Saturday, December 19, 2015

Muffin Tin Meals

Did anyone out there once imagine they would make wonderfully healthy cooked-from-scratch meals for their family every day? Oh, almost all of you? Well there's a surprise - NOT.

Melanie LaDue, who blogs at Reasons to skip the Housework, was one of us in this respect. Her mother even gave her a box of recipes when she got married, that showed her how to spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen making such meals. Hahahaha. As, like us, Melanie doesn't live in the 1950s, she needed fast, healthy meals that could be eaten, on the go if necessary or in a packed lunch, and stored in the freezer in single portion sizes (you don't want to defrost a whole shepherd's pie and be left eating it every day for a week).

One day she realized that a lot more could be done with a muffin tin than just bake muffins (or cupcakes). Super Quick Muffin Tin Meals - 70 Recipes for Perfectly Portioned Comfort Food in a Cup was the result. I was sent the book to review and I can honestly say that I've had a blast with it.

The genius is so simple - normal meals in muffin sizes that can be frozen and used as needed. There are spaghetti nests filled with a meatball, individual  lasagnes, shepherd's pie (you need cupcake holders for this one), chicken pot pies, deep pan pizzas, chilli in polenta nests, muffin tin meatloaf...

Melanie also makes desserts including individual cakes, pies, and s'mores.

I love that the base of your cup can be things other than dough or pastry. You can use a slice of ham or salami, slices of bread or pitta moulded into the muffin tray, or pancake batter, Another idea is to make shells from e.g. bread, pittas or wraps, and fill them with creamy chicken or vegetable salads.

I decided to start with cheesey hashbrowns, If you know me you'll also know that I'm almost incapable of sticking to the recipe as it's written. If I'm already grating potatoes I might as well add a couple of carrots and a chunk of cabbage, right? I actually just put all three in the processor and then added some eggs, milk, grated cheese, salt, pepper, oregano and zhuzhed (why mess up a mixing bowl aswell?). I added a tablespoon of flour for extra binding and some onion soup powder because I realized that an onion would have been good but I didn't have one. So basically, I made it up as I went along and it came out delicious.




Really that was quite enough for one day week, and I am trying to eat through the food in my freezer rather than feeding it more food. However, I'd already cooked some broccoli and defrosted a few cubes of chopped spinach so I had to press on. I was going to make frittatas in brown bread cups but I decided that was a waste of bread. I changed the plan to broccoli, spinach and cheese frittatas. Each muffin cup received a generous spoonful of chopped broccoli, spinach and grated cheese mixture. On top of this I spooned a custard of eggs, milk, a bit of flour for binding as I'm always scared it won't set, salt and pepper.



I've also already defrosted a packet of blackcurrents (or they may be blueberries, who knows) so I'm going to make blueberry oven pancakes as soon as the frittatas come out.

Muffin Tin Meals is published by Race Point Publishing, New York, NY (2015) and costs $21.99 US/12.99 GBP/$25.99 CAN. Perfect for a post-Christmas present as there is ample opportunity to use up the leftovers from Christmas dinner, for example, turkey stuffing bites and turkey cheddar melts.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Turning Seven Tidbits #37

1
I send DD to Young Scientists' Club once a week after school because girls don't have to do only ballet, art, and piano, right? The first week she came home with a windmill they'd contstructed themselves with a perpetual motion device made with a weight on a string that wound and unwound itself on a stick that the arms were fixed to. The srting was held to the stick with a bead. 
DD: Do I really need to keep this windmill? I mean what do I need it for?
Me: It's interesting to see how it works but you don't have to keep it.
DD: Good, so I can take it apart and throw it away?
Me: Yes if you want to.
DD: I want to because I need that bead to make a necklace.

Birthday doughnuts instead of a cake
2
Me (In a deep southern drawl): Well lookee here
DD: You're exactly like Apple Jack except that you don't like moving very much. Well actually you're more like Granny Smith.

Cake for school birthday party
3
Me: Happy Birthday!
DD: Finally I'm not the youngest in my class anymore.

Hours of imaginative play with Barbie-type dolls
4
DD (Holding up her new Barbie doll): I must go to the mall I need some new shoes.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Reasons 2B Cheerful When You Turn Seven





1. DD's school have made a herb garden on an old previously plain wall. It makes me happy every time I see it. I'm hoping we will be able to use some of the herbs when they've grown.




2. Make it a Habit has lasted six weeks for me and I've lost a steady 2lbs a week making it 12lbs in total. 

3. It's DD's birthday tomorrow. There'll be two parties, one at school in the morning and one at home in the afternoon. The school party is just a cake, a present for the classroom (ususally a book) and a small activity for the children to do. When I say small, I mean really small - last week they had had a photocopied wordsearch of words about the birthday boy. 

I'm no baker so the birthday cake for school went like this: 

First go shopping

Next unwrap the cakes and place them in a baking tray

Finally cover with a sugar glaze and decorate with marshmellows and sprinkles
(I made the sugar glaze myself out of icing sugar and water and DD didn't want the M&Ms on it)
The activity is a bookmark for each child to colour in, with their name on it in Hebrew and English. 

Cut strips of card, write the names and punch a hole in each card

Make tassles from leftover crochet cotton wrapped round a Pink Level Reader

They came out very nicely I think
For the party at home we'll be having lunch followed by fancy [shop bought] doughnuts instead of cake and each of the five children and five mothers will get plain bookmarks (tassles but no names) to decorate with stickers and colours in order to make Hanuka presents for themselves and whoever else they want to make for. 

I'm feeling pretty cheerful about all this and linking up to R2BC over at Lakes Single Mum.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Make It A Habit 2, R2BCheerful, And Loose Ends.

