that time to the present, fitness training has been my top priority and a life-saver for my own physical and mental health. Moving the body everyday is something that has always brought me back from whatever traumas and diagnoses I have had to face over the years. Some days are debilitating, and yet the necessity to move my body always brings me back to myself. I encourage all my clients to do the same, to feel and reap the positive benefits from physical exercise. 

I am ACE and NVQ certified with several diplomas in teaching, training and child physical development, Cimspa endorsed and specialist trainer for Pediatric Hypermobility. 

For more information contact Donna at donna@yippeeyoo.com

Whatsapp: +972 52 958 9904 


Your 2023 Microbiome Diet Resolution

The New Year is here and so are all the crazy, restricted 30-day diets promising miraculous weight loss and a return to youth.

Mixed Green Salad with cubed tofu – rich in Prebiotics

While the details vary, these New Year’s resolutions diets have one thing in common: they all prey on our very human desire to look and feel our best at every age.

Of course we all know in our hearts that restrictive diets are not sustainable or healthy. These crash diets crash and burn every time. And unintended side effects include potential for long term damage to metabolism, resulting in – you guessed it – additional weight gain. Still there is something about the New Year that brings out the magical thinking, that convinces is that this time will be different.

2023 can be different – and much better – with the Microbiome Diet Resolution.

I started to explore the benefits of a Microbiome Diet* in earnest in 2017, and first wrote about it here: including the following ABCs:

A – Add Naturally Occurring Probiotics: fermented foods.
Popular Probiotic foods include: unsweetened Kefir/Yogurt /Leben or other fermented dairy products, Sourdough breads, Miso, Kombucho, Kimchi, and Tempeh, among others

B – Boost Consumption of Prebiotics: fiber-rich whole fruits and vegetables, whole grain products and complex carbohydrates

C – Curtail Processed Foods: these include foods with fillers, colors, added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, and/or artificial sweeteners, and other simple, low-fiber (refined) carbohydrates. This is all the stuff you already know is not good for you.

Unlike a highly restrictive diet that shortchanges your body and your brain, adoption of the Microbiome Diet represents a mind-shift for holistic health, promoting your long term well-being.

We all know that the changes that really stick are not the sudden big attempts to change everything at once. Instead it is best to focus on one thing at a time, to really solidify the adjustment to your daily routine, and then to add the next building block.

I am here to set you up for success. All of the recipes on I post here at 2ndMiddleAge.blog are Microbiome friendly, including salads, soups, entrees and desserts. Many are vegetarian, vegan and/or Gluten Free (GF).

The first step: make an honest inventory of what you eat on average, ie your daily / weekly diet. This is because we all want to turn the page, however we have to read it first. In other words, it important to be honest with ourselves of the strengths and weaknesses at the outset.

My messy Microbiome-friendly fridge – what’s in your refrigerator?

Then we can move on to the ABCs of the Microbiome Diet, taking care not to overload the system. Unlike crash diets I am not telling you to throw out everything in your pantry and to buy expensive supplements or exotic foods. Quite the opposite; the most successful and sustainable healthy diet is built methodically and slowly, one step at a time. You will start to feel better and to see results in the first week or two, however meaningful change takes time.

For the next step on your Microbiome Diet journey, the A is to add Probiotics (fermented foods): like yogurt, kombucha, sourdough bread, etc., that you already like, and make a concerted effort to include them in your daily diet. Including probiotics help to support a healthy gut and also brings interesting flavors and textures into your life.

Kimchi – one of my fave fermented foods!

Once you have incorporated Probiotics into your diet, the B is to Boost Prebiotic foods – whole grains, legumes and complex carbohydrates. Unlike crash diets, including whole grains, legumes and other complex carbohydrates will actually help you to feel full longer and to lose weight gradually, safely and without long term negative effects.

All of these everyday fruits and vegetables are a healthy, delicious part of your Microbiome Diet

After you have successfully introduced Probiotics and Prebiotics into your daily routine, the C stands for Curtailing processed foods. This last Microbiome Diet building block actually should be much easier after you are already enjoying more variety in terms of fermented foods, whole grains, legumes and other complex carbohydrates. Because you are adding so many delicious, healthy things, you may also crave fewer processed foods.

Taking up the Microbiome Diet in stages instead of all at once, leads to meaningful, sustainable improvements in your nutritional footprint, and gradual, longterm weight stabilization and even possible weight loss over time.

The New Year is the perfect time make these gradual, sustainable changes incorporating elements of the Microbiome Diet in a way that works for you.

So are you ready for your 2023 Microbiome Resolution?

*If you have special dietary needs please first check with your doctor, dietitian or nutritionist before starting this or any new diet.


Easy Tofu Tips + Everyday Tofu Recipe

If you are happy to enjoy tofu in your favorite Asian restaurant but remain mystified about what tofu to buy in the supermarket and how to prepare it at home, I am writing this for you.

If you have wistfully picked up a box of fresh tofu in the supermarket only to put it down again because it would “just sit in your refrigerator,” this is for you.

And if you think of Tofu as a blah, boring white block of protein, this is for you too.

While Tofu can be eaten safely without cooking – it should have a clean, fresh mild soy flavor – like other forms of protein, tofu benefits from seasoning or marinating. And as you may already be sick of hearing, tofu can be used in place of dairy as in (Vegan) Soy Sour Cream, and stand in for animal protein in cold dishes like Crunchy Tofu Salad. It is also tasty and convenient and in hot lunches/dinners as in the recipe for Everyday Tofu (below).

First, some brief background on buying and storing tofu.

In the main, there are two the different kinds of tofu: Fresh Tofu generally sold submerged in water and Long-Life Silken Tofu sold in sealed, aseptic packaging.

Fresh tofu – Firm to Extra Firm – is best for most uses. We are blessed in Zichron Yaakov to live in close proximity to the best fresh tofu in Israel, made and sold by Tofu An in nearby Binyamina, Israel. Tofu An is a Japanese, vegan restaurant specializing in tofu. Everything on the menu includes tofu in one incarnation or another, and based on our empirical experience it is all remarkably delicious. (The great danger of lunch at Tofu An is overeating.)

