Shopping and Shedding Pounds in Tel Aviv

My fit friend Julie. It was like Israel boot camp, but I could not have asked for a better person to tour with.

When I talked to Julie the week before our big trip, she mentioned that she enjoys walking, and she hoped to walk everywhere in Tel Aviv.

“Perfect, I love walking!” I said.

But then, as I got to know Julie better, I began to realize we weren’t exactly on the same level with the physical fitness. Yeah, she walks, and she runs, and she exercises.

She’s what we call fit. Super fit. I’m what we call….not fit.

My gut closely resembles this Israeli statue…


He’s cute, isn’t he?

I could not have found a better person than Julie to tour Tel Aviv with. We were already acquainted well enough that I felt comfortable with her, and yet we were new enough of friends that there was no arguing. Ha!!!

Besides, Julie is awesome. She is laid back, intelligent, sensible, down to earth, and an excellent conversationalist, which is perfect because I often have a super hard time thinking of what to say. She also was better than me with figuring out where we were and how to get where we were going, which is important in a foreign country!

Go ahead and laugh. You know I have no sense of direction. And maybe you THINK I talk a lot, but inside I’m working hard to think of all those words.

This is the street in Tel Aviv that runs along the beach.

Tel Aviv Boot Camp

We had a routine that worked well. Breakfast and supper were free at our hotel, so that was what we ate. We had a late breakfast, skipped lunch, and then there was 4:00 tea time at our hotel, with snacks. Then there was dinner at 6pm.

So yeah, we just skipped lunch everyday. We didn’t save any calories though. They fed us so well at the hotel, we weren’t even hungry at lunch.


Tel Aviv Beach

Alan and I did a little walking on the beach together too.

The Shopping

You know I’m thrifty, and Julie is too. I’m so easily influenced by who I’m hanging out with! I didn’t buy all that much, but we did walk around tons of shops and markets.

We went into Israel expecting to barter for everything. People had told us we would need to barter, and yet, that was not what we found. Maybe it’s just different in Tel Aviv, but most everywhere we went the shop owners and workers said, “No, we don’t do that here. It’s just one price.”

I bought these Coca-Cola in Hebrew shirts for my 2 biggest boys.

I scored this entire outfit at the Shuk for only $100 shekels…That’s like $35!!

Funny story:

First of all, several different people asked Julie and me if we were from Germany. ???!!?? Germany? No! America!

I found that odd, kind of funny, but also sad, considering Israel’s history with Germany.

But the funny story was the sales guy we met at the Shuk, where I bought that exercise outfit.

He was an unusually friendly young Jewish man, probably around 24 years old, a cute, small guy. What I didn’t realize at first was that he actually lives in Miami, but he was in town for an event and helping his dad in their store that day.

“Where are you from?” he asked us, after explaining the day’s sales to us.

Each time people asked, I found myself not knowing what to call our country. Isn’t that hilarious? United States of America is sort of a mouthful. So sometimes I said America, and sometimes I called it the U.S. or the United States.

That was not a sufficient answer for anyone that asked. Every single questioner actually wanted to know what state we were from.

I move every 2 to 3 years, so my new policy is to be from wherever I currently live.

This particular sales guy laughed when I said “America,” and said, “Well, yeah, I know, I mean I didn’t think you were from Germany!”

Julie and I looked at each other, mystified. Well, the rest of the country seems to think we are from Germany, and even this guy referenced it, so clearly their history left scars.

But he knew we lived in the States because he’s been living in the U.S. himself for several years.


We bought this from an arts and crafts fair in downtown Tel Aviv.

So we explained to the sales guy where we were from. He said to Julie, “You look like a runner!” Then they talked about running and swimming…Funny…no one ever asked me what sport I participate in……hahahahaha…

I was shopping for a cute exercise outfit, so I picked up Larges, but I’m usually borderline on sizes, so I was glancing around for a fitting room.

“Oh, you don’t need a large!” this sales guy had all the answers…”This stretches, see? You need a medium.”

Flattering, but I actually didn’t even need to try on the pants. I’m 5 foot 6 with enough hips for all 3 of us standing there. I require the large, and I’m thankful I didn’t take his advice.

Shirts are a different story. I have to try on every shirt I buy.

There I was, in a foreign country, trying on a shirt, in a storage closet, in an outdoor market area (The closet had walls. The store did not.), with Julie standing guard in the OPEN doorway, with the super talkative young sales guy, waiting outside the closet. He was waiting to “snap a photo (of me) and put it on Facebook.”