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful, again hosted by Ojo's World.

1. Since starting my own Make It A Habit facebook group at the beginning of the month (after being expelled from the original one), we have 12 members, some more active than others, and some very real success stories.

My own first habit was to eat three modest meals a day with no snacking in between. After the intial four weeks (including the week in the other group) it had indeed become a habit and I lost 8lbs.

Last Friday I decided to rev up the health factor and my new habit is to eat an apple and a carrot (I am not a carrot person), and drink two large glasses of herbal tea every day. So far I've stuck to it except for Wednesday and Thursday this week when I ran out of apples - two days short of shopping day. 10lbs lost since October 23rd and feeling good.

Jerusalem Cokkbook Club cooks Ottolenghi
2. The first Jerusalem Cookbook Club dinner was a lot of fun and a great success. I'm very bad at going out in the evenings these days as it usually has to involve a babysitter. This time it was at my next door neighbour's I took DD along, armed with her tablet, and she watched videos for the duration. However, as I enjoyed the evening so much, next time I will invest in a babysitter and not have to be the first to leave at the end.

In other news, the College Summer Course that I tried to close in the middle of October would not stay dead. I was asked nicely if I could re-open it for select students who had almost finished. Tbh, it behooves me to comply as I'd rather let them finish a few tasks now than have them reappear next year and have to grade all thier papers again.

This last week, he's looking a bit stronger now.
Our baby lettuce plant is still alive and looking a bit more sturdy. As of yet no new growth though. I was so inpsired by the whole composting thing, and having set up my own composting station behind the kitchen taps, I continued to collect all our vegetable waste in the 'golden' glass jar.

The compost centre in the golden glass jar behind the taps.
Turns out the compost collection at school was a one off and hereonafter we have to find our own composting centres (as most of us in this neighbourhood live in apartments rather than houses). I know there is a composter in a community garden in our local park but it's kept locked. I was intending to find out the hours that you can take your compost along but I never got round to it. When the bag inside the golden glass was full I threw it out with the rest of the rubbish. *sigh* In my next life, I promise.

So there you have it, the end of a good week (apart from the composting). Shabbat Shalom Ya'll and have a great weekend, xxx


Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Cookbook Club

Actually it's Jerusalem Cookbook Club but it can be done anywhere of course. It all started with this article about why cookbook clubs should be the new way we entertain. One friend sent it to another and within a month Jeruselem Cookbook Club had it's inaugural dinner party at the home of Aviva, who conveniently lives next door to me.

Some of the gang before everyone had arrived.
Our cookbook of choice was Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. A fitting choice as Ottolenghi is a local lad after all. We soon expanded the cookbook choice to include Plenty More and even then there was a flurry of sharing recipes online and popping over to Aviva's house to peruse the actual book. We decided next time to choose a chef or cookery author rather than limit ourselves to one cookbook.

As I looked through the recipes I was torn between the easy option of a dish with ingredients I have in the house or could easily get, and something more exotic and complicated. In the end I took the middle ground - uncomplicated ingredients but an unusual dish. I chose to make the Aubergine Cheesecake. It's more of a flan than a cake and definitely savoury.

Most of the ingredients were in my local supermarket but not the 10 fresh oregano leaves to tear over the roasted aubergine slices and tomato base. I waivered between buying fresh basil leaves instead or dried oregano flakes. In the end I opted for half and half and bought both. There were also no baby plum tomatoes but as they were to be chopped up anyway I sneakily used the left over ordinary tomatoes at the bottom of my fridge. (Btw, I peeled them even though the recipe doesn't say to do that as I hate the plasticky bits of peel you get when you cook tomatoes with the peel on.) There was feta cheese in the supermarket but at a cost I decided I wasn't willing to go to for one dish so I substituted goat cheese lebane instead, seeing as the feta was to be creamed anyway.

The slippery slope of altering the recipe had began before I'd even paid for the ingredients but that's me. I can't change my cooking style of over 40 years and that's why I don't bake.

On my way home from work on the bus on the evening of the dinner, I suddenly panicked that the recipe would tell me to salt the aubergine and leave it to stand for several hours. If so I was screwed as I only had two hours to collect my daughter from school, cook, supervise homework, shower and change, make a few phonecalls, put on a wash... Did I remember to say cook?

The Aubergine Cheesecake was surprisingly easy to make. The aubergine slices didn't need prepping hours in advance and I cut out the step where you roast them on a baking tray and then tranfer them to the oven dish. I roasted straight in the oven dish. At the end you are supposed to brush it with more olive oil and sprinkle with za'atar. I decided that roasting the aubergine had taken in quite enough olive oil thank you and we didn't need any more. I sprinkled with za'atar and called it a day. The ladies thanked me for this later.

Aubergine Cake
Basically the Aubergine Cake is roast aubergine slices and tomatoes covered in a cream, feta, and cream cheese custard (3 eggs added) and baked in the oven. I thought it looked a bit anemic when it came out the oven but maybe if you do brush with more olive oil it won't.

We had a rule that we made the recipe from the book with no doubling or trebling the amounts. This turned out to be a good rule as the recipe says it feeds 4, or 6 for a starter. Mine fed 12 and I brought half of it home with me. Even with generous portions, and I admit that we were taking small portions of each dish as we had over 12 different dishes to sample, this was for way more than 4 - 6 people. Also it's very rich so you wouldn't want to eat big portions.

And so we convened in Jerusalem on a mild November evening to celebrate Jerusalem Cookbook Club and Yotam Ottolenghi. The table looked amazing. Positively groaning with fabulous dishes.