Tofu An also sells their tofu for home use and we never leave without purchasing 1-2 kilos of amazing fresh tofu on the way out the door. The photo below is 1 kilo of fresh Tofu A tofu (weighed before packaging and then sold in water); each serving of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of firm Tofu provides 17 grams of protein.

Returning home, I just stick the sealed bag of tofu in the refrigerator.

After I open the back to use some of the tofu, I shift the remainder into a storage container, taking care to ensure that it is fully submerged in water before refrigeration. If I don’t finish the remainder in a day or two, I change the water.

Always cover your fresh tofu in water, change the water every few days to ensure freshness

I have a few special recipes that specifically call for Silken (Long Life) Tofu, and you can generally find it in your supermarket in the International or Asian food aisle, in small 12 ounce / 340 gram boxes that look like this:

Silken Tofu can be safely stored in your pantry – because it is packaged aseptically it does not require refrigeration before opening. My own preference is to use Silken Tofu for desserts and of course for Vegan Sour Cream. The red box above is Soft; Mori-Nu packages their Firm Silken Tofu in a blue box, so it is easy to tell them apart. Also because the boxes are smaller (12 ounces or 340 grams) I usually use the full box for a single recipe.

So as you can see, you don’t actually need to know very much to get started cooking tofu at home. The main thing is to take a deep breath and bring some tofu home with you to experiment!

The rewards are manifold. Here is one easy recipe for basic cooked tofu that can be eaten with rice or pasta:

Everyday Tofu


1 pound firm tofu

One medium onion

One clove garlic

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil for cooking (I like Sunflower Oil)

1 large to two small carrots

1 T soy sauce or tamari/shoyu sauce


1.  Drain the tofu by placing on a slanted board, or on a board in the sink with a weight (heavy pot or measuring cup) on top of it.  Leave the tofu to drain while you prepare the vegetables.

2.  Chop the onion coarsely, into pieces of about 1 inch in size.  Peel and dice the carrots.  

3. In a wok or sauté pan large enough to hold all of the Ingredients, add approximately 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil.  When the oil is hot (medium low heat), add the onions and carrots to the pan.  Crush the garlic with a garlic press into the vegetables in the pan. 

3.  Wipe remaining water from the tofu with a paper towel, and dice the tofu into small triangles or squares, of about 1 – 2 inches in length.  Add the tofu to the cooking vegetables, stirring to mix well.

4.  Continue to cook on medium low heat until the tofu is browned on all sides, then stir in soy sauce and remove from heat.

Serve with rice and a green salad.  This is an easy, healthy meal for children, as it can be prepared ahead and reheated.

I have been making this recipe literally for decades – it is pretty much idiot-proof. My own kids always loved it; even the pickiest of eaters seem to enjoy Everyday Tofu with rice.

As an alternative, you can also stir in 4 cups of cooked rice at the end of cooking to make easy fried rice, and of course you can add other vegetables like sliced shiitake or other mushrooms, ginger slices, 1 or more red chillies (to taste), broccoli, red peppers or other vegetables that you may have on hand.

Today’s Tofu Fried Rice with shiitake mushroom and broccoli

Bon Appétit!


Basil Cloning for Late Bloomers

Here in Zichron Yaakov the days are cooler and we have had a little overnight rain. It is still mostly sunny with a pleasant breeze – this is what passes for fall in Israel’s Carmel Coastal Plain – warm days and cool evenings. My basil plants are a bit “leggy,” presaging the end of fresh basil season. This has been my experience over the years and I had no idea that there was any alternative.

Imagine my surprise to learn that it is possible to rejuvenate basil plants through cloning on my kitchen counter.

With no prior experience, I came upon cloning by accident: A few weeks ago when I collected some fresh basil for cooking, I found that I had several nice sprigs leftover. I stuck the extra basil in a glass with water and promptly forgot about them. Over the course of the next week, I used an occasional leaf. Then the next time that I checked, I was surprised to see the start of a new root system and additional leaf growth. After a few more weeks I planted the expanded sprigs with root systems, and they have taken off.

For those who care about the details, cloning is asexual reproduction, creating a clone or copy of the earlier plant from which a sprig is taken, without use of seeds. They would look even better if I were to cut off the top to help them branch out, however you can really see the difference between the new clones and the donor plants.

Two basil clones
My “Leggy” Basil

Cloning duplicates plants; in my experience my cloned basil plants appear stronger, with larger and more attractive leaves than those of the “donor” plant. Above is an example of an existing basil plant at the end of the summer – leggy, with small leaves.

This is the time of year where basil also tends to flower and go to seed. For effective cloning, it is important to select a small sprig that is not flowering, like the one below.

Leggy basil with a nice blossoming sprig suitable for cloning.

Unlike growing basil from seeds / seedlings, apparently you can grow basil from clones at any time of year.

(Over the years I have found growing basil from seed a bit onerous – it takes a long time and can be disappointing. My usual routine is to start with seeds in the spring, and usually end up also planting seedlings over a period of weeks or months. Actually I find that when I finally go out and get the seedlings, then the seeds I planted seem to do a bit better and I end up with both.)

After my first experience, I decided to do it again. Above are photos of my second cloning experiment – two additional sprigs taken from the old basil plants that have grown well and now also are in their own pot.

With cloning, you don’t have to be an avid gardener to enjoy fresh basil at any time of the year. Even if you don’t have space for a container garden, it should be possible to grow your own basil plant from a sprig taken from store-bought basil.

Later I found a wealth of online resources relating to cloning plants – obviously I am late to the party. Here is a link for those who want more on the science of plant cloning.

It has been a lot of fun for me to learn a little bit about cloning. So here I am in 2nd Middle Age with decades of gardening experience and also still a novice. How great is that?

I am sharing this for other “late bloomers” like me who may find the information helpful. Wherever you are reading this – whether the weather may be cold and damp, or warm and sunny – I hope that you also may enjoy a small pot of basil on your windowsill, balcony, patio.

Literally all you need is a few sunny spot (a few square inches) that is not too cold, a glass of water and a sprig of basil. And for anyone with children at home, it is a fun small science experiment – a great way to show how plants can reproduce without seeds / seedlings. Please let me know If you try this at home.