Laugh. Out. Loud. “Yeah, you are not putting this on Facebook.”

I was in such a hurry to be done with the process that I bought the shirt, without being sure if it fit well or not because I didn’t want to look in the mirror long enough for him to get a Facebook photo.

Why do I care about him taking my picture? I’m a blogger for crying out loud. Yeah, well, I’m a vain blogger who carefully crops out all chubby bits before posting pictures online, and me in a spandex work-out tank? No way was I putting that out there.

That sales guy was hilarious. He talked to us all the way out of the store, as we left, and invited us to come back and see him tomorrow.

I never did make it to the Dead Sea, but I did buy this soap at the craft fair, which was made from Dead Sea Mud.

Gotta love mud.

This was another character that we met.


Okay. Sorry it’s all mirror-backwards, but look how hard it is to read a receipt in Hebrew and shekels!!! If it weren’t for the numbers, we wouldn’t even know it was backwards.

That receipt was from a group dinner. Don’t worry. We didn’t spend anywhere near that much.


Ah! I can’t wait to go back someday.


P.S. I lost 3 pounds.


At the Dizengoff Center, a shopping mall exactly like you’d find in America, I found MY store. Yep. April is a cosmetics store.

Julie and I averaged about 9 miles a day, over 20,000 steps. We were sweat-soaked each day when we made it back to our hotel room. If you go for a week, you need to pack like 14 outfits.

By the time the trip was over, I had definitely built up my endurance. I’ve been sure to get in at LEAST 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise everyday since we got back, so this trip was a grand success, in more ways than one!

Be sure to check out my last post on Tel Aviv to learn more about this bustling city!


4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family + Giveaway

4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family + Giveaway

As much as we’d love to be a Disney family, high tailing it off to Orlando a few times a year, that’s not really practical for most of us, is it? No, and even if you do, there will be plenty of time between to fill up with memories at home.

Here are 3 things I’ve found lately to have a BLAST with my children without spending much money at all and without leaving our house.

4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family

Retail $34.95 on Amazon. I got it for $3.95 at Goodwill! Hurray!!

Board Games

This one can be even cheaper than you think. I buy almost all of our games at Goodwill or other local thrift stores. Part of Daniel’s birthday gift this year was an Angry Birds game I found for $3.95 at Goodwill. Maybe $3.95 doesn’t sound cheap, but when you figure the whole family could play it, it was in perfect condition, and retail it would have been more like $34, it starts to sound like a steal.

This morning we paid Spongebob Monopoly, and while 3 of 4 boys quit early on from boredom, Daniel hung in there and beat me SOUNDLY.

So did everyone have fun? Sort of. Everyone did for a little while. And one of them had the special honor of beating mom. Also, he learned so much about counting money and making change.


We bought this net for ~$40. This one at Amazon actually comes with birdies and rackets.

Playing Sports Outside…..and yeah, sometimes inside

What we play depends on what they are into at the time. Last year it was always baseball. Now it’s mostly basketball, but lately we’ve been all about badminton.

Here’s my best tips for introducing your kids to badminton or tennis:

  1. Buy any racquets at thrift stores. Thrift stores almost always have tennis rackets, and when you are playing at home, you can totally play badminton with big giant tennis rackets. In fact, it makes it easier for the kids to hit the birdie.
  2. If you don’t have a net, designate a line on the driveway as your “net”. By the way, the one above is a nice one. You can also buy super cheap ones, but I can’t vouch for how good they will be, but they might be better than just the line on the driveway. Ha!
  3. Our family just used the crack in the driveway as our “net” until we had time to go buy a net.

Most sports can be simulated at home without actually owning the equipment. In most cases, you just need a ball.

4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family + Giveaway



Alan took some papers, cut them into squares and wrote names of people we know, movies we’ve watched, and places we’ve been to on them. Then he made a paper bag for each category, and put the papers in the bags for us to draw out.

The boys LOVED it. It was more personal this way. We used family members, and then they’d act out what they’ve noticed about those family members. The cutest was when they were being their cousin Wesley, and they got on their knees, to show they were short, and then went around hugging everyone! Ha!!!

For places, we used random ones like the driveway, the pumpkin patch, and places we used to live. Just talking about it makes me want to do this again. We all laughed so much.