More dishes arrived after this photo!
It was a great success with each diner introducing her dish as it was passed around. There was wine to keep it all flowing and conversation during which we got to know each other better and discover mutual friends, shared histories, and a common love of good food and fine dining (although some of us don't get to do the last one so often :~P ).

My personal favourite was the cauliflower cake and I will definitely be trying this one at home. We also had roast fennel salad, rice with red currants, a noodle and soy bean dish, majadara, shakshuka, sweet potato salad, and, and, and.... it seemed to go on forever. It took us over two hours to even get to the delicious desserts which were a cherry in cream syllabub (although Ottolenghi doesn't call it syllabub as that would be very 1970s) and tiramisu (also very 1970s strangely enough).

We enjoyed it all so much we're doing it again in January when we will cook Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I'd not heard of her before so it'll be a culninary adventure for me. Jerusalem/Israel people (we already have one member from Carmiel) you can find us on facebook here.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits #36

1
DD (playing with plasticine): Whats your most favourite thing in the world?
Me: Sandwiches.
DD: Hmmm I don't think I can make a sandwich. What's your second most favourite thing in the word?
Me: You are.
DD: Well I can't make me, I'm too hard. HEY! Aren't I supposed to be your first most favourite thing?

2
DD went to play with her friend whose 2yo brother kept hitting them.
DD: It's exhausting at x's house.
Me: Why?
DD: You know, because of... what's it called?
Me: What?
DD: You know, that hitting thing.

3
After hearing Jon Pritikin speaking at school
Me (thinking about Jon's inpsiring message): Wasn't he fantastic?
DD: Yes. Were all those things that he broke in half real?
Me: Yes, but what about the important message he told you?
DD: Yes I remember it: You must never do these things at home!
Me: Not that message. What about no child eats alone or plays by herself in the breaks?
DD; Oh yes he did say that but the most important message was never never never do those things at home.

4
We were asked to bring all our vegetable waste into school for the new composter. There were two 6th Grade girls taking the names of everyone who brought a bag of waste. 
DD: Why do they need our names?
Me: Everyone who brings some waste for the composter gets a baby lettuce to plant and gets to take part in a prize draw.
DD: Really? We give them our stinky rubbish and they give us prizes? Hilarious.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Reasons 2B Cheerful 21/11/15

As has been said, there's not much to be cheerful about in the world this week. However, we are all trying to keep our own little corner of it comfortable and safe. There are more Reasons 2B cheerful posts on the linky over at Ojo's World. In that vein here are my reasons to be cheerful this week.

1. I got so into repurposing pretty dishes that live year in year out at the back of a cupboard, that I did some more.

Before 
After
2. It was International Compost Day on Friday (apparently although I can't find anything about it online). There were posters about it all over our neighbourhood and DD's school officially opened its new composter. The idea is to use the compost on the school vegetable garden next spring. We all collected our pips and peelings for a week and took them into school. In return we were given a baby lettuce to plant. So we did.

Looking a bit sorry but we're keeping it well watered and the sun's out...
3. Also at the school they had their annual Heath Robinson style flyng egg competition. Children build contraptions that are supposed to gently float an uncooked egg down to the ground when it's thrown off the roof (by a few parents and teachers - no children on the roof). Obvioulsy there are rules e.g. it has to be a flying machine or parachute style, not an egg so embedded in bubble wrap that it could survive anything. Lots of fun.

4. My shy daughter who won't speak to anyone until she's been in the same room as them for about a day, told me how you get up on the roof. "Do you know how I know that? I asked Etti." Etti is the Headmistress. I was astonished. "What, you just went up to her and asked her?" I never spoke to my Headmistress when I was in primary school unless she spoke to me first. I'm delighted that our Head is so approachable and that DD feels comfortable to go and ask her a question.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Every School Should Hear This

Today Jon Pritikin spoke to the children at DD's school.

As an imspirational speaker, Jon is indeed inspirational. He spoke in English to about 200 1st - 3rd Grade pupils who mostly don't understand English and you could have heard a pin drop. Obviously we had a translater who said everything in Hebrew sentence by sentence. I was wondering if this would work as kids get bored waiting sometimes. But honestly, they were enthralled throughout the whole assembly.

Jon starts by doing stunts of tremendous strength and telling us how he's in the Guiness Book of records (2009 edition, page 12). He's funny and engaging and the kids loved it.

For each stunt he asked for volunteers and the first boy he chose happened to be an English speaker which was funny as this little boy answered the questions before the interpreter could translate. After that the kids were all putting up their hands and shouting out, "I speak English! I speak English!"

Once all the children are lapping it up and totaly engrossed in the performance, Jon tells the story of a kid in America who couldn't speak, couldn't read, had no friends, was teased, bullied and laughed at.... you get the picture. A kid who everyone gave up on, even the teachers. And most tragic of all, a kid who believed them. A kid who accepted that he couldn't have any friends, he couldn't play with the other kids, he was stupid, and everyone hated him.

Right at the end Jon reveals that the poor kid with 'no future' is himself. By that time the teachers and parents who attended all had tears in their eyes. The children were wide eyed and opened mouthed.

Then came the messages and a pact. The first strong message was to not let anyone tell you that you can't succeed in life, or that you are not special. "Everyone here is special and you all have your special reason for being on this earth."

Then came the pact. Jon said, "let's make a promise together that for the rest of this year we won't let anyone eat lunch alone and we won't let anyone sit alone during playtime."