I would love to post photos of your basil clones!

All of my basil clones – so far!

Training for Life

As we move forward, we realize that the things that have worked before either may not be appropriate or may not be enough at every stage of life. Following graduation from the University of Michigan Law School I moved to Chicago and jogged along Lake Michigan, dreaming of training for a Marathon. I had no idea what adventures lay ahead.

These days my life is here in Zichron Yaacov, a town founded 140 years ago and nestled between the Carmel mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea.

Israel’s largest botanic garden Ramat HaNadiv is only a few minutes away, and is surrounded by a protected area left largely in its natural state – including significant archaeological sites with their explanations posted for visitors. Two to three mornings a week I go there with a friend to walk in nature.

When we moved back from Jerusalem in February of 2021, I started walking by myself in the early am hours in Zichron Ya’akov both as a way to explore the neighborhood (where we were house-hunting)as well as to get back into shape – to lose the weight I had gained during COVID lockdowns. Even in the middle of town I found stunning views.

Within a few months my friend had joined me and we began our habit of walking at Ramat HaNadiv. The walking has been great for body and soul, however we realize that it is not enough.

Now at the advanced age of 62 and a half, I know that I am training to walk to the bathroom in my 80s and beyond. That is the real Marathon.

Walking / hiking promotes cardiovascular health, and yoga can be great for balance, flexibility and mindfulness. For many years I had an established yoga practice at Unity Woods, in Bethesda MD – by far the best studio I have ever found for Iyengar Yoga. After Aliyah in October 2018, I participated with my son in a local therapeutic yoga program from stellar teacher and dear friend Maya Saxton. Then after our move to Jerusalem I connected with another excellent Iyengar studio, however with all of the COVID displacement I lost the thread. Now I am renewing my practice here with a Vijnana yoga – a wonderful branch of yoga developed by Orit Sen Gupta that I learned about during an all too brief Jerusalem sabbatical in 2012.

Particularly during 2nd Middle Age, the missing piece of the puzzle for me has been strength training, and so at the beginning of September I started a weight training program – with light weights – to strength my core and upper body. Four weeks in, I am happy with initial progress and encouraged to continue weight training as an important part of my fitness program.

Still walking may always my most most accessible, familiar and – thanks to my good friend – social fitness habit. Earlier this week following the Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year) holiday, we decided to head to the Nachsholim beach for our early am walk, ending with our shoes off in the surf. It was an amazing experience and reminded me yet again that I have only begun to scratch the surface of the beauty around me.

That is the other enduring challenge – to truly appreciate the beauty along the way.


UPDATED – Vegan Chocolate Matzah Bark

This year I have been experimenting with Matzah Bark, making smaller batches and adding sea salt, coconut, and pumpkin seeds for a granola effect, with a dash of sea salt to add a crunchy, salty taste.

Chocolate Matzah Bark with Sea Salt

Almost all of my recipes are variations on a theme and this is true especially for my Passover recipes. As our needs and preferences evolve, so too do our recipes and this is no exception. This variation is both vegan and a bit healthier at the margin – swapping out the butter for almond butter and cutting the sugar in half with the addition of Date Syrup (Silan). Still a little goes a long way. This is essentially candy for dessert; not meant to be eaten in large quantities.

Vegan Chocolate Bark with Pecans and Almonds

There are many versions of Passover (Matzah) Chocolate Bark – most of them dairy – and you may be familiar with one called by another name. Shakespeare wrote that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Whatever you call yours, it should taste as sweet!

Granola Chocolate Matzah Bark (pecans, coconut & pumpkin seeds)


For the Vegan Caramel you will need the following:

1 cup almond butter

1/2 cup date syrup (Silan)

1/2 cup coconut sugar (can substitute brown sugar)

1/4 cup water

1/4 tsp sea salt 

1 tsp vanilla

Additional ingredients are:

5 Matzot

12 oz semisweet / bittersweet chocolate 

Optional: 1.5 cups chopped almonds, pecans or walnutsor, toasted pumpkin seeds, shredded coconut and sea salt

Vegan Chocolate Bark without Nuts


  1. To make the caramel mix the almond butter, date syrup(Silan), Coconut Sugar, and Water and bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring constantly.  Continue to cook until it reaches the desired consistency (10-15 minutes) and then stir in salt and vanilla.  Remove from heat.
  2. Cover 2-3 cookie sheets with baking paper or aluminum foil, shiny side down. Lay the Matzot on the cookie sheets, side by side without overlapping.
  3. Spread the caramel over the Mazot.
  4. Melt the chocolate chips and spread over the Caramel sauce.
  5. Sprinkle chopped nuts or coconut shreds on the chocolate (optional) 
  6. Place in freezer until firm, approximately 1 hour. 



My Dad’s 3rd Yartzheit

Murray G. Kling, MD (February 1, 1930 – November 3, 2019)

Today is my Dad’s 3rd Yartzeit – the anniversary of his passing in the Jewish calendar. Every faith has its own way of remembering our loved ones; in my 2nd Middle Age I am finding enormous comfort in Jewish traditions. In the days leading up to my Dad’s Yartzheit, I thought a great deal about the funeral in 2019, and my thoughts at that time. I crystalized my thoughts and feelings to share with my Shul (synagogue) here in Zichron Yaakov as follows:

Dr Murray G Kling (1 February 1930 – 3 November 2019) was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather; uncle, mentor, doctor, teacher and friend. He was a lifelong caregiver who never took a day off from hospital rounds – checked on every patient he knew who happened to be in the hospital. (I grew up thinking every doctor did that.) He was a doctor’s doctor – a gifted surgeon who had a healthy fear of surgery (and anesthesia), a life-long educator and student who learned from everyone, and who never lost his concern for others. His last mission was care of my Mom following her Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and he dedicated himself to her fullest recovery, which was miraculous. 

Dad’s 3rd Yartzeit this year falls started the evening of Saturday (Shabbat) the 29th – always the night before). Today I am missing my Dad enormously – despite his professional responsibilities and extended family obligations he was there for me at key moments in my professional and personal life (selected photos below).

In the Jewish tradition, the different Parshas of the Five Books of Moses (known as the Chumash – the contraction of the Ḥamishah Ḥumshei Torah) are all named for the first word or major theme in the chapter. Yesterday (Shabbat) we read the story of Noah, which ends with the summary of genealogy of Abraham’s father Terach. Then in the evening we started the next chapter in the story of the Jewish people, known as Lech Lecha – Go forth!

One very interesting thing about the construction and structure of the Chumash is the prevalence of cliff-hangers. Noah’s story starts at the conclusion of the previous Parsha, Bereishit – the story of creation (Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and their progeny). And the story of the pilgrimage of Abraham and Sarah – the OG Jewish Patriarch and Matriarch – begins at the end of Parsha Noah.

So there is frequently a connection or a relationship between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next.

For many years I have closely associated both of these chapters (Parshas in the Jewish vernacular) with my Dad. So experiencing my Dad’s 3rd Yartzeit in connection with both Noah and Lech Lecha was particularly meaningful for me.

In Lech Lecha, we begin the story of the first Jewish Patriarch and Matriarch, Avraham and Sarah, which is also the beginning of the story of the Jewish people.  G-d speaks to (then) Avram at the age of 75 and delivers two seemingly contradictory messages:

  • Avram is told to leave his country, his kin and specifically his father’s house (literally, Beit Aviecha);
  • Avram will become a great people, with great wealth, vast fame, and blessed by G-d.
1And the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. אוַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ:
2And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and [you shall] be a blessing. בוְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַֽאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַֽאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶֽהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה:
3And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you.” גוַֽאֲבָֽרְכָה֙ מְבָ֣רֲכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָֽאֲדָמָֽה:
4And Abram went, as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him, and Abram was seventy five years old when he left Haran. דוַיֵּ֣לֶךְ אַבְרָ֗ם כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֤ר אֵלָיו֙ יְהֹוָ֔ה וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ אִתּ֖וֹ ל֑וֹט וְאַבְרָ֗ם בֶּן־חָמֵ֤שׁ שָׁנִים֙ וְשִׁבְעִ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה בְּצֵאת֖וֹ מֵֽחָרָֽן:
5And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls they had acquired in Haran, and they went to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan. הוַיִּקַּ֣ח אַבְרָם֩ אֶת־שָׂרַ֨י אִשְׁתּ֜וֹ וְאֶת־ל֣וֹט בֶּן־אָחִ֗יו וְאֶת־כָּל־רְכוּשָׁם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רָכָ֔שׁוּ וְאֶת־הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֣וּ בְחָ֑רָן וַיֵּֽצְא֗וּ לָלֶ֨כֶת֙ אַ֣רְצָה כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אַ֥רְצָה כְּנָֽעַן:

In Lech Lecha, we hear G-d instructing Abraham and Sarah to leave their land, their extended family, and their father’s house to reach the land where they were destined to found Judaism. Through study of Lech Lecha, we can see that in order to become who we are meant to be in G-d’s eyes, we need to move out of our own comfort zones, i.e. literally leaving home, and take on what may seem like daunting or impossible challenges in our lives.

This all seems to come as a bolt out of the blue, however if we go back to the end of Parsha Noah, we come to see that Abraham’s father Terah also received the same message, and had in fact started the journey:

31 And Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter in law, the wife of Abram his son, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees to go to the land of Canaan, and they came as far as Haran and settled there. לאוַיִּקַּ֨ח תֶּ֜רַח אֶת־אַבְרָ֣ם בְּנ֗וֹ וְאֶת־ל֤וֹט בֶּן־הָרָן֙ בֶּן־בְּנ֔וֹ וְאֵת֙ שָׂרַ֣י כַּלָּת֔וֹ אֵ֖שֶׁת אַבְרָ֣ם בְּנ֑וֹ וַיֵּֽצְא֨וּ אִתָּ֜ם מֵא֣וּר כַּשְׂדִּ֗ים לָלֶ֨כֶת֙ אַ֣רְצָה כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ עַד־חָרָ֖ן וַיֵּ֥שְׁבוּ שָֽׁם:
32And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran. לבוַיִּֽהְי֣וּ יְמֵי־תֶ֔רַח חָמֵ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים וּמָאתַ֣יִם שָׁנָ֑ה וַיָּ֥מָת תֶּ֖רַח בְּחָרָֽן:
Source: https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8175/jewish/Chapter-11.htm

So what do we make of the two stories taken together?

The lesson that I take from all of this is the recognition that even in our own journey and destiny it is not all about us.

Whatever our own talents and accomplishments we stand on the shoulders of giants, including our own parents. While we consider Abraham and Sarah the first Jewish Patriarch and Matriarch, in actuality it was Terah who first pulled up stakes and started the journey.

Before my father’s passing, I associated these two Parshas with him because of my literal continuation of his work relating to care of cancer patients, and my own interest in anti-cancer peptides from the microbiome with effectiveness against Gastrointestinal and Genitourinary solid tumors. (I may share my story of surprising synchronicity later.)

Over the last three years I have thought more about how my sister Nancy – who does the heavy-lifting in support of our mother – has continued Dad’s efforts.

Dad’s care of our Mom after her traumatic brain injury (TBI) was incredible, with miraculous results. He literally dedicated his life to ensuring her recovery in a way that was all-encompassing, inspiring and compelling. Now my sister (and me to a minor extent) is doing what he would have wanted, literally, to ensure her continuing health and safety. We have often talked of how she is carrying forward his mission to support Mom – the relationship that meant more to him than anything else in the world. This has required both of us to leave our comfort zones and take on daunting challenges.

There is no guarantee of success of course, however like Abraham and Sarah we carry on the journey. And of course we are who we are because of both Mom and Dad.

We may not reach the promised land, and we are not obligated to succeed, just to keep trying to move forward.


Parenting 360 – Take 4: Critical Importance of Medication Review

Medication organizer

My last parenting post centered on our adventures in supporting an adult son with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which have brought us from Washington DC to Israel where he has been able to live away from home in a supportive community for the first time. You can read more about our experiences here, here and here.

