Orchid you not!

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I am a relative newcomer to orchid fandom.  For most of my life I felt that orchids fell into the category of “things that grandmas like” and that they were next to impossible to keep and care for.  Then I was given an orchid or two, and I fell in love with the longevity of the blooms and the beauty of the plants as well as the flowers. 

I, by no means, consider myself an orchid expert at this point – rather a novice with aspirations for orchid greatness at some point (probably when I am, in fact, a grandma). That being said, there are a few things that I have learned about orchids that I feel compelled to share.  So here  are eight tips for orchid care that I wish I had known years ago:

  1. Don’t be afraid!:  For many people, myself included, orchids at first seem intimidating and overwhelming.  I found myself wracked with anxiety about how to care for these plants that have a reputation for being finicky and difficult.  How often and how much do I water?  What kind of light do they need?  What bedtime stories should i read them?  In response to these and many other questions I turned, of course, to my mother, who over the years has managed to successfully care for dozens of orchids.  In fact, she runs an orchid orphanage of sorts, growing and caring for orchids that she has been given, that she has bought, and even some that she has found on the streets of London, tossed in the rubbish bin by the bus stop.  Her advice: “don’t be afraid.  The very worst that can happen – you can enjoy the forced blooms that made you buy the orchids in the first place and then you kill it.  Your anxiety about the plant isn’t helping you or the plant, so just stop it.”  Point taken.
  2. Pick your orchid wisely: The choice that you make when you initially purchase an orchid is critical to your long-term success in having it flourish and re-bloom for you later on.  A wonderful woman at my work who is the most amazing, self-taught flower arranger gave me this advice:
    • Look for a plant with bright green leaves – they should be thick and full and a healthy bright color.
    • Look for a plant with lots of bright green roots.  take the orchid plant out of the decorative pot that it is in in the shop and look through the plastic inner pot. how do those roots look?  do they look thick, firm and healthy?  Avoid plants that have lots of brown or shriveled roots – these plants are not doing well.
    • Choose a plant that has more than one stalk if you can, and one that has several unopened buds.  In the right spot, all of these buds will open and you may have several months of beautiful blossoms to enjoy.
  3. Make sure you have a good containers for your orchid: Orchids do well if they are in a clear container.  Not always the most beautiful option, but they photosynthesize through their roots and so any way that you can get more light to their roots the better.  You can find special orchid pots online.  I use sort of plain plastic ones because, let’s face it, we’re looking at the plant and not the pot.  imgp0257
  4. Water regularly but not too much: Orchids need to have well moistened orchid medium every ten days or so.  After repotting my orchids recently,  I have taken to giving the plants a really thorough soak, running cool water over the roots for a minute, then leaving the pot in a bowl of water for about 30 minutes so that the growing media can get really wet.  After draining I put them back in their little spot.  They seem pretty happy with this so I try not to overthink it.  
  5. Put them in a good, not too sunny, sunny spot: Orchids like indirect, bright light.  They do well placed near our south facing windows. They do well some distance from my mum’s west facing windows.   
  6. Keep out of the way of clumsy people (including me): Obvious.  But let me tell you, my otherwise charming husband has an amazing ability to knock over my somewhat top-heavy orchids.  Disaster!  One plant had leaves broken (I tried taping the pieces of the leaf back together – you will be shocked to learn that that didn’t work well!), and another had the stem with the blooms snapped right off.  Suffice it to say, try and put your plants some place where they will not fall victim to such terrors.  Almost as soon as I wrote this, I knocked my most lovely orchid over.  No breaks, but isn’t that always the way?fullsizeoutput_cf5
  7. Don’t throw away the plant once the blooms are gone:  A lot of people dispose of their orchids once the blooms have faded assuming that a forced orchid won’t re-bloom easily if at all.  While it can be a challenge to get your orchids to re-bloom, with a little patience, many plants will reinvest in blossoms.  My mum has had some orchids that have bloomed more than once a year, every year for 15 years!  Don’t throw the plants away – learn to love the thick waxy leaves which are beautiful in their own right, and enjoy watching as the plant makes decisions about how to invest its energy – new leaves, new blooms, who knows?  Either way, they are lovely!
  8. Be patient: Finally, patience is the key.  It might take a little while for your orchids that were forced to bloom in green house to be ready to bloom again.  Love them, care for them – they will probably reward you.  

Pouf Love: it’s a thing!

“You say pouf and I say floor cushion; you say tom-ey-to and I say tom-ah-to…” – wait, you mean that’s not how the song goes?! And do you say ‘ottoman’ or just plain and simple ‘footstool’? So confusing. Anyway…

I was looking back at my Pinterest boards and I realised that my love for poufs (floor cushions?) began three years ago and I’ve only just got myself one now. So that means I’ve been fantasizing about getting a pouf for THREE years! It’s not as if I was yearning for a Ferrari. I guess I’m just majorly into delayed gratification, even when it comes to something as relatively easily attainable as… whatever you call them.

img_2567But now… now, I have a pouf in my home and it’s ever so lovely. I wanted it for our living room so I knew it needed to fit in with my Valentine’s Day-esque colour scheme (our living room falls in the Relationships gua of our home, according to Feng Shui, so this inspired the colour story for this part of the house). I found a wonderful seller on Ebay called Multimate Collection, who sells floor cushion covers made from upcycled Indian saris. The seller emailed me a couple of options in the pinkish reddish tones I requested and I chose my favourite. When it arrived I took it to a local upholsterer here in north Tel Aviv and got him to make me a cushion to fit inside. And, boom! A pouf cushion! A floor-oman! An ottopouf? (Is this joke getting old?)