Simple messages but so cleverly delivered and so poignant because of who delivered them. I know this will stay with the children for a long time. As a teacher myself (although not in this school), I will also carry his messages with me and I wished every school child could see and hear Jon Pritikin.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Repurposing Your Dishes

Over the years I've amassed enough dishes of all shapes and sizes to allow for any possible entertaining event. I could feed 100 people out of the serving dishes I own. The plates would have to be disposable but the serving bowls and decorative dishes would suffice.

There are pieces remaining from sets long gone, inherited pieces, dishes that came as a gift filled with homemade biscuits, dishes bought at craft fairs or on holiday, the discounted last of lines, the pretty dish in the supermarket or IKEA that was so cheap it would have been rude not to buy it....

What happens to this vast collection of lovely bowls and dishes? Nothing. They sit in the display cabinet or in kitchen cupboards and waste their infinite lives waiting for their big moment that rarely arrives. And though I do try to rotate the dishes I use on the odd occasion when I do entertain, I usually end up using the same dishes every time.

So I'm giving some of my dishes a career change.



The space on the bookcase next to the door where I throw my keys and therefore has become the official key place (even for keys I've forgotten what they were for) now has a pretty dish in which to keep the keys. This dish was always problematic as it was a gift and I never knew if it was ovenproof or not. I'd have liked to bake small pies in it but ended up only using it to serve the humus. Now it's used and seen all the time and has an altogether more fulfilling life.



Who doesn't have a corner where counters from boxed games or Lego/Playmobil bits get deposited until you have the time to put them away properly? And how many times do those things get lost again before you've got around to taking them to where they really belong? Most of the times in our house. So now a little crystal glass bowl that my parents bought for me in Malta sits in that corner in front of the television and collects Lego pieces, lone beads, buttons, counters, and any other small item making the long journey home.

Of course everything should be put away completely the moment you touch it. But we're not like that. Realistically we need the dish for lost things. In it's previous life this dish sometimes came out after dessert filled with squares of chocolate or nuts to nibble while we drank our coffee. Unfortunately, by that time in the meal I was so exhausted that I'd usually forget about the coffee completely. Now I get to appreciate the beauty of the Maltese crystal glass all the time.



A pretty dish to hold trinkets on my dressing table. I had an old wooden ring-holder and small wooden bowl but a decorative china dish is so much more sophisticated don't you think?



The thick candle in the bathroom that stood on a black candle-holder plate is now prettily dished in Armenian pottery. We almost had a disaster last week when a candle dripped off its stand and all over the toilet below the shelf it was standing on. Had it been in a dish the wax would have been contained.

Who says that pencils and paperclips have to be stood in faded cardboard pencil holders? I'm thinking of a small cream jug of the right size and shape that would look great on my desk (when I get my desk back from being the temporary dining table).

Toothbrushes and toothpaste in a china cup. Why did I buy these? Because they were in a closing down sale, they cost next to nothing and they are pretty. I have four of them but the thought of drinking water out of them is not appealing. So now DD and I use one each in the bathroom and I have spares for guests.

And finally (for now because I'm on a roll with this) what could this possibly be (below)? I received it as a gift from work about eight years ago. It's glass and they got a box of them very cheaply so they gave them out as Rosh Hashana gifts, because you have to give your employees a gift on Rosh Hashana. It's meant to be a wine cooler and was so irrelevant to the people it was given to that it was almost insulting. No one I know puts wine on ice. We take it out of the fridge and put it on the table for goodness sake.

But it's sort of attractive. I thought of putting a plant in it but you need to find a plant in a pot that's tall enough and I never got around to it. So it's been sitting around for eight years taking up space and being useless.



This week DD's school announced the grand opening of their new composter to feed their own vegetable garden. We were asked to keep our vegetable waste and bring it in to school for the composter. So inside that wine cooler is a plastic bag filling up with our vegetable peels, pips and cores. I close the bag when it's not in use to avoid any smell in the kitchen. I like composting, it makes me feel virtuous.
                       

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Little Things, Bigger Things, And Loose Ends

On our way home yesterday we saw this placed on the shelf next to the door to our lobby. DD and her friend made me take a photo of it as it was so lovely. I said we should make some but we probably won't.



The college course that I tried to close a few weeks ago, of course has been re-opened. I even opened it voluntarily, after some of the students went to the top and complained bitterly. In fairness, 'the top' backed me up and only asked me very nicely if I might reconsider for select students. I had to admit to myself that I'd rather the students who'd almost finished just finished rather than have them back next year to do the whole thing again. As there's no point giving them extra time (again) unless they can use it, I've given them until after Hanuka to finish. And then I'm really really definitely and finally closing the Summer Course! We'll see. On the flip side, those students love me now. *sigh*

My friend Stephanie has a great attitude to money. 'Money comes and money goes.' There was a delay (no one's fault) in paying me the full remuneration for the Summer Course and I'm finally getting the last installment at the end of this month. I had earmarked that money for a year of Building Committee dues, the yearly payment to DD's school, and possibly my new dining table. Then DD ate a large chunk of it by needing two crowns on her teeth. Pun intended. *sighs again*

About the crowns on DDs teeth. I take full responsibility. Over the years we've had too much sugar and not enough supervised brushing. We don't have flouride added to the water here so the flouride comes only from the toothpaste. We have been lax. Another problem is that when you open a bag of sweets for an only child - all the sweets are for her. I try put a few sweets in a bowl and the rest away for another day but that's much harder to impose than when you divide the bag between a number of children and the sweets are gone. I've fallen into the defeatest attitude of, 'when it's gone its gone.' Not anymore though. After two crowns and a significant amount of money we are brushing for Europe and restricting sugary foods considerably. Luckily we get a second chance as we've only messed up with the milk teeth.