Today I am returning to the other side of the coin, the needs of our parents – or other older relatives – who may no longer be able to live independently and who need our support to maintain their quality of life and basic dignity. This is where we are in 2022, experiencing what I call “Parenting 360” in our 2nd Middle Age.

I have to start this out by mentioning how blessed I am to have an amazing “big sister” living nearby to my Mom in Metro Detroit, who faces every challenge with tenacity, and who serves as our Mom’s legal and medical representative. There are four Kling daughters, two living locally and the two youngest overseas. We are all very different; fortunately we are on the same page where it comes to our Mom.

Most of the time I feel like there is very little I can do to help my sister from 6,000 miles away. It is dispiriting when things seem to be going badly and I can’t be there more than a few times a year (and not at all for the first two years of COVID). Then there is the occasional situation that arises that reminds me that all of our efforts matter, as happened recently with regard to my Mom’s medications.

You may have heard over the years about how important it is to routinely review all medications and supplements to ensure that none are contraindicated and/or avoid drug-drug interactions or other possible adverse effects. This is generally important, and particularly critical for older people who may be taking a plethora of drugs and supplements daily, and for whom drugs may have different effects than in younger populations.

To make matters worse, very few clinical trials include elderly people, for the obvious reason that their health is generally more fragile and all medical research carries some level of risk. Essentially we mostly don’t really know what we don’t know about how commonly prescribed drugs effect elderly patients.

This may be the most important thing that I ever write: if you have a family member taking one or more regular medications, supplements and or vitamins, check them on a regular basis for potential adverse reactions and/or contraindications.

Even the right medications can suddenly go wrong. Some time back, my husband and I witnessed this with regard to his mother (z”l), who suffered a severe adverse reaction to a medication that had been helping her for quite some time. In that case the facility where she was living was excellent, and the doctor almost immediately came to understand what had happened and took corrective measures. Still it took several weeks for her to recover.

In the case of my Mom, there was no overnight crisis that made it obvious that something was obviously wrong with her medications. Her deteriorating physical and mental condition came about over a period of months; we were all assured that it was to be expected and would only get worse over time. More specifically, the Assisted Living doctor (not a gerontologist) asserted that our Mom’s dramatically worsening tremors, dizzy spells and falls, memory problems, increasing detachment, reduced speech, lack of mobility and general inability to be comfortable in her own body were part of an expected progression. This led my older sister, quite rationally, to believe that our mother was dying and so my youngest sister and I – both living overseas – rushed back to spend time with her.

The physician at her Assisted Living facility also assured me – by phone and directly to my face – that she was carefully checking Mom’s medications every two weeks and that she was sure Mom’s medications were appropriate for her condition. She was apparently unaware of the potentially serious and debilitating side effects of the drugs she was prescribing for our Mom.

Still with little to lose and a great deal of anxiety about our Mom’s continuing negative trajectory, I decided to dig deeper into her medications. I had seen first hand how even appropriately prescribed medications could result in adverse reactions.

This was not an easy process – just to get the list of neurological medications took much more time than it should have, and required “in your face” communications with the Assisted Living Facility that were not really welcome. I really just needed to know for sure what was going on with the medications and prevailed in the end to receive initially just the neurological – behavioral health – medication list, and later the full list of prescriptions and supplements.

In the process, I learned that our Mom – who has never had any significant diagnosed mental health problems – was taking a boat-load of neurological meds.

On reviewing the publicly available – credible – information from the drug manufacturers themselves and from reliable sources like the Mayo Clinic, etc., it was obvious to me that her worsening symptoms correlated eerily with the well-known side effects for the drugs.
And she was taking one drug every day that was contra-indicated for her, given her medical history of serious heart disease. It never should have been prescribed for her in the first place!

Based on this review it was clear that our Mom’s doc was unable to tell the difference between adverse events caused by medications and the progression of pre-existing conditions. We could not know for sure unless and until we changed her medications. And that is what we did.

Through a series of increasingly insistent emails and late-night (for me) teleconferences and one in-person meeting, over time we were able to eliminate two of the neurological medications from her schedule completely. It took several weeks more to start to see the impact on our Mom.

The results have been shockingly positive:

– Our Mom was always a big reader, so it had been painful to see her stuck in front of a television for much of her day. Now she is once again plowing through her New York Times bestsellers.

– She is no longer (uncharacteristically) passive and once again is able to advocate effectively for her own interests with the Assisted Living staff.

– She has gone from being almost 100% wheel chair dependent to being able to walk with the support of her walker.

– Her tremor is almost unnoticeable and she no longer feels unstable or dizzy most of the time.

– She is much more verbal and socially engaged at meals and activities.

– Talking on the phone with her had become so difficult that it was hard for me to pick up the phone and try – as important as I knew that it was – now she even calls me back if she misses my call.

Exceeding our wildest dreams, our mother now is so much more like our pre-COVID Mom again and I am so grateful to have her in better spirits as well as in improved health. It feels like we found a time machine back to 2019.

The general take-away is that while we are well aware versed in advocating for the best interests of our kids, sometimes it can be much harder to play that same role for parents. And yet there is no alternative, where medications are concerned and more broadly.

Reviewing medications on a regular basis is incredibly important.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing the necessary research yourself, ask a pharmacist, psychiatric nurse or physician. But get it done.


Parenting 360 – Take 3

For just a few moments I would like to set aside all of the COVID worry, the rule of law crisis swirling around Washington DC and everything else, to share a few positive thoughts about my son Aaron(27, ASD). This is a story of persistence and redemption, of nascent success that has even more resonance for having happened during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

In October 2018, we threw the cards in the air and relocated from Washington DC to Israel. At that time our goal was to find a program where Aaron could live and work independent of his parents (us), and where he could find personal fulfillment and growth. This seemed a tall order, and I am sure that many of our friends and relatives thought that we were crazy.

Fast forward 2 years and we have found a better way forward for Aaron here in Israel, where he is living at Kibbutz Heftziba, in the foothills of the Gilboa Mountain (images from his new home at a Beit Eckstein site above).

Aaron has benefited from a comprehensive network of supported living and meaningful employment/educational opportunities for individuals with special needs including ASD. We have found advanced therapies and approaches that have helped Aaron immeasurably in addressing his anxiety and improving his emotional bandwidth, focus, and development.