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It’s beautiful. The kids love bouncing on it. And you get a whole new seating option which is easily portable and much cheaper than forking out for an armchair – yay hooray!

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So what about you? Are you as enamored of sitting on the floor as I am (preferably with a comfy cushion under your bum)? Are you an ottoman lover? Or do you fall firmly into the chaise longue camp (there must be one, right)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savta Shifra’s Vegetable Soup

Autumn is here and our thoughts turn to soup. (Re-reading that, it makes it sound like our thoughts sort of liquefy and become all runny and soft. This may well be the case but it’s NOT WHAT I MEANT!) In Tel Aviv today it is almost the middle of November and a not-very-chilly 28 degrees centigrade outside, so this whole autumny-soupy vibe I’ve got going may have a lot more to do with wishful thinking than an actual need to warm ourselves from the inside out. Still though, I hear we’ll have temperatures as low as 23C in a week from now, so all is not lost.

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In my husband’s family there are two soups which make a regular appearance throughout the cold (ha!) autumn and winter seasons. One of these is Savta Shifra’s Vegetable Soup. (The other is Savta Clara’s Tomato Rice soup, which will surely find its way onto the blog at some point in the dark freezing [ha ha!] months to come). It is, in my opinion, the definitive vegetable soup. Almost, but not quite, a clear soup, it is green with herbs, a tiny bit spicy, a lot vegetabley and extremely moreish. Eating a bowl of it offers an experience which is somehow at the same time rigorously cleansing and deeply comforting – two sensations I expect many of us are craving in the light of recent global events.

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A little about its distinguished creator: Savta Shifra (‘savta’ means ‘granny’ in Hebrew) was my husband’s father’s mother. Born in Lublin, Poland, in 1914, she came to Israel at the age of 20 with her sister to study agriculture. This decision was to save her life: all her family who stayed behind in Poland were killed in the Holocaust.

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Blonde, blue-eyed Shifra studied and worked in the fields in the centre of Israel, where her shorts-clad legs were apparently the talk of the region. She was, by all accounts, a remarkable woman: gracious and charming, hardworking, kind, the sort who made the best out of things, and who, together with her husband David, devotedly raised three sons (and a lot of chickens) on a smallholding in a neighbourhood which is now part of north Tel Aviv, but was then a small village. My hubby spent a lot of time with his grandparents as a child and gets rather uncharacteristically wistful and dreamy-eyed when he recalls the afternoons spent in their garden hunting for bugs, or walking back to his grandparents’ house through the winter rain after judo practice to be welcomed by a steaming hot bowl of soup. For Savta Shifra was also a legendary cook.

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And this is her soup. Hearty yet refreshing. Full of deep vegetable flavour with just a hint of ‘picante’ from the curry powder. Thickened with oats, freshened with parsley and dill, it is the soup I dream of on cold wet days and the one I always secretly hope my mother-in-law will be serving at our weekly family lunches.

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Savta Shifra’s Vegetable Soup

MAKES 1 LARGE POT

PREPARATION AND COOKING TIME: 45-50 MINS

Many thanks to my mother-in-law, Irit, for passing the recipe down to me. The original recipe uses butter for sauteeing the vegetables but feel free to substitute olive oil to make a vegan soup.

Ingredients

2 large onions, cut into 1cm dice

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm dice

3 medium courgettes or zucchini, cut into 1cm dice (the pale green variety are more common in Israel so these are what I used. Feel free to substitute the dark green or yellow-skinned variety)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm dice

50g (1.8oz) unsalted butter (or substitute a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for a vegan version)

4 tbsp porridge oats

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp sweet paprika, or to taste

1 tbsp curry powder, or to taste

1 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp mushroom stock powder

1 tbsp chicken or vegetable stock powder

4 or 5 handfuls of mixed frozen vegetables. (Use whatever you have on hand: green beans, chickpeas, peas, sweetcorn, broccoli etc.)

3 tbsp soya sauce

Small handful of parsley, finely chopped

Small handful of dill, finely chopped

 

Method

  1. Boil the kettle. Melt the butter in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the porridge oats and stir to coat.
  2. Add all the vegetables to the pot, stir, and then pour in enough boiling water to fill the pot two thirds full.
  3. Stir in salt, pepper, paprika, curry powder, turmeric, and the stock powders.
  4. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. While the soup is simmering, boil the kettle again. Place the frozen vegetables in a colander and rinse thoroughly, first under the cold tap and then in the boiled water from the kettle. Drain well.
  6. When the 15 minutes are up, add the semi-defrosted vegetables to the pot, stir, and simmer, covered, for another 5-7 minutes.
  7. Stir in the soya sauce, parsley and dill, let simmer for another couple of minutes so the flavours combine and then taste to check seasoning. Add more salt if necessary – I usually find that none is needed, since the salt, stock powders and soya sauce added earlier result in a soup which is already just the right amount of salty! Serve very hot.