1) My two favorite pictures from my weekend wanderings on the Web

Study of a child contemplating her world, from Russian photographer Geser Zavulonov.


I hope dogs celebrate mother’s day.  This Mom deserves something special.


A dog feeds some of her 15 puppies in Huai’an, China. The dog gave birth about two weeks ago and to the surprise of the owner, all 15 of the puppies survived.

A cousin’s husband was one of 14 children.  His father was a minister, who clearly took God’s message to “Be fruitful and multiply” to heart.   

Among the couples that you know of which had the most children, excluding foster families?

2) Recipe of the Day – From the New York Times “Temporary Vegetarian”, Elaine Louie

Tomato Gazpacho With Vanilla Cream

What is not to like about soup served with whipped cream on top.  What is your favorite summer soup? 


Tomato Gazpacho With Vanilla Cream Yield 4 servings

Time 30 minutes

Adapted from William Bradley, Executive Chef, Addison Restaurant


    For the gazpacho:
  • 6 large red heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • 1 11-ounce bottle of lemon-flavored Perrier
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt For the vanilla cream:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Pulp from 2 vanilla pods that have been halved lengthwise and scraped.


    • 1. For the gazpacho: Depending on the size of the blender, the gazpacho may be prepared in one or two batches; if desired, divide the ingredients in half and blend one batch at a time.
    • 2. In a blender, combine tomatoes, cucumber, tomato paste, crème fraîche, lemon-flavored Perrier and sugar. Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes. With motor running, slowly add olive oil until mixture is emulsified and smooth. Season with fleur de sel to taste.
    • 3. For the vanilla cream: Whip heavy cream until stiff. Fold in vanilla pulp just until mixed.
    • 4. To serve, ladle gazpacho into four soup bowls and garnish each with a dollop of vanilla cream.


    3) Article from the “People Making A Difference” series in the Christian Science Monitor, the story of Fawzia al-Thiab, who defied tradition in Syra to become a surrogate mother, of more than 35 to date.


    Fawzia al-Thiab stands surrounded by five children in their kitchen. This wouldn’t be an extraordinary picture in Syria, but these are not Ms. Thiab’s children, and their house is one of 12 similar houses in SOS Children’s Village, an orphanage in Qodsaya, north of Damascus, Syria.

    Arranged around a central playground and gardens, each house is presided over by a “mother” such as Thiab, who runs her household like any other family.

    “I think of these as my children,” she says. “It does not feel like an institution here.”

    As a surrogate mother, Thiab lives in the brightly decorated house 24 hours a day, seven days a week, taking care of seven children – five girls and two boys, ages 3 to 14.

    From getting the children up at 6 a.m. to putting them to bed at 8:30 p.m., she is responsible for the daily activities – preparing meals, seeing they dress properly for school, helping with homework, and solving issues that arise.

    Thiab has been at the village 15 years and has mothered more than 35 children. It is an unusual – and unexpected – career, she concedes.

    She applied for what she thought was a day job working with children that she’d seen advertised in a newspaper. When she got to the village, she was told the job would be live-in.

    Thiab comes from a village in Daraa, in southern Syria, where traditional ideas are entrenched. Her family and friends were very resistant to her taking the job, she says. Her father was especially worried about her staying away from home overnight – a stigma for unmarried women.

    More significantly, the job also meant giving up the traditional roles of marriage and children of her own. SOS demands that each mother must be single (they may be widowed or divorced) and have no children of their own to ensure complete focus on and devotion to the job.

    “This goes against the expected norms,” Thiab says. “But I feel as though with these children, the other mothers, and the father [the head of the orphanage, Majd al-Ibrahim], I have more than gained what I have lost by not having my own family.”

    While Thiab wanted to have her own children, she said she had not met anyone she wanted to marry, despite several offers. After a trial period working at SOS, she says she knew it was the job for her.

     “It is so important to give these children love and care,” says Thiab, whose sister Souad followed in her footsteps to become a mother at another house. “Without SOS, they’d have no one.”

    No statistics are available on the number of abandoned or orphaned children in Syria, but anecdotal evidence suggests the number is rising. What’s clear is that good institutions to care for such children are few.

     “There are many orphanages in Syria, but very few that aren’t run along strict traditional models,” says Bassam Baldan, the country director of SOS. “We are giving children families, not just a home.”

    “The children at SOS are so happy,” says Yusra al-Ahmad, a mother of two and a local Arabic teacher who takes her students to volunteer at the village. “A lot of that is due to mothers such as Thiab, who give them so much.”

    Set up in 1981, SOS Chil­dren’s Villages are part of an international chain of orphanages founded by Austrian benefactor Herman Gmeiner. The organization supports more than 2,000 projects in 132 countries. 

    Link to the SOS Children’s Villages site: