The top 10 new year’s resolutions for your home


When New Year’s Day rolls around, a few things are certain. There will be hangovers. People who are freezing back East will watch the sun-drenched Rose Parade with envy. And New Year’s resolutions will be made. 

But this year, instead of vowing to change ourselves, let’s promise to make some improvements in our homes. Believe me, taking care of things around the house can be a lot more fun than eating more broccoli or going to the gym. 

So what should we resolve to do? According to research from Nielsen, these are America’s top 10 New Year’s resolutions. Let’s take a look at each one and apply it to the home. 

No. 1: Stay fit and healthy

Home variation: Keep up with home maintenance

Sometimes we take our homes for granted and forget to keep them in optimum condition. Our homes need annual checkups, just like we do. For example, getting the roof and plumbing inspected now can save on costly repairs later. But home maintenance doesn’t have to mean big projects. Start small with simple tasks, such as oiling squeaky door hinges or tightening the cabinet pulls in the kitchen. 

No. 2: Lose weight

Home variation: Get rid of clutter

January is the perfect month to clear out your closets and storage spaces. Donate any clothes you haven’t worn in the past year. Ditto for all the tchotchkes you’ve stashed away thinking you’ll use or display them at some point. Give used books and CDs new life by letting someone else enjoy them. Or sell your stuff in a yard sale and make a little extra cash. And the best thing about going on a clutter diet is you still get to eat doughnuts. 

No. 3: Enjoy life to the fullest

Home variation: Make your home more comfortable

This was a resolution of mine last year. My home was stylish, but it wasn’t all that comfortable. Like, seriously, there was no comfy place to sit while watching television. So I bought a cushy sectional, and now I get to be a bona fide couch potato while binge-watching “Orphan Black.” What part of your home could raise its comfort quotient? Perhaps it’s a living room that could use some throw pillows, a bedroom that can benefit from a new set of soft sheets or a kitchen that needs a comfort foam mat in front of the sink. 

No. 4: Spend less, save more

Home variation: Use less energy

Most of us are already conserving water because of the California drought, so it might seem a little miserly to suggest conserving energy as well. But there are painless ways to do it. Concentrate on the biggest energy hogs in the house. I’m talking about your appliances, not your kids. Turn down the thermostat on your heating unit and your water heater. Do only full loads of laundry or dishes. And gradually change your appliances to energy-efficient models. The energy savings can be substantial. This year, I replaced all my home appliances with Energy Star models, and I’ve definitely seen a difference in my energy bill. (No, I did not win on “The Price Is Right.”)

No. 5: Spend more time with family and friends

Home variation: Entertain more

Many people never entertain in their home. The main reason is not that they’re cheap or antisocial, but they are afraid their house isn’t good enough. The furniture is not up to date. The walls have fingerprints all over them. The bathroom could use a remodel. But you know what? Guests do not care. Your home is just fine. Friends and family come over to spend time with you, not judge you. Have a party! People often remark to me that they are nervous to have me over because I am a fancy-shmancy designer. Let me tell you, I’m too busy chowing down on the hummus appetizer to be judgmental. 

No. 6: Get organized

Home variation: Make the most of storage space

We all want to be more organized, but often don’t know where to start. The key is to make the most of the space you already have. After all, your house isn’t going to magically grow storage space. Besides getting rid of clutter, use every inch of space in closets and cabinets. Remember, you can go vertical with the help of stackable containers and multilevel organizers. And get furniture pieces that can do double duty, such as ottomans or beds that have hidden storage areas.

No. 7: Don’t make any resolutions

Home variation: Be mindful all year long

My guess is that the people who refuse to make New Year’s resolutions believe that self-reflection should happen throughout the year, not just at the beginning of it. And sprucing up your home should happen all year as well. Home decorating and maintenance can feel unwieldy, but if we spread projects out across the months, it feels more manageable. 

No. 8: Learn something new

Home variation: Sharpen your do-it-yourself skills 

These days, you can learn how to do anything around the house by doing a Google search or watching a YouTube video. But don’t limit your DIY learning to home repairs. Stretch your creative muscles by learning how to cook, garden or sew. Creativity is what turns a house into a home.

No. 9: Travel more

Home variation: Turn your home into a staycation spot

I once had an interior design colleague who specialized in decorating homes like African safaris — animal prints, zebra rugs, banana trees — you get the idea. But you don’t have to go to such extremes to make your home feel like a high-end resort. It can take as little as pampering yourself with hotel-quality bedding, or making time for a bubble bath surrounded by candles. For the outdoors enthusiast, it can mean getting new patio furniture, along with a volleyball net or croquet set. 

No. 10: Read more

Home variation: Get inspiration from magazines

Shelter magazines are a great source of inspiration. I always recommend that people keep a file folder of magazine clippings that spark their interest so when the time comes to decorate, they can consult the pictures for ideas. It’s similar to having a Pinterest board, but nothing beats having it all in print. You can also take your inspiration folder with you to the store when you shop. 

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at

Israel’s clean tech advances attract foreign investors’ green


TEL AVIV (JTA) — From cutting-edge geothermal power deep underground to wind turbines and solar panels capturing energy from the sky above, foreign investors are pouring money into Israel’s growing clean tech sector.

And it’s not just Jews.

“Every day I get calls from people asking for opportunities to invest in clean technologies in Israel,” said Michael Granoff, president of the New York-based Maniv Energy Capital and an investor in Project Better Place, the company working to make Israel a testing ground for an electric car.

“That to me is extremely encouraging,” he said. “I believe nothing will determine Israel’s prosperity more than the degree to which it is a leader in innovation around sustainability.”

Clean tech, a catch-all term for emerging technologies focused on renewable and more efficient energy consumption, is soaring in Israel. A wave of new start-ups, academic research projects and new venture capital funds are focusing on the industry, and multinational corporations such as the Coca-Cola Co. and General Electric are scouting out new technologies here.

Fueling the interest in environmentally friendly clean-tech solutions are skyrocketing oil prices, growing concerns about global warming and a push for sustainable solutions to the world’s energy problems.

Investing in Israel’s expertise may not only make good business sense but benefit the worldwide quest for cleaner, greener energy alternatives.

It also may constitute an opportunity to bolster Israel’s international reputation by linking the Jewish state with green innovation.

Jonathan Shapira, a recent American law school graduate who writes a blog on clean-tech investment in Israel, says Diaspora Jews can play an essential role by becoming either consumers of or investors in Israeli technologies.

“Every Jewish family and institution should consider installing solar panels, rooftop wind turbines or energy efficient lighting developed in Israel,” he said. “This will lower their electricity bill, protect the environment, benefit the Israeli economy and help position Israel as a world leader in clean technology.”

The imperative for developing alternative energy sources is particularly acute for Israel because its enemies’ strength derives in large part from the world’s dependence on their oil resources.

“It really makes sense for reasons of economics, but there is also the issue that so much is at stake here,” said David Rosenblatt, the vice chairman of the board of a new solar power company near Eilat, Arava Power, which is headed by Yosef Abramowitz. “This is doing something for Israel’s national security, protecting its energy independence through green power.”

Rosenblatt, who also runs an investment fund in New York, where he lives, said his investment in Arava Power is a Jewish venture as well.

“This is about clean energy, but it’s also about Jewish roots and what I can do to express it and where I personally have value to add,” he told JTA.

In Herzliya, three American immigrants in their 30s have created the first venture capital firm to target the Israeli clean-tech market, Israel Cleantech Ventures. They recently raised $75 million for their debut fund, exceeding the $60 million they originally set out to raise.

Glen Schwaber, one of the firm’s partners, said enthusiasm among investors for Israeli clean tech reflects Israel’s growing reputation as a potential incubator for new technologies that is buoyed by the country’s high-tech success stories.