I need to clear our balcony and plant some winter greenery. Maybe we will make some shell plants after all.



Saturday, November 7, 2015

Make It A Habit

After being expelled from the diet group - which wasn't really a diet group but a healthy lifestyle group, I started my own fb group along similar lines - Make It A Habit. Our new group isn't just about healthy lifestyle choices it's about developing any new habit that will add to your life. It could be to do with diet and exercise or it could be to do with work, housework, parenting, a hobby, etc...

My original chosen habit was to eat three small meals a day with no snacks in between. The first week with the original fb group was extremely successful - I kept to it for almost the full week and lost 5.2lbs in weight.

When I started Make It A Habit I was already one week in. In this group you post your progress for three weeks - because I read somewhere that 21 days is enough to turn a chore into a habit. This second week was more of a trial. For one thing, as the group leader, I was less motivated to sign in every day. I do like a bit of encouragement from above but I am the above in this group. Despite this I lost a very healthy 1.8lbs. (7lbs in total over 2 weeks - woohoo.)

Luckily some the other members of the group are being supportive and leaving encouraging comments so this coming week I pledge to sign in every day with a resounding, "I did it! And I'm already thinking ahead to next week's new habit which will be about starting to fine tune the menus of my three meals a day.

We are as yet a very small group and some members have not yet commited to choosing a habit. However, those that are participating are already seeing great results.

If you'd like to join our little group, please find Make It A Habit on facebook and I'll let you in if you look legitimate. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Where is my phone?

On Sunday my phone died. It was a Samsung Galaxy Ace so it had had a long and productive life and I was due for an upgrade anyway. As I cannot funtion without a phone, I went out on Sunday afternoon and bought new phone. Not  an expensive super duper phone - a G4 non-Samsung does what it says on the box type of phone. I paid in two installments by cedit card, niether payment having actually left my bank account yet.

Yesterday I took my phone to school and played with it during my free period. I also got some smart-phone tuition from one of the student teachers, she being of the smart phone generation. I noticed how quickly the battery was going down and discovered that I could leave it on 'sleep' mode when not in use, which conserves the battery.

I picked up DD from her school on the way home and when we got home at 4.30 I noticed that my phone was down to 16% of battery life left. I plugged it in. It charged to 100% in about two hours. I then unplugged it and brought it from the bedroom to the shelf by the front door where it usually sits when I'm at home.

I looked at it about an hour later and noticed that while in sleep mode the battery had remained 100% full. The reason I looked at it was that a friend and her daughter were coming for supper and I wanted to check that they'd not been trying to contact me. My friend is visiting from London and we had been communicating via her daughter's phone. As I didn't have the messaging history on this new phone I had no way of contacting them.

I did a frenzied tidy up and clean of my apartment and made supper. My friend arrived at about 7.15 as we'd arranged. We had a lovely couple of hours together. During the evening both of them had their phones out and think I remember a light brown cover (my friend) and a pink phone (her daughter). So it is very unlikely that either of them picked up my phone by mistake thinking it was their own.

When they left at about 9.15, I sat at the table with DD while we finished the homework I'd not had time to help her with before. She went to bed at about 9.30, I tidied up a bit more and sat on the computer for an hour or so. Then I went to bed.

This morning I took DD across the road to school and returned home to drink a cup of coffee and pack my bag for work. I only took my keys and the rubbish bag out and I locked the door behind us.

Packing my bag for work I couldn't find my phone anywhere. I tried calling it from the landline but the call went straight to the answer-phone. I searched and I searched but I simply can't find it. I messaged my friend via fb just to check but I know the phone didn't leave the flat with them. I looked behind furniture that it might have fallen behind. I looked in piles of papers wherever I have piles.

No one came into our house last night, there is nothing else missing, nothing has been rifled through. I must have put it down somewhere and forgotten - but where? I don't live in a big apartment. I am so upset that, even though I'm at college, I can't concentrate on my work. It's a total mystery. How can a phone just disappear? And is it ominous that the calls go to the answer-phone or is that just a function of being in 'sleep' mode?

UPDATE: The secreatary at college sent me home to look for it. I live near the college and had half an hour to search before I have to return to teach. I looked in the fridge and the freezer - I'm not like that but stranger things have happened.

Anyway, I FOUND IT. It was under a cushion on the footstool. I'd been using the cushion to protect my knees from the laptop and then I'd put my laptop in my bag, throwing the cushion onto the footstool - on top of the phone. *sigh* Big thank you to Batsheva at college - you were right.

The phone was lost for 90 minutes in total during which my life fell apart. There's something not right about that.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

I Was Expelled From The Diet Group

Last week, after another long hot summer, the Jewish Festivals, and the recent security situation in Israel I hit rock bottom (again) vis-a-vis comfort eating, weight gaining, and not feeling good about my health in general.

As if by magic, I received two great sources of motivation to get out of this rut. The first was a photo of a friend whom I hadn't seen for about two years. Like me, she'd been overweight but she now looks spectacular. She hadn't just lost some weight, she looked slim in a way that I wasn't sure was possible this side of 50. We chatted online and I've been referring to her photo all week. Thank you dear friend, you know who you are. xxxx

The second source of motivation was being invited to join a group to promote healthy life habits. It's a wonderful idea. You choose a healthy habit to adopt for two weeks, whether it be diet, exercise, meditation, or whatever, and you report in every day for support and encouragement.

I chose the habit of eating three small meals a day with no snacks in between. For the first four days I reported in with a positive: I did it! And I briefly said what I'd eaten for each of my three meals. I also left positive and encouraging comments for other group members. We quickly created a nice atmosphere of warm mutual respect among the group members and it was working for me.

