Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Leap Of Faith


The prompt for this week's 100 word (not including the prompt) challenge is, appropriately, in honour of the leap day in this leap year. The piece must be connected to the theme:

A leap of faith.

After you've read mine (and I invite you to leave a comment), pop over to Julia's Place to find the other entries.



A Leap Of Faith.

She hadn't noticed the date when she'd invited him to lunch. They were on mid-semester break, exams graded, and with a few days to chill.

She'd only realised that morning. She needn't be a social historian to know the significance, the implications. He, on the other hand, was a geeky bachelor from Sciences. He'd be oblivious.

Ten years of exchanging, 'Morning!' in the university carpark. The odd conversation at various annual events. There may've been one dance at a Christmas party once, or was that a dream?

But he would be here in her flat on February 29th. It would require a leap of faith.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Teenage Cooking: Voodoo Sausages

I saw these on facebook and I just had to try it. So after I'd bullied Big Chief Recipeshed to make this week's theme cooking for kids I set out to design a recipe especially for teenagers.  
Voodoo Sausages

1. Give each teenager a sausage and ask them to imagine that the sausage is their worst enemy. You may employ some group discussion in order to share and empathise, etc...

2. Hand out sticks of dried spaghetti. Explain the concept of voodoo and voodoo dolls in particular.

3. Stick the enemies through with spaghetti pins.


4. Put the voodoo sausages into a cauldron pot of boiling water and watch them boil to death until the pasta is cooked.
5. Serve and eat. Good topics for conversation over dinner would be; the satisfaction of revenge or cannibalism by proxy.
6. Sit back and wait for bad news. This could take several days or even weeks.

Disclaimer 1. My kitchen really is meat free. I used Tivall vegetarian sausages.
Disclaimer 2. For a real children's treat read about my vegetable nugget pancakes.
Disclaimer 3. For a really funny recipe read The Whisky Lovers' Christmas Fruit Cake.

Monday, February 27, 2012

New Stars Over Bethlehem?

On Saturday night I was doing the washing up and happened to glance out of the window to see a sliver of new moon like a smile (or a cereal bowl) in the night sky. Aha, Silent Sunday! I thought and rushed to get my camera. However, on posting the picture, there was more to it than I had originally realized.

Here is the photo from the night of 25.2.12, looking west over Jerusalem. Just above the moon to the left is a planet. When I first saw it I purposely tried to incude it in the shot as I thought it was a bright star. But in fact, alerted by the one of the comments under my post, it is a planet.

I did some googling (as one does) and found out that on that night the sun, the moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus would all be aligned and visible to the naked eye. Some reports say that Mars was also present earlier in the evening but soon slipped below the horizon. And the show was due to continue on Sunday night 26.2.12.

So last night I took some more photos and I definitely got both Jupiter and Venus (below the moon) in these shots. Also interesting to see (if you can) is that the moon was partially eclipsed on two sides - the top and the right. One of the eclipses was the earth and the other... Mercury maybe? Anyone with a bit of knowledge on this subject is invited to leave a comment to enlighten us. Thank you.

Before I leave you with these pictures I want to mention that (the little town of) Bethlehem is about 10 minutes drive to the south of where I live. Some accounts speculate that what the Magi (the three wise men/Kings) actually saw in the sky may have been Jupiter. They came from the east and so they were looking west. Jupiter to the left of the moon would look like it was pointing south of Jerusalem (earlier in the evening than when I took this photo). Reader, I didn't follow the star.



Friday, February 24, 2012

#ArtIHeart 1 - Paris Reunion

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Art I Heart
  

Share the art you love from your walls, a birthday card, what your child drew at school, that you saw in The National Gallery in London...

1. Choose one piece of art that has a short personal story behind it. It could be something on your wall, something you've seen in a gallery and love, homedrawn, on a postcard, on a birthday card, something by Degas or something by your DS.

2. Take a photograph, scan or download a picture of your picture and post it along with the short story about why you are drawn to it, have it on your wall, bought it, or hate it. Don't forget to link back to the linky so your readers can see the other entries.

3. Link up (it's open till next Thursday, 4pm GMT), leave a comment, et voila!

Here's mine:
La Place Du Tertres, Paris, by Georges B.
(This is a print I found on ebay as my attempts to photograph my own copy were unsuccessful.)