“Israel has a reputation for innovation and technology, and a mature venture capital environment along with a successful history in entrepreneurship,” Schwaber said. “The next logical place for the clean-tech investor after Silicon Valley and the Boston area is Israel.”

The Jewish state is beginning to capitalize on its experience in such fields as solar thermal technology, wastewater recycling and desalination. Until recently, Israel had the world’s only large-scale desalination plant, off the coast of Ashkelon. Now countries such as China are building them.

“Israel is a great country to beta test some of these new technologies because it is a microcosm of the world’s needs: shortages of water, a large transportation fleet on per-capita basis, and an abundance of solar energy potential,” said Schwaber, 38, who made aliyah from Boston.

Among Cleantech Ventures’ investors are some big names in Jewish philanthropy, including the families of Edgar Bronfman and Stacy Schusterman.

Schusterman, CEO of the Samson Investment Co., a private oil and gas company based in Tulsa, Okla., said she sees her investments in Israeli clean-tech ventures, including Israel’s electric car enterprise, as business, not philanthropy.

“This is a business venture,” she told JTA in a phone interview from Tulsa. “We saw this as an opportunity to leverage Israel’s deep intellectual capital in an area we see as a burgeoning worldwide industry, and by investing it we would have the opportunity to create a hedge against our base business.”

She added, “This is an area where Israel should excel, so as a Jew I have every reason to help make that happen.”

Last month, the city of Los Angeles signed an agreement with Kinrot Incubator, a company located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee that helps entrepreneurs and researchers with water-based technological innovations.

The deal will enable Israeli start-up companies to use water and power facilities in Los Angeles for pilot projects and to conduct joint research with the University of California, Los Angeles on water projects.

Los Angeles is interested in using the Kinrot model to establish its own incubator for water-related technologies.

Assaf Barnea, Kinrot’s CEO, said that although the water market is not new, the hype over going green has given it a new shine in the eye of investors.

“They have now heard about it and want to be players,” he said. “There is huge hype but it’s not just hype. This is a market that is here to stay.”

Israel Invests in Clean Tech as energy Crunch Looms


At a lab in Rehovot, the man who developed the Arrow missile is consumed with his next mission: making Israel energy independent by using cheap solar power.

“The issue of energy is the greatest danger to Israel, because in 30 years there will be no energy means, no oil and no gas, and the use of coal will be prohibited,” said Dov Raviv, now the CEO of MST, an Israeli renewable energy company. “Without energy Israel cannot survive, and we must find a substitute and find it fast. That is what I am trying to do.”

Raviv’s company is working to reduce the high price of solar power, which is not yet competitive with the price of conventional energy sources like oil, by more efficiently harnessing solar energy through a method of concentrating sunlight on a matrix of single solar cells.

MST is one of dozens of alternative energy start-ups across Israel seeking solutions to the global energy crisis.

Among the innovations under development are a gear system that dramatically boosts the efficiency of wind turbines, a device that would reduce gas emissions from trucks, the generation of bio-fuels from desert plants and various techniques to generate energy from unlikely sources, including seaweed and sewage water.

Entrepreneurs say Israeli solutions can help not only Israel but also the world.

“Israel has the minds, the R&D, the technology and the entrepreneurship, but we are lagging behind in terms of actual deployment,” said David Schwartz, the chairman of MyPlanet, an Israeli consortium of companies involved in energy and security issues. “This is impeding reaching our full potential as a source of alternative energy for the world.”

Israel’s leadership in the development of alternative energy also can have security benefits. If the world is weaned from its overwhelming dependence on oil, the oil-rich autocratic regimes that surround the Jewish state, including Iran, will have less oil revenue to pay for their anti-Israel activities — whether the development of nuclear weapons or the funding of fundamentalist terrorist groups.

During a recent visit to Israel to accept the $1 million Dan David Award for promoting environmental awareness, Al Gore asked a question many Israelis have been pondering themselves: “How is it here, in the land of the sun, there is no widespread use of solar energy?”

