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Our trip to the Lake District was just a little vacation we wanted to take, since Tim had some extra vacation. However, the hip thing to do now is to take a “baby moon” when you’re pregnant (according to pregnancy websites: it’s kinda like a honeymoon, but before the baby is born). So we decided to call this trip our “Baby Moon”.

Day 1- Monday, October 26

From Harpenden to Keswick (a town in the Lake District and the “w” in Keswick is silent) via A1(M) A1 (British Highway: Arterial road 1/Motorway 1) the trip was roughly 286 Miles. Timothy did ALL of the driving to Keswick. It was roughly 5 1/2 hours with a few stops. The drive was more scenic, than if we took just the Motorway. It was a bright and sunny English day, and the fall foliage was just gorgeous the whole way!

Once in Keswick, we checked into our wonderful B&B, the Ellergill B&B. It was recommended by Rick Steves, and Rough Guides, and so do we! We used Rick Steves’ book and Rough Guides, along with a video Rick Steves posted on Youtube about the Lake District to plan our trip. The B&B was just around the corner form the main market street and several restaurants/pubs! It was also about a 10 minute walk to Derwentwater (a lake).

That evening, we walked to the lake shore right at twilight. It was so peaceful and beautiful. Once it became dark, we went to town for dinner and turned in early.

Day 2– Tuesday, October 27

We woke up bright and early to walk to the lake shore before breakfast. Once again it was so peaceful and even more beautiful in the early morning sun light. Timothy and I really lucked out, our first day was a beautiful sunny/dry day! After our early morning walk, we went back to our B&B for breakfast! A Full English (vegetarian) Breakfast- eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, toast, with juice and coffee/tea. It was very good, and a perfect way to start the day!

Our host recommended we walk 1/2 way around Derwentwater– going west towards Nichol End Marine, and then south past Catbells around the lake to Mary Mount Hotel for lunch. The was was relatively easy. The 4 1/2-5 mile hike should have taken about 2 hours, but being 7 months pregnant, it took us more like 3 hours, with lots of stops for pictures and taking in the beauty of the Lake District.

Once we got to the Mary Mount Hotel, we were ready for lunch! The pub at the hotel had large windows with a great view of the lake and Catbells fells (a local mountain). It also had a ton of bird feeders, and a bird guide for us to learn about the different birds!

From the Mary Mount Hotel, we could take the Keswick Launch Company boat ride back to Keswick. The ride was very enjoyable, and we got to enjoy more of the lake. From there we walked through town and back to our hotel to relax, before dinner.

Day 3– Wednesday, October 28

After sleeping in (or trying too), we had another Full English Breakfast, before heading out for a hike to Castlerigg Stone Circle. Our original plan was to drive, but Google Maps said it was only 1.8 miles (one-way). So we decided to walk. Not a smart move. When we started walking it was overcast, and shortly into our walk it started to rain (lightly). Then about the last quarter or half (it felt like more) of the walk was UP HILL!!! It was tough, but I did pretty good for a pregnant lady! Once we got to the stone circle, it stopped raining and we had an amazing view from the top of the hill of the surrounding areas. It was breath taking. After taking lots of pictures, we started to walk back. Then it started to POUR!! It was an interesting walk back to town, and we even got lost a little. After lunch at a local cafe, we relaxed at our B&B until Dinner time.

Day 4– Thursday, October 29

Once again, we tried to sleep in, but it is not as easy as it seems! We had another Full English Breakfast before heading to the Southwestern corner of the Lake District to Muncaster Castle. The hour long drive was very scenic and beautiful. However, it was very stressful. English roads are very narrow and windy! Plus this road had lots of sheep and cows roaming freely! We even got in to a few “traffic jams” with the sheep and cows!

Luckily, even though the morning was wet, shortly into our drive the rain cleared up and turned into another beautiful day. We toured the castle (that is still lived in), the grounds, and a owl/eagle/hawk sanctuary! We also went though their family friendly scary halloween maze, and watched a spectacular bird show! Thankfully, I only had 1 heart attack during the show.

We then headed back to Keswick for dinner, and another relaxing evening.