In the late 1960s four little girls went to primary school together in England. Then they went to the same secondary school. At 14 one of them emigrated with her parents to America. In her 20s another emigrated to Israel (me!) and ten years later, one moved with her own family to the south coast of England. They sort of kept in touch by heresay, gossip and occasional visits. Then came email, then came Friends Reunited and they reconnected.

It was 2002 and an idea was born to celebrate our 40th birthdays with a trip to Paris - 4 friends, 4 days, turning 40. In fact I was already 41 when we finally made the trip but it was wonderful. We fitted together like long lost friends (funnily enough). We needed to learn about each other's lives now (then) but there was no getting-to-know-you involved. We knew each other's childhoods, families, even the wallpaper in our teenage bedrooms. Surreal in a way but so easy to talk and talk and talk and talk. We also walked and walked and walked. And ate these (see number 5).

I had recently bought my first home and moved in. I'd wiped out my savings and was on a tight budget. I desperately wanted a souvenir of this trip and I really wanted a painting. The artists' market in Monmartre had beautiful scenes of Paris - starting at about 250 Euro. I resigned myself to not buying art.

Stopping to buy postcards I found this large-size (A3) postcard of a painting of La Place Du Tertre, Monmartre. It cost half a Euro. When I got home I found an old frame bought in John Lewis years before and mounted my postcard. I had my piece of art from Paris for 50 cents and I love it. Here it is in situ above my kitchen sink:



Thursday, February 23, 2012

#LifeCircle 7 - The Discomfort Zone

Kate asked the LifeCirclers to step out of their comfort zones this week. Last week I wrote about my list philosophy and the advantages of positive procrastination. The reason last week's list got almost finished was that I was running to do any task other than phone the plumber. Here's a brief history of the situation:

Nine months ago the 20 year old tap on my bathroom sink was leaking at the base where it's fixed to the sink. I called the building insurance people and was told, obviously, that taps weren't covered but they'd send their plumber to make sure there was nothing wrong with the pipes in the wall which are covered by my insurance.

A nice man came and confirmed that the tap was leaking, it wasn't covered by insurance and he could fix it through his private business. He fixed it, along with a couple of other things, and I paid him 850nis (about 140 pounds - sounds incredible but services here are very expensive if you're anything more or less qualified than a teacher with an MA and 25 years experience).

Nine months later the new tap is leaking. Step one was to file months of papers, bills and receipts in order to find the receipt from the plumber. I put this off for a couple of weeks but eventually did it and couldn't find the important receipt anywhere. I probably threw it out. Who would think that a new tap would need fixing after nine months?

So now I didn't have a leg to stand on vis a vis guarantee. I didn't have a number for the plumber, nor did I even remember his name. I don't have another 600nis or so to pay for a new tap and the leak isn't exactly gushing out water. Thus I did what I do best and ignored it, meanwhile doing everything else on my long list of tasks except deal with the tap - positive procrastination at it's best. My life hasn't been so efficiently in order for months. A result of sorts but a leaking tap will only get worse....

After acting out the worst case scenario whereby I explain the situation to the plumber, he laughs at me in a nasty and condescending way and tells me to get lost (slightly humiliating but I've been through worse things), eventually I faced my demons and picked up the phone to the insurance company. They had the original visit on their computer and could give me the name and phone number of the plumber. Plumber remembered me and happened to be in the area so he dropped in to assess the problem. There was a wobbly "I knew it!" moment when he explained that the tap company (for the tap he bought me) was responsible for the guarantee. But as he had bought the tap he said he would go back to the shop (his regular supplier) and see to it all. That was all last Thursday. Today I called him to see what the situation was. He still hasn't done anything about it but it's on his list. It's no longer my problem so I'm not stressed about it anymore. The whole thing last Thursday took maybe one hour after weeks of worrying about it. Why? Why? Why?