Aaron has regained his physical health, lost 50+ pounds, somehow gained over an inch in height, and even fell in love.

Of course nothing happens overnight, and development is never a straight line – there are zigs and zags and everything takes time, particularly when we had to learn a whole new system, in a different language, set up housekeeping (more than once), and also over the last year deal with a pandemic, lockdowns, etc. And no one has worked harder than Aaron to make progress.

Everything seems impossible until it is obvious.


Before we made out big move, my son Aaron and I traveled for a 3-week pilot trip to learn more about resources for young adults on the Autism Spectrum.  I will never forget our conversation immediately after arrival, in the car en route to close friends where we would spend our first few nights.  I said to Aaron that we were looking to find opportunities to make him the ‘best possible Aaron’ that he could be.  His response was that in the US, the programs were making him ‘the worst.’

Unfortunately Aaron was right. At this stage the U.S. does not offer a national roadmap for our young adults with special needs, with only limited funding and programming available on a state-by-state basis. For hundreds of thousands of families (probably an understatement), the end of high school is like falling off a cliff.  

Despite the active engagement of wonderful social workers in Washington DC who really cared about Aaron, we ended up pulling Aaron out of the system for his own physical and emotional safety. As Aaron’s stellar psychiatrist put it, Aaron needed ever-higher levels of behavioral meds just to keep his equilibrium in an environment that made no sense. This situation was unsustainable.

The lie that we tell ourselves is that our children with special needs don’t know what they are missing.  The reality is that too much of the time they know what they are missing and live in silent despair. (They already knew the misery of social and economic isolation before COVID.) I experienced my son’s heartbreak after high school graduation on the honor roll when he was able to articulate his feelings of ‘being left behind’ while his friends left for college and beyond.  He was a cheerleader for his sister’s college success but longed for a dorm room of his own.

Now he has his own small apartment (exterior shown above), at a wonderful Beit Eckstein program in the North of Israel near the Gilboa Mountains. He has started his dream job working at a therapeutic farm in Megiddo (aka Armageddon), together with his “Heftziba Capsule” of new friends. (Due to COVID-19, Israel’s programs operate on the Capsule model.)

Clearly what we came to Israel to find should be replicable in the U.S. I am sharing my ‘good news’ story in the hope that the incoming Biden Administration may initiate a meaningful national conversation on the needs of individuals with special needs on employment, broader inclusion and social engagement.  

As I learned years ago from Professor Reuven Feuerstein (z”l), the only limitation on learning is lifespan – not just for those with special needs but for all of us.


Meditations on Moving House, Finding Community, and the Existential Poverty of ‘Billionaires Bunker’

The U.S. Foreign Service taught me at two essential life skills:  how to pack a suitcase and move house.  As both a former Former Service Officer (FSO) and then a FSO Spouse  (fun fact: we started the other way round and switched midway), we have moved locally, cross-country and internationally – sometimes all three in the same year.  

After overseas tours together in London, Tel Aviv, and Manila, Phils, assignments to Main State in Washington DC and my husband’s solo Tour of Duty in Kabul, our latest moves have been in Israel.  In October 2018 I left Washington DC to set up a beachhead in the north of Israel.

After the turmoil of the previous few years Zichron Yaakov felt like a warm bath –  the best summer camp ever, only with amazing, fresh food and in wine country. We arrived with our trunks only to find our initial transit flat underwhelming due to misleading / incomplete disclosures. Enough said. So that was apartment number one.

After another month, I had found (and furnished) a better temporary apartment – we would move to Jerusalem for family reasons before too long – where we settled in happily and waited for my husband Matt to sell off our Washington DC home and furnishings, retire, and join us here. That was apartment number two.

Living in Jerusalem since June 2019, we have have again moved from our initial apartment – extra points for moving house in the midst of COVID-19?  We did stay for the duration of our one year lease, and that was the end of apartment number three.

Gardening in Old Katamon, Jerusalem, circa 2020

Last May we relocated within Jerusalem to a cozy Ottoman-era house in a highly walkable neighborhood called Old Katamon, renovated ten years back and now part of a small apartment building.  This garden apartment met our COVID-considerations including a large courtyard with space for our old deck furniture (the only big furniture that we shipped and have kept), gardening, and private parking. We have appreciated the high ceilings, many windows and French Doors for ventilation and most of all the outdoor space as COVID restrictions ebb and flow – we are now well into Israel’s third Coronavirus surge and impending restrictions.  So now we are comfortably ensconced in apartment number four.

Throughout our moves we have been blessed with old and new friends and opportunities for spiritual and social support.   Of course the Coronavirus has made it much more difficult to get to know our new neighbors here in Old Katamon. Even at the height of COVID-19, however, we found a new spiritual home literally around the corner in one of a myriad outdoor prayer groups that fill the gap left from closure of ‘bricks and mortar’ religious institutions. The heartbeat of Judaism is home observance; I have been impressed anew by how much can be done with the support of a WhatsApp Group and knowledgable neighbors. 

Gan visitors making like Monet painting tulips in our garden circa 2014, Washington DC

Now as we contemplate the future, I am reminded of the past.  More than twenty years ago we found a home where we could raise our children, cultivate our garden, and open our doors to our community, friends and family to share in our simchas (celebrations) and support us in our sadnesses – the stuff of life.  To find it we drew a circle on the map of northwest Washignton DC – marking a quarter-mile circle around our Synagogue and Gan (nursery school).  The house was not large by US standards and we never had more than one car.  We realize how fortunate we were to be truly a part of the fabric of our community. 

We are not yet at the point of finding our permanent home – I hope this will be sooner than later.  When that time comes we will not be looking for an isolated fortress on an island to separate us from friends and neighbors. I can’t imagine more of an impoverished existence than a gated mansion on Indian Creek Island.


Parenting 360 – Take 2

In your Second Middle Age you may need to ‘Parent-up’ – taking a role in care of both your own kids and your parents.  This is what Parenting 360 is all about.

There is a truism that everyone experiences special needs at some point in life.  For the truly fortunate, this comes with advanced age, and with the support of one’s own adult children or other loved ones.  Many of us may experience special needs through our own children and/or loved ones.