Day 5– Friday, October 30

It was sad to leave the Lake District Friday morning after another Full English Breakfast, but we were ready to go home. Plus there is always laundry, and house work to do after a vacation. The drive back was LONG! We went down the M1 (motorway). And there was a lot of construction and traffic! It probably took us 7 hours (including lunch break). This time, Timothy started out driving, but after lunch I drove, and did a pretty good job! 🙂 We were very thankful to be home, even though we highly enjoyed our “babymoon,” and hope to go back to the Lake District one day! There was still so much for us to see and do, and so much more hiking to do.

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Where in the World are the Mann’s?

Our summer has been just as busy as always, and we have had a lot of fun along the way. Our summer technically started with our trip to Israel and Jordan. However, I’ve already blogged about that trip, so I’ll start right after! First, we had a nice visit from my Aunt Marie (my mom’s sister) and Uncle Glenn Claire. They were in England for a cruise and a trip to Europe, and were able to spend some time with us.

Then we found out we are expecting our first child, along with celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary! Timothy and I are so thankful for 8 wonderful years of marriage and almost 12 years of being best friends.

Then the traveling began (with some English day trips in between)…

First trip: Just Timothy! Timothy went to RLDM (Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making Conference) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and presented a paper with our good friend Dan Mankowitz from the Technion (Israel). This was Timothy’s first time in Edmonton, and was shocked at how similar Alberta was to College Station!

Second trip: Another conference! We are so blessed that I (Laura) am able to travel with Timothy on business trips. Both of us went to Lille, France for ICML (International Conference of Machine Learning)! Timothy had another paper he wrote with some other friends from the Technion to present! It was a really fun week, because we got to see so many friends from Israel- in France! We also did a lot of site seeing in Lille, including their zoo!

Third trip: Both of us went on a last minute trip to Mountain View, California! Thankfully, Google (Alphabet) HQ is about 35 minute drive from my dad’s place (in good traffic)! It was awesome to be back in the U.S. of A, spend time with my dad, and eat lots and lots of food! Timothy went to his first Raider’s Game, and we both had our first Pro-Football tailgate! It was a great game, and the best part was the RAIDERS WON! Then I got to go to two Oakland A’s games (vs. L.A. Dodger game & Tampa Bay Rays), and Timothy got to go to his first Oakland A game (vs. the Rays)! Even though the A’s lost against Tampa Bay, we had a great time! It was Star War’s themed, with lots of characters and the best part was the Star Wars Firework show!!  In addition to our weekend fun, during the week Timothy had a great time at Google HQ. He really enjoyed geeking out with all the Mountain View people, working on projects at HQ, and checking out the awesome facilities.

End of Summer: As our summer winds down, we have lots of family visiting us in England! Timothy’s mom will be here for about 2 ½ weeks, Christopher (Tim’s youngest brother) will be here as well for a couple of days, and then Timothy’s dad will be here for a week!

Baby Update: We will be 20 weeks on Saturday, August 29th! We are 1/2 way there! We have a couple of appointments this week and should know the baby’s gender soon!!! We will post a baby post soon!

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Just a few months after moving to England, Timothy and I were back in Israel! Our good friends Dan and Shirley were getting married (it went off without a hitch!)! It was my first Jewish wedding and it was awesome! The Rabbi did everything in Hebrew, and then he would explain it in English! The wedding was beautiful, the couple were so happy and beautiful,  the venue was beautiful, the food was good, and the party was a lot of fun. We are so happy we were able to share in our friends happy day!

Since we were going back to Israel, we wanted to do some things we didn’t do before, and also do some things we loved! First we went to Jaffa (South of Tel Aviv), Eilat, and Petra (see post below), which were places we hadn’t visited! Then we were back in Haifa, where we met with friends, spent 2 days at Hof HaCarmel swimming and had fun, we ate a lot of Israeli food, and drank LOTS of Hafuk (Israeli lattes!).

Enjoy the pictures! (Click to enlarge the gallery!)

Jordan – 2 Day Tour 

First Day Tour of PETRA – “Departing Eilat early morning we cross into Jordan and head straight to the ancient city of Petra. The tour takes in the most popular highlights of Petra beginning with the Treasury and the Siq Canyon and heading right through the main centre of the site. After lunch in Petra we have some free-time… take an optional hike up to The Monastery on Jabel A-Deir…” *Info provided by Desert Eco Tours

Ali our tour guide was amazing! There were 13 of us on the Petra tour (I think) and Ali learned all of our names! He told us interesting fact along the drive from the Jordanian border at Aquaba to Petra. One interesting quote is that we were only 12 km from the Saudi Arabian border! And from Aquaba we can see Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel! So cool!