Include the little ones too. Just whisper in their ear how to act it out. As long as there’s one person to guess, you’re good. When toddlers get involved, I promise it will be hilarious. They may even announce to everyone who they are being, like JD does, and that’s okay.

Turn something they LOVE into a family activity!

Light sabers? Family jousting tournament

Legos? Building contest! And name a different prize for each kid. Maybe even make little construction paper ribbons.

Dancing? Dance Party.

For example, the ever so obnoxious BOTTLE FLIPPING!!

Does any mom or teacher out there not hate this activity? Why? It’s loud. It’s annoying, and it always spills water.

Did you know they make games for Bottle Flipping? As in board-game like games? They do!


We chose this one. It’s $24.95 on Amazon.

I decided to give this a shot. This is the very first time I had ever attempted to flip a bottle, and I’m here to tell you it is way HARDER than it looked! I have new respect.

4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family + Giveaway

Best of all, my older boys got a real kick out of me participating in bottle flipping with them. My oldest wasn’t even going to play with us at first, but once he saw us having fun, he joined in and then insisted that we play again.

4 Almost Free Ways to Spend Time Together as a Family + Giveaway

Score board, caps, and cards are all included. Cards are funny. One said, put your elbow in your shirt, and flip the bottle like a T-Rex. Haaaa!!!

In fact, I want you all to join in on this fun, so this week we are giving the Bottle Flippin’ Game away for FREE to one of you!

***This giveaway is sponsored by the Bottle Flip Game.***

I love giveaways!!!

To enter just Log in with Facebook or your email below, and click one of the options. If you have trouble, just send me your email address, and I’ll enter ya.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good luck!!!

My Battle With Chronic Pain Part II: Tendonitis, Sacroiliac Pain, Muscle Strain, Whatever

my battle with chornic pain part II

Vacation in Boston, Summer 2012, Pain level was way down. Such a fun time!

To read Part I Click here. Again, this is a chronic pain post: feel free to skip this one if it’s not your cup of tea. I promise to not always blog about hip pain y’all…

Now onto Part II of the saga.

So where did we leave off? Oh, yes. I was lying on my bed, probably on a hot pad, staring at the ceiling, praying, and crying.

I prayed for help. It came. God has always been so faithful.

The doorbell rang.

“I’ll just pretend I’m not home,” I thought.

“Mom! Mom! Mom! Someone’s at the door!!!  Mom!! Get up! The doorbell!”

Groan. Obviously, we are at home.

“I’m coming. Okay.” I hobbled down the stairs, keeping my arm tucked in close. I answered the door. Just a nice lady needing to ask me a few questions. I don’t even remember her name.

I apologized for taking so long to answer the door. I explained that I’d been having trouble with my back. (It’s just much quicker than saying hip and shoulder.)

And do you know what she did?? She said she could relate! And then she pulled out her phone, and she said, “I have this chiropractor, his name is Dr. Bodnar. Let me give you his number.”

She assured me he was the best, and then she left. I never saw her before that day, and I never saw her afterwards.

I had only been to a chiropractor one other time, way back in 2005, when I was 8 months pregnant and also desperate for help with the hip.


I called the chiropractor. They got me in the very next day. Take that, physical therapy clinic! They were thorough. As my Granny, a fellow pain sufferer, once said, “They measured every bone in my body.” They also took x-rays.

One visit. One visit was all it took to fix the rib-cage thing. He just crunched my back, and bam! that rib went back to where it belonged. The truly fantabulous part is: It never came back!! Phew!

My neck was also repaired quickly. In only a few appointments, I could back up my car with a clear conscience. Wahoo!

Even the hip and shoulder tapered down to a manageable level. I was sold. I didn’t even bother to go back to the doctor who did the x-rays at my regular clinic. These chiropractor people were helping me, so I’d stick with them. No, my insurance didn’t pay for it, but I was breathing, walking, and sitting! Things were looking up!

They explained to me that my neck was straight rather than curved as it should be, and one side of my pelvis is higher than the other.

That’s when I also began to exercise. Dr. Bodnar gave me a few basic stretches and elbow planks to strengthen my core.

Y’all! When I began to do elbow planks in 2012, I couldn’t hold it for more than 3 seconds! It was so sad!! Now I can do 3 sets of 30 seconds a piece, in a row! I have come so far. At that time, the weak core explanation for my pain was something I could settle for. It was true back then. Not so, these days.

chronic pain battle part II

The exercise phase.