Art I Heart
And tomorrow I'm stepping out of my comfort zone again by launching a new linky on my blog. Art I Heart - read about it here and do come back tomorrow, thanks :). Now that wasn't too difficult either.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

#Listography - Happy High Five

After last week's spectacular display of mugs an and *ahem* my winning post, this week's Listography is the top five things that make me happy (apart from my winning mugs of course). If you're not feeling too chipper yourself and need some good ideas about what might perk you up you can visit the Listograpgy Linky and read loadsovem.
My Happy High Five

1. Mozart's Clarinet Concerto (2nd movement). Just click and listen while you're reading the rest of this post and you'll know why.



2. Bedtime stories. No not for me, although I do enjoy reading in bed. Stories for my 3yo. We lie in the bed together, sharing the pillow. Her warm little face pressed up against mine. We negotiate how many stories she can choose depending on the hour. Then I read with her commenting and contributing throughout. And then she starts to yawn and her input becomes less and less. A kiss and a cuddle and I turn off the light. She then spends the next two hours coming out of her room to go to the toilet, tell me something important, collect a stray teddy, have me kiss an imaginary wound...

By the way, if you want to know why bedtime stories are essential read what happens if you don't do bedtime stories.

3. Making order out of chaos. This includes writing lists, sorting out clothes cupboards, folding and putting away laundry, tidying in general and rearranging to make better use of the space. Mad I know but it really does make me happy and it actually makes me more productive, less likely to eat too much, and less stressed all round. As I write I'm wondering why it should be that this is any more strange than gardening or jogging to nowhere for the shear sweatiness of it.

4. Writing and blogging. The combination of writing and, with the click of a mouse, sending it off to be read by an infinite number of people (in theory) is simply intoxicating. And if anyone comments, well then I'm just in seventh heaven. Stats? Better than uppers on a good day. As soon as DD's in bed it's blog o'clock and I'm off!

5. Love and laughter. Sharing a good time with friends whether it be actually in the same place together or bantering on fb has to be the best feel-good medicine there is. Old friends, new friends, or friends I haven't even met yet (not so strange for a blogger), I'll always appreciate a little humour.

So there you have it. Please don't feel you have to rush off before the music finishes. Why not take the time to write a comment or six?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pancake Crazy For Vegetarian 'Meat' Meals

Sweetcorn pancakes and broccoli pancakes
How can a vegetarian kitchen serve meat and two veg? (Disclaimer: I say vegetarian kitchen as my kitchen is vegetarian [with tins of tuna] but I am not. I have good reasons which will be in another post... one day.) Of course it can't. However there are reasons why you might want to serve something of similar weight and texture. Here are my reasons:

1. Cook meat, add potatoes or rice, a couple of cooked vegetables and a salad et voila - a dinner party! With meatless food it's somehow never as simple as that. Whatever I serve (vegetable strudel, lasagne, quiche, stuffed vegetables) and whatever I add (kugel, latkes, curried rice with everything) I'm thinking: why am I adding more starch when the main item already has pasta/rice/pastry in it? Ditto for the vegetable sides - more vegetables?

2. I'm always looking for that elusive meaty taste and texture. It's a mindset I have to get past but I'm not there yet.

3. Sometimes I want a burger with all the trimmings.

4. I like the old familiar foods even if they are meat-centric. Hence spaghetti tofunaise and vegetarian cholent.

I know the answer is to get over the traditional meat and two veg as the ideal meal but until I do I've gone a bit mad with pancakes. Make them thick and dense and full of flavour and you have something that can look like a burger, a chicken nugget, a sausage or a shnitzel. We're into nugget size at the moment as DD is 3yo and it suits her for dipping into ketchup.

Make nuggets with teaspoon size portions
Use fried onions, onion soup powder, soy sauce, tomato puree, curry powder, ground cumin or coriander, salt and pepper to experiment for a more meaty taste. Or use these ingredients to make a piquant sauce to serve with your pancakes.

Tuna pancakes (Yes I know!)
For the main pancake ingredient you can use any vegetables. Put them in the processor with eggs, flour and any of the above seasonings. Then spoon the mixture (teaspoons for nuggets, tablespoons for burgers) into hot oil and fry on both sides.

I'm linking this to Recipeshed at Chronicles of a Reluctant Housedad where the theme this week is soups and vegetarian. And I wish you all a flipping good Shrove Tuesday.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Linkies, A Prize, And Art I Heart

I love linkies. I love the traffic they bring in and I love the competition comparing comraderie of everyone writing to the same theme. This week was especially linkalicious because of the mug listography from Katetakes5. Not only did I become addicted to seeing other people's mug collections, but there were prizes, and I won one of them with this post!