As the primary care-giver for an adult son with special needs, I have had the opportunity to learn over the last 25+ years that life can be very rich in love and in special experiences, so long as we live in reality and not in our dreams.* In Second Middle Age this reality only becomes more prevalent and more intense as we add our own mother and/or father to the mix.

Parenting-up may include supporting a healthy diet; basic – yes, important – also yes.

When our children were young – with or without special needs, for the most part we had the luxury of not worrying about the day to day lives of our parents.  Now as we ourselves enter our Second Middle Age, in many cases our special needs children need us now more than ever, with less or a roadmap to successful parenting.*  If we are lucky, we find ourselves playing the role of parent to our own mothers and fathers.

As hard as it may be to fight the good fight every day for your special needs child as he or she navigates early adulthood and beyond, it is a fundamentally different challenge to address the evolving needs of your aging parent(s).

In other words, at the same time that you may be struggling with how to support your child (or children) to gain greater independence, you come to terms with the reality that your mother and/or father is no longer able to live independently.

Generally speaking, no one wants to usurp the autonomy or authority of their Mom or Dad.  It does not feel right or good.  It is also generally an unwelcome intrusion on your parent(s), who may not recognize or accept diminishing capacity to manage day to day challenges of life.  

There are a number of ways to provide needed support, depending on the circumstances, and the important thing is to lean in and not to assume that everything is ok, just because your mom or dad says so.

Time is not on your side.  You can take the approach of waiting for an ‘action forcing event’ like a fall at home or an illness requiring hospitalization.  In my experience, this is a terrifying option and one I can not recommend.  The sad reality is that a parent who insists on living without assistance for too long will ultimately lose more of the independence that he or she was desperate to keep.

A better alternative is the truth, stated through repeated, gentle discussion, to the effect that you love your parent and that you seek to preserve the most meaningful forms of independence for as long as possible, in a safe and secure environment. 

One of the hardest, and yet most important things you may ever do, is simply to recognize at a certain point it is time to ‘take the wheel.’

The bottom line:   Parenting 360 is both a challenge and an opportunity.  If you get the opportunity to parent-up, that means that one or more of your parents is still in this world and that is a good thing.

* We are accustomed to our children needing our help; in some cases in fact we run the risk of becoming an obstacle to progress, doing too much and expecting too little.  At other times we withdraw support too soon or we may rely at our own peril on medical/other experts who in fact have no idea what they are doing.


Your 2nd Middle Age: What are you doing for the next 20+ years of your life?

Do you remember that one kid in school who seemed preternaturally grown up, like a middle-aged adult? While life does not start in the middle for most of us, many people see their Middle Age years in retrospect as their most productive stage of life.

This Middle Age is generally defined as the years between 35 and 58, years that may be consumed by a range of important life challenges and opportunities. Our middle years may be important to us for many reasons, including relationship building, raising a family, spiritual growth, career development and/or financial success.  

Moreover, throughout the 20th century, people had limited expectations for life after Middle Age, perceived as a gateway to old age.  If life is a puzzle to be worked out, most people expected the pieces to be in place by the end of their 5th decade.

With the combination of life extension through emerging biotechnologies and rejection of societal expectations, your 1st Middle Age may be the prelude to a healthy, wealthy and wise 2nd Middle Age. 

Your 2nd Middle Age: take
a fresh look at the puzzle that is your life.

Now as we start 2020, we can take remake the puzzle, so to speak, and look beyond what I would now call the 1st Middle Age;  many people may have a robust 2nd Middle Age ahead of them, running from approximately the age of 58 – 80.

As I approach my own 59th birthday, I am thinking more about my 2nd Middle Age, and how to leverage what I have learned in my 1st Middle Age to enrich the decades ahead. My valued friend and colleague Dr. Ganzalo Laje and I hope to use this blog to explore some of the key issues relating to the 2nd Middle Age, including topics like:

– Microbiome Diet: Renewing the body’s ability to fight off pathogens for better health

– Parenting 360: Taking on the challenge of parenting our own our parents (as well as our Special Needs kids) 

– Alone Together: Successful singles & Couples Adjusting to the Empty Nest

– Benefits of Shaking it Up: Throwing the cards in the air for renewed joy and sense of purpose 

– Moving your Body: Maintaining / regaining flexibility, balance, strength and broader health benefits through movement

– After the Diet: Following the middle path for sustainable health

– Looking Within: Capturing Meaning through spirituality, meditation, contemplation or other practices to promote mindfulness and avoid rumination.

We hope you will join us on our journey to explore 2nd Middle Age, and that you will share your own, thoughts, experiences, hopes and dreams for this important period of life. The best is yet to come!

Busy-Beexwax Peppermint Lip-Balm

Over the last few years I have shared some of our (ongoing) adventures in Autism here, here and here. Whether it is a side effect of medications or just one more area of persistent discomfort associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), our son has had a hard time with chapped lips (and other skin issues in the past). I have also seen this with other individuals suffering from ASD over the years.

Whatever the cause, it was a never-ending issue and for years we relied on commercial lip balms. Because of his level of consumption, I began to worry about all the of the chemicals and additives commonly used in commercial manufacture of lip balm. So some years back I looked online and found a number of helpful sites with recipes and instructions for making lip balm at home. I also learned that would making a healthier and safer lip balm at home would be quite economical – costing pennies per container.

I started making our lip balm and never looked back.

Being a bit of a perfectionist I have also made a small label that lists the 5 ingredients and includes a small bee logo. All totally unnecessary of course – this is not a commercial product, just something we like to use and give to friends and relatives. Yesterday we ran out of our stock of Busy Beeswax Peppermint Lip Balm, so this afternoon I have made another batch.

In case this may be of interest to anyone else I am including here a standard lip balm recipe and instructions.


2 heaping T Beeswax 

2 T Coconut Oil (solid state) 

1 T Almond or Sunflower/Safflower Oil

15 Drops Peppermint Essential Oil

1 t Vitamin E oil (I use 45,000 IU – max concentration. 

You also need small containers for the lip balm  (though Matt suggests making one big one).  