I lost 15 pounds. I ran. I swam. I was feeling great.

“Hey! Let’s have another baby!” You know I love babies.

But the truth had sunk in by this point that my hip and shoulder were chronic. This is a pain I will be “managing” for the rest of my life. Sometimes, even with the chiropractic care, my hip would flare up for a few days and then calm back down. The shoulder is more of a steady pinch, but I mostly only notice it when I’m lying down or sitting.

I call it sciatica, a hip problem, or a rear end problem. I know it’s confusing. The thing is that when it’s flared up, it hurts to drive, sit, lay down, or climb stairs. When I touch my foot to the pedals of a car, it hurts in my rear end and lower back, just to the right of my spine and deep into my rear.

But then there’s another aspect beside the sacroiliac pain.  The hip joint itself is also angry, so if the flare up gets bad enough, I have trouble walking. Maybe it’s all part of the same thing, but that’s why I keep saying I don’t know what I have, I just know it hurts.

So I was careful about the fourth pregnancy. I faithfully visited Dr. Bodnar every other week. It was my healthiest pregnancy of all four. The pain still came and went, but no horror stories. It was super mild. The worst problem I had was pregnancy anemia and women in grocery stores asking me if I was sure I wasn’t having twins!

Rudest thing ever people. Just tell pregnant women, “You look great.”

That pregnancy agreed with me.

That pregnancy agreed with me.

During that pregnancy, I also finally made it to a dermatologist for several things. I’m supposed to go every year, but I don’t. That was when I learned that I had psoriasis. Phew! What a relief! I was afraid that crazy nail was fungus or something, and oh the public disgrace! But no, just psoriasis. No biggie. I’d had the scalp and nose rash for as long as I could remember, but I’d never bothered to find out what it was. It’s not big or very noticeable, so I don’t worry about it.

From 2012 to Fall 2014, the shoulder and hip would wax and wane in intensity, but it mostly stayed mild and manageable. We moved across country, and I made it–all of that car riding!–with no problem. Those were two happy, fit years, even with the c-section thrown in. I was quick to recover. I worked hard to get my ab muscles back in tact, thanks to my Lindsey Brin fitness DVDs and my yoga instructor, Monica.

But then came the 2014 move. I was good the first few months, but as I began to home school the boys, I could not find time to exercise. Plus, I was so tense and stressed. My old pain came back knocking hard.

Such a beautiful place to move to! Who wouldn't want to live on the coast of California?

Such a beautiful place to move to! Who wouldn’t want to live near the coast of California?

I found a local chiropractor. That helped. Then I went on Christmas vacation. I had a truly happy outlook. For some reason, that seems to make a difference. I had a fun time in Alabama, and when we came back I had my very first 4 completely pain-free months since 2011! I was ecstatic. I’d thought that ache was just part of me. But it disappeared for four whole months!! Wahooooooo!

While the shoulder ache and the hip pain evaporated, a new pain showed up around Fall 2014. Remember the white pinky nail I mentioned in Part I? Well, eventually every single fingernail, save one or two, went white and yellow and pink on me. Toward the tip, it gets super thick and looks like it’s separating from the nail bed. It’s embarrassing.

fingernail psoriasis: a surprisingly obnoxious condition. This is also called onycholosis.

my fingernail psoriasis: a surprisingly obnoxious condition. This is also called onycholysis.

Also, it hurts. That was when I learned to wash my hair with only whatever one or two fingers was working properly. It wasn’t like the arthritis fingers, where they have swelling in their knuckles. It was just the tips of my fingers that hurt. I still have it in my thumb.

I learned to not even attempt buttons or jars. At least I could walk. Four whole months of no shoulder or hip pain! 2015 was off to a smashing start! I was happy. Home school was going better. I was finally making friends, and suddenly I had offers to make money blogging.

Life was looking up for April. I even began to tell myself that perhaps the shoulder and hip thing was truly over. I even took on a sponsored post with a personal trainer who put me on this Water Challenge that totally fixed most of my nails:

nail psoriasis

If you look closely, you can still see it in my index finger, but look at my happy, healthy thumb nail! All from drinking tons of water. Thank you, Coach Cox!

We’ll talk about Part III next time: The pain came back, and I finally met a health care professional who questioned my spine theory.

Read Part I here.

Read Part III here.




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