I'm not going to say I've never won anything before because I have. However, in a year of blogging I have yet to see a competition that wasn't for UK residents only. This time I wrote Kate a note saying that I would be visiting my sister in London very soon so I could therefore pick up any prize that I  might win within the UK postal area and I just wanted her know in case it made a difference. She wasn't fazed by my geographcal location and I was thrilled to read this post today - Thank you Kate. Which all goes to show: it doesn't matter where you are, it's where you're at.

Art I Heart
So I decided to start my own linky. On Friday morning I will be launching Art I Heart. The format will be as follows:

1. Choose one piece of art that you love and that has a short personal story behind it. It could be something on your wall, something you've seen in a gallery and love, homemade art (a picture not sculpture or instalation art), on a postcard, on a birthday card, something by Degas or something by your DS.

2. Take, scan or download a picture of your picture and post it along with the short story about why you are drawn to it, have it on your wall, bought it, or hate it. Don't forget to link to the linky page so that your readers can see the other entries.

3. Link up, leave a comment, et voila!

I have white walls with lots of artwork and I love pictures so I'll be busy doing this forever. I'd love you to join me, obviously. Now I just need to find out how to upload a working linky and maybe work on a more original badge.

Friday, February 17, 2012

#LifeCircle 6 - List Philosophy

Kate, our mentor ( @kateab ) saw that time management was an issue for many of us so she advised writing a list (read how the others did on The Five Fs Blog). Simple. She gave suggestions of course. There's the urgent/non-urgent grid, the list website, prioritising and shifting items accordingly. Me, I just like a straightforward list. I've said it before, I am the List Queen. I write an action list every day (almost). I write a list of things to do from the master list (this may be prioritising). I do it in my Filofax. I love it. I don't always do the things on the list. Some items appear daily for several days weeks. This is called procrastination.

A word about procrastination. Procrastination is very good for lists. While you are avoiding the thing that is paralysing you for whatever reason, you zip through the rest of the list with an efficiency fuelled by dread. Anything not to have to face the dreaded thing that's freaking you out. I had one of these dreaded things to do and was avoiding it at all costs. Consequently my list became a great success. It has an official name: Positive Procrastination. (Btw - the dreaded thing required me to step outside my comfort zone and is the subject of the next LifeCirlce post.)

So here is my list philosophy:



1. I write a list of up to 60 things to do and give myself the whole week to complete them. Obviously some things have to be done on a certain day or at a certain time. Other things are as and when I feel like it. I tend to feel like it more if there is the satisfaction of crossing an item off the list to follow.

2. The items are not all equal. Some are merely making a two minute phone-call or paying a bill online. Some items are big projects like grading all the papers from a course taken by 100 students. This takes several days and many hours. Other items can be lumped together and accomplished on one trip to the shops - deposit a cheque, buy a new kettle, weekly food shop, post a letter, get a spare key cut, etc... It doesn't matter. I tend to do a short task; wash dishes, put on a wash, hang out laundry, etc, during 10 minute breaks in the longer projects.

3. During the course of the week some jobs will become obsolete - I found the spare key so no need to cut a new one, the phone-call phoned me first. Thems the breaks, just cross 'em off the list.

4. This is the crucial one. Do not expect to do everything on the list. Once you've done say 50/60 and reached the end of the week, cut your losses and start again. Write up a new list for the next week. Some items from the week before will be rolled over - it doesn't matter. Some things like food shopping are repeated weekly. Somethng that started as a big project may be able to be chunked down now that you're into it. For example, grade all the papers that came in on time and grade the late papers as two separate items. Or grade papers on option A, option B, etc... Spring clean my bedroom might become; sort out my clothes and clean wardrobe, sort and clean bookshelf, sort and clean dressing table, wash bedroom window, etc...

I accomplished my 50/60 last week and I'm itching to write the list for next week. Part of the ease of it is that you don't have to finish anything by the end of the day and you aren't aiming for 100% completion so you never get upset.