Petra itself was spectacular. Ali was very knowledgeable about the sight. It is about a 4 km hike from the Visitor Center to the Treasury, in which we hiked through the “siq” or canyon. We saw the aqueducts and terracotta “pipes” along the way. While there were tombs along the way, the iconic and most spectacular Treasury was amazing to see as we walked through the canyon walls. After marveling at the Treasury, we walked down to the Palace Tombs. This was where the tour ended for the one-day tour group as they had to walk back 4 km to the bus to head back to Israel. Since we were staying overnight for the Wadi Rum tour, we got to stay as long as we liked. We had lunch at the end of the Ancient Roman City that is located in the middle of Petra. After that, we hiked to the Monastery. It was over 800 steps in the hot desert sun. Some people took donkeys, which seemed frightening because there was no railing and the donkeys were quick and the passengers looked petrified! The hike up to the Monastery was definitely worth it! It was a beautiful sight! After we came back, we explored the ancient Roman city (Colonnaded Street), then hiked up to the Royal Tombs. By then we were exhausted. But the hike back to the visitor center was nice. Seeing the Treasury in the late afternoon was beautiful. It was less crowded and just spectacular.

*After our wonderful day in Petra, we were taken to the Ammarin Bedouin Camp http://www.bedouincamp.net/enter.html. It was my favorite part of the trip! We stayed in a goat haired tent, that had nice thick matting, and super warm blankets. The camp had real bathrooms and showers, plus a generator that ran from sundown til 10pm. Timothy and I walked around the camp, and sat the around the fire drinking “shie” (tea). Also, there was a herd of goats on the side of one of the mountains! It was so cool! Our hosts were very nice, and helped us practice our Arabic before serving us a very delicious dinner. Then we sat around the fire some “shie” and enjoying star gazing. It was so beautiful being surrounded by mountains, sitting by a warm fire, looking at the stars with my wonderful husband. It reminded us of our trips to Big Bend.

In the morning after we woke up we had more “shie” and were served a wonderful breakfast. Then we walked around the camp a little bit more while we waited for Mohhamad, our Wadi Rum guide to pick us up. Right before our driver came, we saw a DESERT FOX! It was so cool. Plus, we got to see more goats on the mountains. I highly recommend staying at a Bedouin camp if you stay overnight near Petra or Wadi Rum! It is a great experience and the hosts are so friendly!

Second Day Tour of WADI RUM – “This day covers the highlights of Wadi Rum. Having arrived at the village of Rum inside the nature reserve, we board  4X4 jeeps, driven by professional Bedouin drivers and journey to the sandstone area of Wadi Rum. Here we go off-road into its unique landscape and get right off the beaten track to explore rarely travelled ancient merchant routes. The enchanting Wadi Rum is an area almost surreal in its distinctive beauty. We cross red sand dunes and explore the beautifully eroded pillars of sandstone rock. It was this area of Wadi Rum that so inspired T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Wadi Rums beauty remains intact and its breathtaking scenery is still an inspiration for those who travel there. Lunch is enjoyed en route in the great outdoors. The tour includes the Seven Pillars, Khaz Ali canyon and Jabel Um Asharim. Returning by evening to Eilat.” *Info provided by Desert Eco Tours

Wadi Rum was so much fun! First we stopped at the “visitors center” and saw the Seven Pillars. Then we drove through the village where Timothy and I met our camel guide! We had a private camel ride through the desert. We rode for about 30 minutes, then took a “shie” break, and then we took another 30 minute ride with our camels! It was a really cool experience. We really enjoyed it! Then we drove to HUGE sand dune that we got to play on and raced down. It was really cool. Then we hiked through a canyon. It was really neat. Also, I did some pretty scary rock climbing. Tim was not happy. Then we had an amazing desert barbeque (and we saw another DESERT FOX). It was delicious! After lunch, we hiked up a pretty large rock formation that had a “bridge” we got to cross and take pictures on! Then it was time to head home. On our way back to Eilat, we stopped at the 1916 train station where a train from the movie Lawrence of Arabia is still located.