Bring water to a simmer in a pot large enough to hold a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup; Add the Beeswax, Coconut Oil and Almond or Sunflower oil to the measuring cup and place it in the simmering water.  

When the Beeswax and Coconut Oil have melted, remove the measuring cup and add remaining ingredients, then pour the lip balm into containers while it is still liquid.  

(If it starts to cool too much you can put the measuring cup back into simmering water for a moment or two to bring it back to liquid form.)

The bottom line: As always we face a number of challenges lacking easy solutions – life with or without ASD is never a straight line. Making lip balm at home has at least resolved the issue of persistent chapped lips, in a healthier, and more affordable way. This is an amazing, affordable lip balm with wholesome ingredients, the best I have ever used at any price point.

It always make me feel good when I can do something, however small, to make our lives better.

(Now back to cooking for the last night of Passover.)

UPDATE – Kosher L’Pesach Granola with Buckwheat

Passover Granola with Buckwheat

This year – at least so far – I have been unable to find the quinoa flakes that were so helpful last year for my Passover Granola. So what’s a gal to do?!

After asking at both of the likely stores nearby (there is one more a bit further away to check), I woke up early this morning determined to find a solution, which appeared in the form of Buckwheat Penne pasta.

Of course I had to cook it first – al denté – and then I cut the pasta into little rings and toasted it in the pan just like I would do if it were (the customary) oatmeal. Then I stirred in the usual ingredients in turn, and hoped for the best.

My husband – and number one granola fan – was brave enough to try it and pronounced it delicious. (Whew.) The bottom line is that if you can find quinoa flakes, go for it. Otherwise you can substitute any Kosher L’Passover (KLP) small pasta shape.

Let me know how it goes!!

One More Granola Before Pesach….

It’s almost time to switch from making conventional granola with rolled oats to quinoa for Pesach.

This week I am starting to see the early posts of baking, meal plans and questions about Passover recipes.

Now that I have replenished our granola supply one more tome, I will also be focusing on Passover!

Mushroom Barley Soup

A close friend has requested my recipe for Mushroom Barley Soup – the ultimate compliment – so I am sharing it here. After several weeks of beautiful weather with balmy temperatures we are back to wind and rain here in the north of Israel and so a perfect day to make another hardy, winter soup!

To get started, it is very helpful to presoak 1 cup of barley in a measuring cup with 1 cup of water – essentially double the amount of barley. This is not an essential step, however it will speed up the cooking of the barley. (Another option if you are short on time is to microwave the barley and water for 1 – 2 minutes.)


1 T vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil, and then add a small amount of olive oil for more flavor)

1 medium onion or leek (white parts), chopped

1 bay leaf

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 medium carrots, diced

2-3 celery stalks, diced (including leaves – if the celery root is attached, so much the better)

1 package of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

Optional: 1 cup green cabbage, julienned and chopped, medium zucchini, grated

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups chickpeas, cooked, including their cooking liquid

1 cup barley, pre-soaked 1 hour

6 – 8 Cups of vegetable stock or water or vegetarian soup stock.

1 tsp. salt, pepper to taste


1.  Heat the vegetable oil over low heat in a pot large enough to hold all the Ingredients.  Add chopped onion or leek and sauté for five minutes with the cover on over low heat, until the onions or leek slices are translucent and begin to brown.  Add the garlic, sauté for a few minutes, and then stir in celery, carrots, mushrooms (and optional vegetables).  The more different kinds of vegetables that you add, the better the soup will be. Let cook ten minutes (add a few tablespoons of water if the pot starts to get dry), and add parsley, chick peas and cooking liquid.

2.  Stir, and add stock or water.  Raise heat, and bring the soup to a boil.  Then, lower heat and add the barley, simmering at least one hour, with the top on the pot, but open a crack.  

3. Taste and cook longer if the flavor is not strong enough yet.  Add salt and pepper just before serving.  

What is your favorite winter weather soup? Tell me what you like – or what you would like me to share – in the comments below.

A quick note on Celery Root: Celery Root is a wonderful addition to soups – all you have to do is clean and trim the root, then julienne the root and add it together with the celery stalk and leaves. You may find celery with the root attached; other times you can buy the celery root separately.

Cleaned, trimmed celery with the root attached

Getting to No: Thinking (a bit) like a Cat

I am a big believer in the idea that life provides repeated opportunities to learn – and relearn – the same lesson over and over again until it really sticks. On my side, I have a tendency to agree to what other people want, before really thinking through whether it is what I want to do.

One of the most important lessons that I am trying to bring into my day life in 2nd Middle Age is the right to say “no.” As a colleague reminded me the other day, “No” is one of the most important words in our vocabulary, and we should not be afraid to use it.

This can be a genuinely painful process – it is so hard for me to disappoint others and it has been drilled into my head over such a long time that it the most important thing is to get to “Yes.” I realize now that this is just not true, at least not for me, and not at this stage in my life.

So now I am trying to be just a little bit like a cat. When is the last time you saw a cat (willingly) undertake to do something that it doesn’t want to do?

What does she know that I don’t?

Of course in 2nd Middle Age we remain responsible adults (assuming we were already there to begin with) – presumably with family or other responsibilities our lives.

Still, to the extent that your external obligations, health and financial well-being allow, this is a great time to just say no, to focus on the people and activities that are important to you, that add value to your days.

Is this as hard for you as it is for me?

Here are some of the questions I am trying to think about when I start to feel uncomfortable with commitments that I may have taken on without really thinking through whether they are something that I want in my life:

– What is the difference between leaving your comfort zone (potentially rewarding) and agreeing to do something that is just not a good fit for you?

– Whatever it is, the opportunity may be really, really important, but does that mean that it is essential for you to be part of it? (No, not really.)

– Even if, all things being equal, if the project is very important generally speaking and also important to you, is the project being led by the right people? (Pay attention go ANY red flags or feelings of discomfort.)

– When is saying no to an obligation critical to say yes to something – or someone – more important to you?

– How do you make space in your life for the next big thing or even just little things that are important to you?

We all know that much of what we are able to accomplish in life depends on what we don’t do as much as what we do – the choices we make every day determines how we spend our days.

Sometimes the right answer is “no.”

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