And here is the most exciting thing for a certified procrastinator like myself - when you have done about 70% of the list and the things left to do seem very little and totally manageable, when you get to that point, the dreaded item that you've been avoiding doesn't seem so daunting. You've got the time and clarity to tackle it as you've already done so many of the other things that were dragging you down. You are feeling virtuous. It makes you strong. You're willing to take the risk and step out of your comfort zone. But more of this next time - I've got a list to go and write :~). 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

#Expatblog - Doing Sponja

The Expat Blog prompt from Tales From Windmill Fields (click on it to see the other entries) was to find one thing that you never used back home but that you use all the time in your new country. I couldn't think of anything except food items and that's been done. So I put the question to my fb friends and there were some interesting suggestions.


1. Solar heating panels. In London we had the boiler on water constant and central heating timed for all the years I sat on the downstairs loo and read the metre. Here we all have solar heated water tanks on the roof. About three times in the winter I have to put the immersion heater on  because it's been cloudy all day. It doesn't have to be hot outside, only a clear sky is necessary. I never think about hot water and I certainly don't pay for it.

2. Drip irrigation. It's an Israeli invention and obviously used here and around the world for crops. But here every garden has the thin brown pipes laid over the flower beds dripping drops of water at regular intervals. And many people even have it threaded through the planters and pots on their balcony. We've gone a bit drip irrigation crazy.

3. Most people have tiled floors throughout; ceramic, marble or stone. This is how everyone cleans the floor. Forget squeegee mops or those old fashioned institutional mops with the special bucket attachments to squeeze out the dirty water.


We have a goomy on a stick which you wrap a wet floor cloth (shmatta) around and mop the floor. After a bit, as the cloth becomes dirty, you wash it in a bucket of soapy water and wring it out. There is a Middle-Eastern technique to this that gets the last drip out, leaving you with a perfectly damp cloth. You re-wrap the goomy and continue mopping the floor. It's called doing sponja.

Nowadays some people have their bedrooms carpetted and, as everywhere, the wooden (or faux-wooden) floor is also trendy. But most of us still have tiles and everyone has the goomy and shmatta. I would say sponja is a national pastime enjoyed by all ages on a weekly basis.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

#Nameaday - What if we all ate less?

I read Chris Mosler's article on Thinly Spread about Save The Children's campaign to get David Cameron to lead a worldwide push to end world hunger. The facts and statistics are in the article and if you're still not convinced you should watch the short video below. There are ways you can help which are also detailed in the article. So when you've watched the video and read Chris's post, take a few minutes, if you don't mind, to follow me as I wondered, 'What if we all ate less?'



As I write this I have a mug of coffee and a slice of cake on my desk and it's not my first slice. I'm not writing that to try and be funny. It's actually sad and pathetic that we all cry over the starving children whilst filling our supermarket trolleys with snacks and treats that are far in excess of the calories we need. I was partly inspired by Natasha of The 1970s Diet (fascinating experiment) but it is something I've been thinking about for a long time. If we all ate less would it help the starving children in the developing world?

So I googled: If we all ate less would it reduce world hunger? The articles that came up were all about how vegetarianism (veganism even) is the only solution. I'm not telling you all to give up meat but here are the basic arguments so you know what I found.

1. The amount of grain used to feed dairy and beef cattle uses up the supply grown in the Western World. Rich countries like the USA then have to import grain from e.g. African countries to provide for their needs. The money goes to the developing world but the governments there use it for all sorts of things, not necessarily food. The grain that was exported would have fed their country.

2. The carbon and water used to rear dairy and beef cattle is a big part of the problem of diminishing fossil fuels. I read this in an article published by the UN.

As I said, I'm not telling you to be vegetarian. I'm not talking about the evils of fast food, for that you can read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 2001). I'm simply talking about the vast amounts of food we consume even in our own homes (and food that we pick up on the go). The snacks we eat in between meals. The portions we serve. The non-stop supply that we graze on continuously throughout the day. As Natasha says - food used to be fuel. There was nothing to eat between meals except a piece of fruit. What we call a snack now is often the size a small meal used to be.