Alternative energy is “good for the Jews,” Gore told a conference on the subject at Tel Aviv University.

Industry observers say more aggressive government policies, such as underwriting renewable energy initiatives and granting more land for power plants, are needed to bolster the development of alternative energy.

“Europe and the U.S. have made incredible strides,” Schwartz said. “Israel has not.”

Meanwhile, Israel has an energy shortage looming. Israel’s supply capacity is 10,600 megawatts per day, and the country has come dangerously close to exceeding that demand on especially hot and cold days.

With limited energy reserves to accommodate for surges, and as the country’s population and energy use grows, the problem is becoming more acute.

The head of the Israel Energy Forum, Yael Cohen-Paran, says some relatively simple measures could significantly reduce the load on the energy grid: cash rebates for those who purchase energy-efficient air conditioning and heating units, and government encouragement of energy-saving building practices.

The long-term solution, however, may require more of a shift.

At the Tel Aviv energy conference, Israel’s infrastructure minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, responded to criticism of government policy on the issue by announcing a commitment to increase the share of such energies to 15 percent to 20 percent of Israel’s total energy use by 2020, double that of previous targets.

He also pledged to adopt a plan to build one new solar station per year for the next 20 years and introduce a bill to make the Negev Desert and southern Israel a “national preference region” for renewable energies. Tax breaks and other incentives would be part of the package.

Yossi Abramowitz, the president of Arava Power, wants to install 62,500 solar panels by year’s end on the sun-drenched sands of Israel’s deserts. He says his company has found investors to pay for solar power stations that would be capable of supplying up to 500 megawatts of electricity for the country — nearly 5 percent of Israel’s daily energy needs during daylight hours.

The project relies on the use of photovoltaics, or PV, a relatively expensive technology that uses a fraction of the silicon used in conventional solar panels to convert sunlight-generated photons into energy.

But for this energy to be competitive on the open market, the government needs to double its current rate of subsidy, Abramowitz says, bringing Israel more in line with the levels of subsidy in countries such as Germany and Spain.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev recently announced a new deal with Israeli start-up Zenith Solar to license solar energy technology developed by its researchers that could revolutionize the way solar power is collected and drastically reduce its price.

The new method, a form of “concentrated PV,” would use fewer of the expensive silicon solar cells to create energy. Instead it would use low-cost glass mirrors to collect sunlight and then focus it onto a relatively small amount of those solar cells to generate power.

The Israeli founder of an algae fuel company called GreenFuel, Isaac Berzin, who was named by Time magazine as one of its Top 100 people in the world for 2008, says Israel is too small of a country to keep such technology to itself.

“Israel should be a catalyst for change,” Berzin said. “Israel is a very small market, a very small place in the middle of nowhere, but it has here what it takes in terms of technology, the know-how to change the world.”

Smug Alert



Click the BIG ARROW to see Rob Eshman’s new
bio diesel VW and watch him drink a bio diesel Martini

Last week I bemoaned the fact that former Gov. Tom Vilsack, the only presidential candidate with the ideas and track record to wean America off foreign oil, droppedout of the race.

This week I decided I wasn’t going to just sit there and moan, I was going to do something about it.

So I bought a car.

And not a Prius. At 40 miles per gallon, the hybrid car to the stars is a gas-guzzler compared to my new baby: a 2005 Volkswagen Passat TDI, a diesel car that gets 30 to 40 miles per gallon … of corn oil.

I’d been writing and speaking and boring my family for some time now on how absolutely stupid it is for Americans to be dependent on foreign oil. Our petroleum economy lines the pockets of Middle East potentates and other facilitators of extremism and terror. It directly endangers the state of Israel by strengthening its enemy’s regimes. And, whether the oil we burn is from Texas or Saudi Arabia, it contributes to global warming.

The enormity of our stupidity is dwarfed by an even bigger stupidity: We have the technology, now, to solve this problem.

Take my new car, for instance.