While Timothy and I have been blessed to go on so many adventures over the years, it’s hard to believe they just keep getting better and better. We highly recommend Desert Eco Tours (http://www.desertecotours.com/English/ ) and Jordan Experience Tours (http://www.jordanexperience.com/), who work together.

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Timothy and I spent a week in Texas, before the big move to London. We were in College Station for about four days, staying at our wonderful friend Christina’s apartment. We moved out of our storage unit, I had meetings for work, and we met up with some friends and professors. Then we went to San Antonio for a day to stay with the Ramons, before we headed off to Austin.  While in Austin, Timothy attended a AAAI workshop and we got to see a few more friends. Unfortunately, we were very busy and did not get to see everyone, or do all the things we wanted. One person, I wanted to see but was unable to was my advisor Dr. Corliss Outley. She was in Houston with her little girl, Aailyah who was in the ICU at Texas Children’s hospital. I am sad to say, Aailyah passed away last Friday. Please pray for the Outley family.

Overall it was a really good trip, despite the stress of moving and flight cancellations. Also, we were really bad about taking pictures. Here are a few we did manage to take:

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Just hanging out at the beach

Just hanging out at Haifa beach…

As our time in Israel is coming to an end, here are a few things we have loved about living in Israel, and some things we have not, along with a few tips.

Loves

  • People. We have made a lot of great friends here in Israel. They have made our time much more enjoyable.
  • History. It’s been so cool to see places from the bible and from other points in history.
  • Cafés! Tim and I really enjoy having breakfast at local cafés. Our two favorites are: Israeli Breakfast (eggs, salad, bread, and tapenades and jam with coffee and juice. So good! And Shakshuka (a spicy tomato stew with poached eggs) served with bread, coffee and juice.
  • The beach! Warm water, nice promenades, tasty restaurants, and beautiful sunsets.
  • The weather! Not as hot or cold as Texas, with lots of sunshine and cool breezes.
  • Coffee. Israeli version of something between a latte and a cappuccino, but way more awesome.

Dislikes

  • Distance. We are so far from our family and it takes so long to get to the U.S. Also, the Timezone differences stink!
  • Not being Jewish. It makes security more a challenge. It makes TSA look like a picnic. Also, the Jewish calendar follows the lunar calendar and changes every year. It can make knowing when a holiday are confusing.
  • Language. While Tim has enjoyed the challenge of learning a foreign language, it has not been as fun for me. Also when at an English movie, subtitles of foreign or fictitious languages (Star Trek or the Hobbit) are in Hebrew.
  • Shabbat. While a day of rest is nice, it limits our ability to travel and experience more of Israel since there is little to no transportation available, and few places open.
  • Grocery stores. They are just not the same as the U.S. and non-perishables and hygiene products are very expensive.

*A lot of people ask us about safety. Thankfully Haifa is a very safe city and is far enough away from most of the conflict. Still, the conflict between Israel and Palestine was a major concern for us. However, we practice something I learned as a military dependent call “OpSec”. It also boils down to common sense. Be aware of threats (watch the news or get alerts on your phone) and don’t go to dangerous areas. I’ve often described visiting Israel is a lot like visiting NYC. There are certain places you have no business going day or night or times of conflict. Watch your stuff and don’t advertise anything that will make you a target. If you do these things, you will be safe, just like you would be in the U.S.

 