Watch an old TV programme or movie in which a family are sitting down to eat. The main course would be a plate with two slices of cold meat, a couple of small boiled potatoes and a portion of greens or small salad. Add to that a small bowl of soup to start, a bit of pie for pudding, and a cup of tea to wash it all down. Even when I was a child I remember my father carving the chicken into thin slices and one chicken would feed the family of five with leftovers for chicken risotto on Monday night. Nowadays you get your chicken cut into eighths and allow two portions per person.

So what would happen if we all ate less? Would the excess be sent to countries where people are starving? I don't think so. If our demand for food decreased I expect we would start feeding our cattle with our own home-grown grain due to more excess grain and fewer cattle. Eventually we may begin to produce less. At the very least we would not have to import grain from people who don't have enough for themselves.

The lack of waste, the health benefits, the medical resources used to combat obesity related deseases that would be freed up, the moral issues of stuffing our faces whilst children starve... I can only think of good reasons to eat less even if my knowledge of global politics and economics doesn't allow me to give an academic answer or even an educated opinion. I'd be happy to read comments from anyone who 'knows' or even from anyone who just 'feels' like I do.

I'm linking this post to MUMenTUM over at New Mum Online. It's not strictly about my weight loss story and I didn't lose anything this week anyway. However, it is a good post to read if you want some sound reasons to eat less.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Family Day



It started off as Mother's Day, mainly the commercial aspect of it but also to honour the mothers. It was a funny custom for Israel to adopt as Mother's Day in the UK is definitely a Christian based celebration formerly known as Mothering Sunday. I was never entirely sure if it was referring to the young girls in service going back to visit their mothers (with gifts from the big house) or if the Mother referred to Mother Mary. Anyway, strangely enough, it took off in Israel. Or maybe not so strange as mothers tend to be worshipped here.



However, not all families have mothers and what about fathers? What about children living with other relatives for whatever reason? We're a sensitive lot when it comes to family and so Mother's Day evolved into Family Day. And it's sometime next week.



Word came from the nursery that DD was to bring in a photograph of her family. Well it's just the two of us so not difficult to round everyone up. You'd think. But if both of us are in the picture, who going to take it? So we sat together with my arm outstretched in front of us clicking away blindly in the hope of some decent results. This is what we got.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Mugs I Have Loved

This week's Listography from Kate Takes 5 is strangely personal. It's a case of 'I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours'. So here are mine. I dedicate this post to past mugs I have loved. The best loved and most oft used are obviously the ones that don't survive. RIP




1. I was in Los Angeles in 1987 and my friend took me to the most amazing place - no not Disneyland, although we went there too, obviously. It was a Dollar Store. Of course we have Pound Shops now but back then I couldn't believe that this whole vast store sold everything for a dollar. I bought eight of these coffee cups. Two broke in my suitcase on the way home. Another four were faulty in that the handles heated up when the coffee was hot so you couldn't hold them. These two are perfect. $4 each in the Dollar Store. Who's the mug?



2. A good friend from New York stayed with me one summer. During her trip she went on a five day mini break to Turkey and bought me this set of six tea glasses with saucers and tiny teaspoons. Instead of coffee after dinner I love to bring out a pot of delicate herbal or green tea and serve everyone in these beautiful glasses. I try not to hate the guest who says, just as I'm about to pour, "have you got coffee?" And the other two who chime in with, "oh I'd rather have coffee too, if there is any," they will be a long time waiting for another invitation.


3. Two mugs that stack to make a multistorey tableau of roosters roosting. Silly really as they're only ever stacked in the cupboard with the door closed. If I take them out I'm unstacking them to use them. They were a gift but I could be tempted to go out and buy a dresser for several hundred pounds in order to display them. 



4. This one comes in three parts. The mug, the tea-strainer insert, and the lid that doubles up as a saucer for the strainer (with soggy teabag inside) when you remove it from the mug. Nice idea and very pretty. It was a present from a student at the end of the year. Did I mention how well it works? No I didn't. Nuff said.




5. I taught these two young boys to read when they were seven year olds. Every week for two years we sat at one of their kitchen tables and had an English lesson. They bought me this mug at the end. That was 18 years ago as they're now 25 year olds. I still see them occasionally in the neighbourhood.



If your appetite for other people's mugs is whetted, pop over to Kate's Listography for more.