Two days after I bought it, I took my car to the appropriately named USA gas station at Glencoe Avenue and Mindanao Way in Marina del Rey and pulled up to a pump marked, “BioDiesel.” I filled up my tank, and I drove away.

That’s it.

The fuel now powering my car is made in America from canola, corn, soy or other new and recycled food oils. Almost any off-the-assembly line diesel engine can run just fine on it.

“Aren’t you afraid of enriching those Midwest corn oil shieks?” a friend of mine said as we tooled around.

Oh, what a world it would be: Saudi princes actually out looking for real jobs while Kansas corn farmers blow wads of cash in Macao.

Biodiesel itself has the consistency, smell and, yes, taste of Mazola. Made from food oils and alcohol, it disintegrates into harmless organic matter when spilled. It’s as toxic as table salt.

And biodiesel is virtually carbon neutral — whatever carbon dioxide it releases when burned is offset by the carbon dioxide the plants absorb when they grow.

At first, when I walked into the gas station kiosk to pay for my biodiesel, I was crestfallen. I don’t know what I expected — maybe a recycled bamboo floor and exposed beams, a pretty hostess offering me an organic mimosa and a free 10 minute Reiki treatment from Al Gore.

Instead, the only decorations were racks of Slim Jims and a fridge full of Throttle. The station’s cashier sat behind thick bulletproof glass. I paid $3.29 a gallon for 12 gallons and walked out.

And, in retrospect, that was the beauty of the whole experience. There’s nothing unusual or alternative about running America’s transport system on native, non-petroleum fuel. You can drive a great car, fill up as usual (though without the noxious odor), and be on your way.

Unfortunately, the biodiesel movement still has a certain crunchiness associated with it. Diesels are common in Europe, and, prompted by the creation of a new low-sulpher diesel, a new generation of these cars will soon hit American shores. But for now, partisans tend to drive pre-1985 Mercedes with iron engines that are said to run for a million miles. These behemoths chug along well enough and can be had for as little as $3,000, but I was looking for something with airbags and zip.

A small group converts these diesel engines to run on waste vegetable oil. Several companies do this for around $800. Jeremy Mittman, a lawyer with Proskauer Rose LLP in Century City, has a deal with Pat’s kosher restaurant on Pico to pick up its used fry oil. He filters it and funnels it into the tank of his 1982 Mercedes. His total fuel cost: about 0.

The biodiesel I use is labeled B100 — 100 percent biodiesel, not blended with regular diesel. It is more expensive than our government subsidized gasoline for now, and there’s only a handful of retail outlets locally, but a biodiesel facility is opening near Oxnard, which will allow the price to Southern Californians to drop. In the meantime, 15 cents per gallon more than regular unleaded strikes me as a small price to pay.

After all, if you drive a gas-powered car and donate to organizations that fight global warming or defend Israel, you’re contributing to the solution and the problem. Rabbi David Wolpe understood this when he delivered a sermon last January at Sinai Temple urging congregants to drive hybrid vehicles. After his talk, some 50 families traded in their Lexuses and Mercedes guzzlers for Priuses.

The American Jewish Committee understood this when it began offering incentives for employees to switch to hybrid vehicles. The organization has rightly made energy independence a cornerstone of its advocacy work.

Is biodiesel “The Answer?” No — but like hybrids, fuel-cell vehicles, higher Federal fuel mileage standards and public transportation, it’s an important step along the way.

And the only dangers?

Getting struck by a hybrid owner for sporting my new bumper sticker: “Biodiesel: Cleaner Than Your Prius.”