Tips for Living in Israel

  • Learn the Hebrew alef-bet. Hebrew is phonetic and relatively easy to learn (not so much to understand). It will make shopping, reading menus and traveling much easier.
  • Understand basic Kosher laws, especially regarding food. Parve (foods with no animal products). Kosher Dairy (some fish is okay) vs. Kosher meat. You can not mix dairy and meat, so no cheese burgers in most of Israel (except for non-kosher places).
  • Befriend both international friends and locals. Don’t limit yourself. Plus it will help you to emerge yourself in culture.
  • Emerge yourself in Israeli/Jewish culture. Attend Shabbat dinners and Passover Saders. Ask questions and enjoy local foods, and traditions.
  • Subscribe to a good VPN service. This will help you to watch your Netflix subscription and other American TV shows.
  • Get a library card before leaving the U.S. (maybe at your parents). Most libraries have an online borrowing system, which is nice to have access to, if you enjoy reading. Plus the Kindle app is free!
  • You can make free U.S. phone calls through Google Hangout! Very helpful.
  • Wake up early on Friday mornings. If you don’t get groceries early enough, it will be a long and hungry Shabbat. Plus the longer you wait the crazier the markets get.
  • Get a “Rav Kav” bus card. When buying tickets in bulk (usually 10 at a time) you save 10%. Also, in Haifa tickets are good for 90 minutes, so you can hope on and off.
  • In Israel 10% is the standard tipping at restaurants. Also, you will have to ask for your bill. Like in Europe, they will leave you pretty much alone for most of your meal, so you can talk with friends and family. This can be frustrating as an American, since we are use to waiters are always checking on us.
Isn't it wonderful?!?

Isn’t it wonderful?!?

Are we moving to the U.K.? Great Britain? or England?

Ducky: “I’m confused. Are we moving to the U.K.? Great Britain? or England?”

It is official. We will be moving from Israel in early January, just under the 2 year mark (Wow! 2 years already) and will be in London by the end of January (Tim’s start date is Feb. 2). But before making the move to England, we first need to go to the U.S.

Like most events, it is all a whirl wind/roller coaster ride. Here is a list of everything that needs to be done:

  • Tie up loose ends in Israel, prepare to move, and pack!
  • Fly to NYC, finish the last steps of the visa process
  • Visit Tim’s family
  • Fly to TX to ship our stuff from storage (Plus coordinate our stuff in NY & CA to be shipped as well)
  • Fly to London
  • Start the next Phase… finding an apartment, unpacking, and culture shock!

We are definitely looking forward to this next adventure. We are thankful/blessed for the crazy life we live, but the process of moving is daunting. I’ll be happier looking back on the move, than experiencing it!

In other news: Timothy will be attending NIPS conference in Montreal in December and my dad will be visiting me in Israel! Tim and my dad’s trip will overlap, so I will only be alone for a couple of days, which I’m so thankful for.

Bonnie Mann update: Timothy’s mom started a new treatment last week. However, she is also battling a bacterial infection. Please pray that the antibiotics will work and for the new treatment.

Also, a very good friend of mine mom was diagnosed with stage IV cancer last week, and it just broke my heart. Like my mom, surgery is not recommended. I pray that there will be another option for her.

Holiday plans: In Israel, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even New Years are just another day. But, Timothy and I have Christmas music, movies (thank you Netflix), a few decorations, along with Stuffing mix to help us celebrate. This year, our Christmas wish is a cure for Cancer. In the season of giving, Timothy and I ask that instead of a gift for us that you make a donation. Life and family is so much more precious than toys and gadgets. However, Christmas just won’t be the same without the traditional gift of underwear and socks from my mom.

AmericanCancerSociety

American Cancer Society: https://donate.cancer.org/index 

Cancer Research UK: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/support-us/donate

First and foremost:

Thank you for your prayers regarding our safety here in Israel and also for our moms! They really mean a lot to us! (Also, sorry this is going to be a LONG POST.)

The situation in Israel: 

As many of you know, Israel is currently in conflict with Hamas in the Gaza strip (this is in the southern part of Israel). Most of the attacks from Hamas have been targeted at the southern and central part of Israel. Where we live, Hafia, is in the north. We are about 100 km (63 miles) north of Tel Aviv on the coast. There have been a couple of rockets aimed at the north, but thankfully no damage was done to our area. Last night (3:30am) was the first time the sirens have gone off in our area. It was scarey, but we prepared and know where to go for safety. Again, thank you for your prayers. Hopefully there will be  a cease fire agreement soon.

Now for the Long Overdue Update:

Where have we been? That is a great question! Sometimes Timothy and I aren’t even sure where we are! So here is an update of what has been going on in the past 6 months since I last posted.

February & March: Honestly, I don’t remember. I’m pretty sure we were in Haifa the entire time. Timothy was really busy with work and had several conference deadlines. And I was finishing up a project with Texas A&M.