When I went shopping this week I stocked up on fruits and vegetables for making smoothies with spinach and nuts and ground flaxseed. I bought wholewheat bread rolls, tomato juice, nuts... I didn't buy eggs as I'm still striving to be vegan (well pisce-vegan with fish but no mammals or fowl). No sugar things like cakes, biscuits or ice-cream... I was psyched.

On day five I was expelled from the group.

The group leader sent me a pm asking me not to post what I was eating daily as it looked like she was endorsing my food choices and, as a professional in the field, she couldn't do that. Fair enough, although the group was free it was carrying the name of her private practice. No problem, I was only posting the food as a convenient alternative to writing it down in a notebook. I agreed to stop.

However, she also said that my diet was unsustainable and unhealthy (she actually just said I'm eating too little and not enough protein but implied that there was an etc).  Obviously I disagreed with her. For a start she couldn't see my portion sizes which are more than adequate.

It's true that if you write 'avocado salad' and roast potatoes with ketchup for dinner, it doesn't look like a very balanced meal. But if the avocado salad is a large plate of avocado with loads of other vegetables, including pulses and nuts.... Ditto the spaghetti with vegetable soup as a sauce where the soup is a thick vegetable soup made with loads of vegetables and lentils served with pasta. One night I only ate the crusts of DD's pizza which she won't eat - so I don't have a super healthy meal every time but we're talking once in four days here. Maybe she didn't like that I'm not a breakfast person and when I'm on the run it tends to be just a cup of coffee. And I suppose I should have written apple/carrot smoothie instead of apple/carrot juice.

So I replied by pm that I found her assessment unfair but that I won't continue with the food diary. Tbh I don't know why she felt the need to belittle my diet in that way. Even if she did have healthier suggestions, there are ways of saying so without just dissing everything I've been doing. And I am on no way a fad dieter or a starver - I'm far too level headed for that and I need my energy to get through the day.

On my thread in the group I said that I understand about not listing my food choices and that's fine. However, I disagree with your assessment that my diet is unsustainable and I'll prove you wrong. I thought coaches love it when you rise to the challenge and achieve your goals despite negative feedback, or even because of it.

Apparently not. I got a pm saying, in light of what you wrote on the group this isn't going to work, I wish you all the best. And I was expelled from the group.

So what did I learn from this?

1. At only day five of my new healthy habit, being expelled from the healty habit group did not send me diving into the fridge looking for comfort. This was a revelation to me. (Ironically the group leader asked me only yesterday if I'd had any realizations yet and I hadn't as of then.) So five days in, the habit is already takng effect as a habit.

2. If someone tells me that I'm not capable of making sensible decisions about my health and diet, that only challenges me to prove that I am. As long as my actions are positive, healthy, helpful, and that they don't harm anyone (including myself). Not to gloat but for my own satisfaction that I'm capable of making sensible choices and following it through.

3. I've no time for other people's sensitive or controlling egoes (even on their own turf). Nor for people who don't give the benefit of the doubt and start from the belief that I'm a good team player who isn't out to make trouble. People who aren't up for any discussion. Don't we all know that most disagreement in writing is not getting the nuances or full picture from a few words?

4. If someone doesn't want you in their gang you can start your own gang. I almost started a new fb group called, 'Make it a Habit'. My group is about any good habit - reading, studying, learning a language, writing, decluttering, cleaning your house, as well as healthy habits. Whatever you want and however you want to do it. As long as it's not harmful or hurtful to anyone, I won't judge. But then I thought - who needs another fb group anyway? I am going to continue with it on this blog though, adding a new habit every three weeks instead of two weeks (I read that it takes three weeks to really establish a habit).

5. Some ridiculous events in life are nevertheless good blog fodder.

Anyway, at the end of the first week I have lost 5.2lbs. I'm still sticking to my new habit of three meals a day with no snacks in between. And I'm still motivated thanks to my friend with the photo.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits #35 - After School Treats

At the Ice-cream parlour after school. I forgot to take a photo before she ate.



1
Me: What does single mean?
DD: One.
Me: What does double mean.?
DD: Two.
Me: What does triple mean?
DD: Another scoop on top?







2
There were two questions to answer for Hebrew homework, and one more optional question for bonus points.
DD: What are bonus points?
Me: Extra points.
DD: But what do I need them for?
Me: I don't know, nothing.
DD (looking at me like I'm mad): So I don't think I'll be doing that question thank you very much.

3
Collecting DD from school
Me: Hello Darling, did you have a good day? (We hug and I give her a kiss.)
DD (hissing): No kissing!



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits #34 - Heaven And Earth

1
DD: There's no such thing as ghosts is there?
Me: No
DD: Right, it's just dead people in heaven doing things.

2
Watching a video with a girl talking about her birth parents and her adopted parents. 
Me: Do you know what adopted means?
DD: Yes it means if you need a new mummy and daddy like if your birth parents die or if they're frozen or something like that.

3
After learning about The Creation at school.
DD: But when did the dinosaurs appear?
Me: Good question, ask your teacher.

4
DD: But how did Elohim  create the world out of nothing?
Me: Because Elohim can do everything.
DD: Yes that's what everyone says but the question is how did he actually do it? That's the question.
Me: If you study hard in science you can help all the scientists who are trying to find out.
DD: Well that sounds a bit boring.
Me: Well if you want answers to difficult questions you have to work hard to find them.
DD; Nah, what do I really need to know that for?


Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Chutzpa Of Closing A College Course In Israel

I teach in a teacher training college. One requirement for a degree in Israel - any degree - is passing an exam at a certain level of English. That means every student, has to take Academic English. The logic is sound - if you're entering academia you need to be able to read articles in English. But can you imagine having to pass an exam in Academic Russian if you want to be a nursery school teacher in Yorkshire? Or if you want to be a nurse in London, a social worker in Cardiff, a electronic engineer in Brighton..... You can see why many students hate it.

Another aspect of Israeli academia is that the students find it very hard to take 'no' for an answer when it comes to due dates and deadlines. There are reasons for this too. Firstly every male student does up to a month of army reserve duty every year. He has no say when this will be so you have to give extensions when it occurs. Also every exam has a second sitting a month later - with a different exam paper at the same level, obviously.

Secondly, Israeli students are older as they've completed several years of army service plus the needed year off to clear their heads and get out of the heat. This gap year is also when they take the Psychometric exam for university entrance so it's almost compulsory. Many students are already married with children. Female students disappear for a few weeks to have a baby and then come back. Male students are working night shifts to support their family. It's hard not to give them some slack when the reasons for being late with a paper is not because of partying.

There's always an extension. And then there's an additional extension. I teach some online courses in which papers can be re-submitted with corrections for an upgrade. During the extension period I refuse to check corrections. This is my one little power trip as in reality, online courses are very difficult to close. I still have students badgering me about finishing off last year's course (course ended 30th June 2015, 1st extension end of July, 2nd extension until Rosh Hashana, 3rd extension until the new semester starts on October 11th). I'm making them go to the college authority for special permission to continue and they are shocked at my chutzpa.

This summer I facilitated a summer course. We said it would be intensive and we said it would end on September 30th 2015. On October 1st I sent a letter to all students saying I would not accept any papers after October 11th when the new semester begins. The final final deadline was midnight on Saturday 10th October. No exceptions.

Then I did the unthinkable. At 5 minutes past midnight on 11/10/15 I closed the course. I changed the website settings so that nothing further could be uploaded by students. By Sunday morning I had three emails begging me to reconsider. By mid-morning two students had visited me personally (we work on Sundays here) to plead their cases. I was strong. I didn't give in. I want the word to get round that the due dates for English are not gentle suggestions but law.

I did it but I can't believe I got away with it.

Oh the relief of knowing that the final papers thrown at me at the eleventh hour are the final papers to grade. As the new semester started last week and I'm already dealing with new students, last week got a bit out of hand. Even DD noticed how our home was being neglected. She told me she didn't want her friends to come over because it was too messy. Woops.

I've now finished grading the summer course - no exceptions. I've tidied our apartment. I've washed up a week's worth of dishes all over the kitchen. I've done about 6 loads of laundry including the last of the sheets and towels used by my sister's family when they stayed here two weeks ago!

Bring on the new semester!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why Can't Adoption Be Reversed?

Again in the Daily Mail there is a story of a couple wrongly accused of abusing their baby. (Here is the last one I wrote about.) This time the baby was adopted while the case was still in progress. By the time the couple were cleared (the baby had rickets and possibly a blood disorder) the adoption was official and there is almost zero chance that they will get their child, now three years old, back.

You can read the story here.

Of course the child should never have been adopted while the case was still open. I wonder if the adoptive parents knew that the case was not finished? Shouldn't they have been warned before the adoption was finalized? Big mistakes were made but it's the attitude going forward that I don't understand.

The precident is that once the child has settled with its new family it would be too traumatic to uproot him/her again and return him/her to the birth parents. So the child is brought up by others because the authorities feel that this is best for the child.

They talk about attachment issues which can be very real and life changing. I'm sure some children might suffer long term attachment issues but why assume that this is probable for all children? Parents die and the children are brought up by other adults without attachment issues. During the war children were sent away for years and then returned afterwards. Many suffered from this but many got over it with no lasting effects. It does happen that young children change parents without attachment issues so why not consider some of the disadvantages of not returning the child to his parents?

Many adopted children (not all by any means) grow up with identity issues. Why not consider this? At the very least, most adopted children (not all) want to know the circumstances of their birth and adoption, and who their birth parents are. All these children are going to have to deal with the fact that they were removed from their birth parents for no good reason.

I feel desperately sorry for the adoptive parents as they are going to have to deal with the emotional fallout from this either sooner or later. Maybe it would be better for them if they dealt with it now while the boy is still only 3 years old. Let a wrong be put right, and allow everyone to heal. The alternative might be an angry 18 year old who doesn't want to forgive them.

I don't have the correct answer. There are no guarantees that either route will produce a happy ending, My concern is that there is a legal precident of never reversing an adoprion that rules out any real consideration for the people involved, including the child. How can a one-size-fits-all policy possibly be applied to children and parents in these cases? Where is the discussion about the possible benefits to the child of returning him to his parents?

It feels like they don't want to open a Pandora's box of what might happen if adoptions could be reversed under special circumstances. I don't for one minute think this is entirely about what is best for the child.


Monday, October 5, 2015

The First Step

I just saw a meme on facebook. I was going to copy/paste it here but if I do that Blogger makes it disappear after a while. So here it is (From The Penninghame Process - which seems to be a sort of life enhancing retreat).

The first step to getting anywhere
Is deciding you're not willing
To stay where you are.


Tonight the is the end of three weeks of Jewish Holy Days. Starting with the New Year, through the Day of Atonement, hopefully being signed and sealed in the Book of Life for another year, and ending in the Rejoicing of the Torah where we finish reading the whole of the Torah that takes the year to read, portion by weekly portion. We are ready to start again with the creation in Genesis next Shabbat (Saturday).