“Hybrid v. Diesel”:http://www.homepower.com/files/featured/HybridsVsDiesels.pdf

What Is Biodiesel?http://www.biodieselnow.com/default.aspx

American Jewish Committee’s Stand on Energy Independencehttp://www.ajc.org/site/c.ijITI2PHKoG/b.838461/k.C502/Energy.htm

“Cleaner Greener Cars” from E Magazine:http://www.emagazine.com/view/?3623

Kids Page


Back to the Beach

Just because we’re back in school doesn’t mean we can’t think about the beach. If you want to go into the new Jewish year with another mitzvah under our belt, here is a fun opportunity:

Coastal Cleanup on Sept. 17

Help clean the Coastal Park area at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, as well as the Point Fermin Marine Life Refuge, from 9 a.m. to noon. After the cleanup, stay for refreshments during an open house at the Salinas de San Pedro salt marsh (noon-2 p.m.). Learn more about this unique habitat by using binoculars and microscopes to observe live animals. This is a free activity.

Groups please call the education staff at (310) 548-7562 ext. 217 to reserve and arrange for parking.

 

From the Mouths of Babes


How Do You Decide Whom to Marry?

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•You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. — Alan, age 10

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•No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with. — Kirsten, age 10

What Do You Think Your Mom and Dad Have in Common?

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•Both don’t want any more kids. — Lori, age 8

What Is the Right Age to Get Married?

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•Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person forever by then. — Camille, age 10

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•No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married. — Freddie, age 6

How Can a Stranger Tell if Two People Are Married?

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•You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. — Derrick,

age 8

What Do Most People Do on a Date?

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•Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. — Lynnette,

age 8

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•On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. — Martin, age 10

What Would You Do on a First Date That Was Turning Sour?

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• I’d run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns. — Craig, age 9

When Is It OK to Kiss Someone?

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•When they’re rich. — Pam,

age 7

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•The law says you have to be 18, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that. — Curt, age 7

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•The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It’s the right thing to do. — Howard, age 8

Is It Better to Be Single or Married?

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•It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. — Anita, age 9

How Would You Make a Marriage Work?

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•Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck. — Ricky, age 10

For the Kids


Ready, Steady, GJ

In our Torah we have reached Parshat Mishpatim. The Israelites have just been given the Ten Commandments, and now God spends a whole portion giving them laws that they will have to observe when they reach the Land of Israel.

It can take a long time to study something new: six to 12 months to prepare for a bar/bat mitzvah, four or more years to complete college, and even longer to learn about a new country. So even though they won’t get there for another 39 years, God is getting the Israelites ready.

Keep it Clean

Every day is Earth Day! Jews are always thinking of ways to protect our Earth and keep her clean. Sam Avishay from Castlebay Lane Elementary School took Third Place in the Grade 4-5 Division in this year’s LADWP Environmental Student Poster Contest. Along with the award, Sam also took home a $200 savings bond.

Here is what Sam Avishay, of Northridge, has to say about our relationship with the Earth: “If we continue to litter, cut down trees, and pollute our air and water it will reduce the quality of our life and we are also hurting nature, animals, and all living things. We live in a beautiful place and it is our job to protect and keep it clean and i think our generation needs to do a much better job of that.”

Sam has drawn a crest that is divided into four sections. Can you tell me what he has drawn?

Send in your answer to abbygilad@yahoo.com  for a gift certificate to Baskin-Robbins.

Welcome to Avi’s Jerusalem Restaurant

His food is great, but his menu, like his eggs, is all scrambled. Unscramble the names of the foods so that you can order:

Scrambled Menu

HISHS OBKEB

ENLITL UOPS

UMHSU

AFLALEF

TPIA

NFREHC SIERF

Pesach 5762


It’s time to get everything in order. Clean out your pencil box. Throw away all those crumpled papers in your desk. Help your mom or dad vacuum the car.

Passover is a holiday that celebrates the coming of spring. And it is no coincidence that many people do spring-cleaning. Life starts fresh. We need to clean out the old to make room for new beginnings. On Passover, we conduct a seder to remind us of this.

The word seder means order in Hebrew. During the seder, we ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Here is the answer: We change the way and the order in which we do things (we eat matzah instead of bread, we dip our vegetables, etc.) to remind ourselves that life is about change. It is exciting and wonderful to watch spring arrive. So go outside and watch a flower bloom.