April: On April 4th, Timothy and I ran in a charity run. It was a lot of fun. We ran a total of 10k! Then, on Palm Sunday, Timothy and I visited a Kabutz and one (of many) Church of the Annunciation in Nazerath (http://www.basilicanazareth.org/index.php). We also got to visit Mount Precipice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Precipice). It was a nice day trip.

April/May, Timothy had to go back to the U.S. to get an Israeli working visa (crazy right?!), because he was promoted from a Post-Doctoral Fellow to a Senior Researcher. To make the most of his trip to the U.S. he arranged to work with a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for a month. He even got to spend Easter with his family.

During this time, I went to California to visit my family. I got to spend Easter weekend with my parents and my younger brother, Lyle. Thankfully I got to stay with my parents for 7 weeks! I’m very blessed to have gotten this time with my parents, especially my mom. I got to go to her Chemo and doctor appointments. I also got to keep her company while she was in the hospital.

June, Timothy was in Beijing, China for the International Conference for Machine Learning, where he presented two papers (Previously Timothy went to this ICML in Scotland and hopefully next year, where it will be in France). Then in September Timothy is going to a conference in Heidelberg, Germany. He is also working extremely hard at publishing lots of papers and in the fall will be applying for jobs in the U.S.

Also, Timothy and I are Aunt & Uncle once again! My brother Lyle and his wife Rachel had Savannah Marie on June 22, 2014! She was 7lbs 6.5oz and 20 ½ inches long! Most importantly she was healthy and beautiful! She looks like Lyle, so I’m wondering if she will look like me.

July, We had a very nice 4th of July. We went to the beach (Hof HaCarmel). We went swimming, got sun burnt and had lunch. Overall, a great day.

In other news: I am still working for Texas A&M. Dr. Outley, my masters advisor, who had me work on a grant for her doing online course development referred me to another professor after the grant was finished. Thanks to her, I am now working with a professor in Animals Science helping with online course development! It is really a blessing! I hope I keep getting referred!

Mom Updates:

Bonnie Mann- Hopefully Timothy’s mom will be starting a new radiation therapy called “Proton Therapy.” It will be 5 days a week and she will have to travel to New Jersey for treatment. Please pray for healing, strength, and travel.

Dee Ramirez- My mom has in and out of the hospital the last month and 1/2. Due to her cancer, chemo and medications, her blood levels have been off. She has needed several blood transfusions and she has had some blood clots. Last week we found out she also had a mini-stroke, which has caused my mom to be confused and tired. My mom started a new chemotherapy this week and is doing much better. Please pray for my dad as he is taking care of her and it has not been easy. Please also pray for healing and strength for my mom as well.

I think that is everything for now. I hope to update more regularly, but that is easier said than done!

We did a lot of traveling this fall! After showing some of our family around Israel in October we headed back state side for a few weeks. Timothy left first to attend the Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making conference in Princeton, NJ, where he presented his paper that won “Best Paper” (rldm.org). Then I met up with Timothy after the conference  for what I call “Timothy’s New England talking tour.” Timothy presented his work at Vassar, U Stony Brook, UMass Amherst, and SUNY Potsdam. It was 4 Universities in 4 days!

Then we were off to Montreal, where Timothy got to do some research with another lab at McGill University for three weeks.  Timothy had a great experience at McGill and got to network with some very important people in his field. We are very thankful for this opportunity. Also, we got to stay in a really cute apartment near campus and on the weekends we explored the city.

After our trip to Montreal, we got to spend Thanksgiving week with Timothy’s family before heading back to Israel.

In October, Timothy’s parents, along with his older brother Jonathon and Jon’s wife Ruolin came to visit us in Israel. We hired a private guide who gave us a tour of Masada, the Dead Sea , Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. Then we explored Haifa and the surrounding areas on our own. Jon and Ruolin took a day trip to Akko (Acre), and another day trip to Ceserea, when Timothy’s dad was under the weather. And Timothy’s Mom stayed for an extra week, so we got to visit Akko (Acre) and Nazareth together.

It was fun showing Timothy’s family our new home. We even got to celebrate a Shabbat dinner together thanks to our friends Daniel and Shirley. We had a really nice time together and took a ton of pictures. Here are just a few.

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