There has been a lot of praying by those that do - both formal and communal and also private and personal. There has been an obscene amount of eating by everyone.

School, which had only started on September 1st after a long and extremely hot summer, was mostly about learning for the festivals and then was mostly on holiday for the duration.

On a personal level, I would say that this little family didn't really get with the school program on September 1st. We seemed to carry the summer lethargy with us into September. It wasn't entirely our fault as September disguised iteself with August weather.

But now it's all over. Now the new year starts for real. I want to make it a good one. I want to make this year count. I'm not willing to stay where I am. I'm ready to start again with the creation of a more productive me. Not a different me, but me with a twist.

Wishing everyone a great year. I hope you fulfill all your own twists.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Heard Him In My Heart

Today was Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement.We fast, we say sorry for anything that needs apologising for, we pray to be written in the Book of Life for another year.

DD has been learning about it in school obviously.

Yesterday afternoon I lay down on my bed for a rest while DD was playing in her room. Suddenly I heard: "Elohim! Elohim! Are you there?"

She carried on speakng but I couldn't hear what she was saying other than, "my mummy" once.

Later I tried to talk to her about it.

Me: You know today is a very special day.
DD (impatiently) : Yes I know, we don't eat and we don't use electricity, and things. But you don't have to do all of it. (She goes to a very open-minded school.)
Me: Right, and we won't do all of it but it's also special because you can talk to Elohim today.
DD (totally embarrassed, going bright red and twisting her face into a trying-not-to-smile grimace) : I DIDN'T! I DID NOT DO THAT!

I left it. However in bed that night I tried again.

Me: You know you can speak to Elohim today and say sorry for anything you need to say sorry for. And you can ask Him to help you be better and also to help other people.
DD: Well other people can ask for themselves.
Me: If they are too ill to speak or too sad to ask, then we can ask Elohim to help them get better. But you can also ask for what you want and He'll answer you.
DD: He did answer me.
Me: Really?
DD: Yes I heard him.
Me: Really?
DD: Yes. Not like a person. I heard Him in my heart.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Our Three Day Holiday


Akko, the garden of the crusader fortress. 
Once upon a time I didn't understand the concept of the mini-break. I couldn't see the point of a three day holiday - wasn't it all a bit rushed? Then I did it a couple of times and was converted. You really do come back refreshed from three days and two nights away.
Water science at the Science Museum, Haifa

Last year we only did an overnight. It was an experiment. This year we upgraded from camping to a kibbutz challet and added on the extra day and night.


Day 1. On the last Thursday before school started, we left home at 7am, and drove north to the Science Museum in Haifa, having dropped my friend's dog at her mother near Tel Aviv on the way. There we met up with the rest of our group. In total we were five mothers with five children between the ages of 4 1/2 and 7 1/2. I won't tell you how old the mothers are but our combined ages are older than the United States of America.

The museum was great - loads of interactive exhibits, some of which you could ride on, explaining about weights and pulleys, water science, gears, pipes and tubes, and many more things that we didn't even get a chance to see. The only down side was that the weather was 38C (100F) and much of the fun was outside. In the end the best bit for the children was when they just ran into the water fountains to cool off. I think we may have eaten a picnic lunch but I can't remember. Maybe we just each gave our children food when they asked for it? We all drank a lot of water.


"Don't worry we won't get too wet"
Then we headed off to Kibbutz Shomrat to check into our challets (we had two for the 10 of us) and off again to the beach. We frollicked about in the swell and as the sun went down we ordered pizza to eat on the shore.
"We couldn't help it. It's just too hot!"

Day 2. Full Israeli breakfast at the Kibbutz, the way only Israel knows how. As well as the traditional cereal and milk, toast butter and jam, there were yogurts, pancakes, pastries, eggs, salads, quiches, fish, bread rolls and cheeses.  To drink: teas, coffee, OJ, or chocolate milk. Something for everyone.


Entrance to the shuk in Akko
We went to Akko (Acre) but as it was Friday we stopped first at a take-out shop to order food for Shabbat. We chose shnitzels, rice, potatoes, salatim, challahs, meatballs, etc... and they kept it all in their fridge for us to pick up on the way home.

Akko is famous for its crusader fortress and castle, tunnels, ancient bathhouse, museum and all things crusader. There is also a beautiful harbour with fishing boats, horse and cart taxis, and a traditional Middle Eastern shuk (market). I didn't take many photos so follow the link to see Akko in all its glory. (I only put my own [rubbish] photos or those donated by friends, in posts as after a while Blogger removes photos pasted from other sites.)

I tried to explain to DD about the crusaders.
Me: They came from England and France mostly to try to get all the Moslems and Jews to love Jesus.
DD: How did they make everyone love Jesus?
Me: They said, 'if you don't love Jesus we'll kill you.'

Stairs were built wide and flat to allow for knights on horses
The Fortress was excellently presented with images of the crusaders and clergy going about their daily business projected onto selected walls. DD was terrified, had a panic attack, and we had to leave.

We collected our food for dinner on the way home. Again I don't remember giving the children lunch other than handing DD a bread roll or an apple from my bag. The afternoon was spent at the pool or beach (we split up), meeting back at the kibbutz for dinner together on the veranda.

Day 3. It was Shabbat. After another big Israeli breakfast we went for a walk around the kibbutz, spent more time at the pool, ate a late lunch together on the veranda, relaxed, and the children played. It was a real day of rest.

We headed home in the evening passing not one but all three IKEA outlets in Israel (Kyriat Ata, Netanya, and Rishon). They were all open and we didn't stop at any of them  - what a waste! On the other hand we had two sleeping children in the back of the car and, for half the journey, a dog.