Sunday, December 25, 2016

It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like.....

Candles are nearly spent because Rubbish Photographer remembered too late.
Today was the second candle lighting of Hanukkah (don't be confused by the third candle in the middle - that's the taper), And of course it was Christmas Day.

DD was sick last night so she didn't go to school and I was supposed to go to a wedding tonight but I didn't want to leave her so I didn't go to the wedding. My Mum is visiting from London and the three of us hunkered down doing our traditional thing.

I have to say that it was nice not having to go to work on Christmas Day. It's not that we celebrate Christmas, but you know, it's Christmas.

Being two women and a sick child we didn't need a big Christmas dinner. Instead we had a bagel and cream cheese brunch - lest we forget that actually we're Jewish.

After brunch we played Kalooki. Up to 150 points and you can come in once for the highest score. (Those of you who understand what that means will understand. Others won't. It is what it is.) We had to teach DD how to play of course. I told her that she's eight years old and it's about time she knew how to play Kalooki. I may have mentioned something about if she wants to stay in this family....

In the first game she slaughtered us. I'd like to say we let her win to draw her in to the magical web of Kalooki, but actually she just slaughtered us. We don't do, 'let the children win.' It's every man for himself when it comes to cards in our house.

At 5pm (our time) we watched the Queen's speech on Sky News Live. (Although we all know it's not actually live but pre-recorded about a week ago.) I stood for God Save The Queen but the others wouldn't. Mum and I both sang though. DD just looked bemused.

Then we lit the Hanukkah candles, sang some more, and DD had more presents to open. My mother came with rather a lot of presents from herself, cousins, aunts and uncles. We're rationing them. It's an eight-day festival dontcha know.

Then, with a light supper on our knees, we watched Saving Mr Banks on DVD. (Apparently the same film was shown on the BBC tonight too.)

No snow but you can't have everything. It was a lovely Hanumas Chrisukkah Day.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Hanukkah And Merry Christmas From Jerusalem

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah as well as being Christmas Eve. We went to a Christmas concert in The Old City as DD's friend and her mother were singing. It was beautiful and warm and uplifting.

Afterwards we went for a walk around the Jaffa Gate. We saw Christmas Carolers and close by, a sound and light show on the city walls played Hanukkah music and a bit of Jingle Bells for good will.

Here are some photos from The Rubbish Photographer with the cheap smart-phone a.k.a Me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Winter Is Coming

Retrophoto from before the creation of  Chain of Moans or whatever it's called
Winter is coming.

Today we had a big storm. No thunder or lightning but strong winds and heavy rain and hail. I was caught in one of those hailstorms that actually hurt. It's like being struck with millions of tiny pellets. The ground turned white for a moment before the hail stopped.

Winter is coming.

Last night there was an almighty crash at 12.36 am. My full length mirror had fallen off the wall and shattered all over the floor. The mirror was given to me by a cousin who left Jerusalem over 20 years ago to return to England. There she got married and has two teenage daughters in school. However, if you were thinking of coming back to Israel, Lucy, you''ll have to buy a new mirror as your old one broke.

Winter is coming.

We have given up pretending that DD sometimes sleeps in her own bedroom in her own bed. She's firmly in the other half of my bed for the duration (nights only). This means we only have to heat one bedroom unless she's playing in hers during the day. It's cosy and she's miles better than a hot water bottle.

Winter is coming.

Having got to the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and with two weeks until Grandma gets here with book #7, we are filling in with The Little Princess. Last night we got to the part when her father dies and she is left a penniless orphan with no family at all. We were both sobbing. I could hardly get the words out. DD stammered through her tears, "why did they put this in a book? It's not fun! It's no fun at all!" I woke up with my eyes all swollen and red.

Winter is coming.

I made a big pot of onion, carrot, tomato and lentil soup on Friday. It's the sort of thick pottage that makes you think of selling your birthright (or tricking your brother out of his). I've been drinking a mugful of it with croutons each night. Tonight I had two mugs of soup.

Winter is coming.

I dedicate this blog post to 13 yer old Felicity Wilcox who was threatened with a lawsuit for using the phrase "Winter is coming" in a piece of artwork. Apparently HBO thinks it owns the words and phrases of the English language that it uses in its TV dramas. Well here's news for you HBO, winter has been coming for centuries. Eons before you even had the means to broadcast it to the masses, the masses already owned the phrase "winter is coming." Oh and by the way,......

Winter is coming (in case I forgot to mention it).

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Kettle Sings And Other R2BC

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week....

DD Is Eight!
We celebrated DD's birthday. Eight. In many ways unbelievable how the time has gone. I was going to write that it's flown but it hasn't flown - I feel like she's been here forever, it's just gone. And whilst no more baby in the house is a bit sad, it's also wonderful that we can do more interesting things together (more interesting for me that is), we're more mobile, and we're better company. I can only see these advantages increasing over the years. I can always find a baby to cuddle and then give back if I feel the urge.

The Kettle Sings
My electric kettle broke. I accidently put it on for two seconds without any water in it and it fused the whole house. The electricity was fixed with the flick of a switch of course, but only if the offending kettle was unplugged.

I dug around at the back of the corner cupboard in the kitchen and found my old kettle from way back when. It actually sings when the water is boiling. I came over all nostalgic. There was something comforting, in a Mrs Bridges sort of way, about putting the kettle onto the stove over the flame. (I wonder if I'd have felt the same if I had an electric hob?).

Anyway, as lovely and cosy as it is using the old-fashioned kettle, it doesn't half take ages to come to the boil. Tomorrow I'm going to buy a new electric kettle and come back to the future where I live.

A General Contentment
I'm sitting here trying to think of a third R2BC because two isn't enough for a R2BC post. Not that there are any rules, but it just doesn't look right to stop at two. I can't think of anything specific except to say that there is an aura for calm and contentedness about me and my home that I've not felt for a long time.

Without getting too spiritual about it, there are times when you feel like life is a struggle and times when things seem to fall into place and feel right. I'm in a falling into place and feeling right phase. I've no idea what I've done to get here. I don't know what shifted and changed everything - although nothing has actually changed except inside my head.

Confused? Yes, me too but I'll have another week like this please.

As always, I'm linking up with R2BC which is on Lakes Single Mum this week, hosted by the lovely Becky.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rain And Other Reasons 2B Cheerful

It's Raining!
I know I announced the first rain a couple of weeks ago but that was one short storm and then it stopped. Since then we've had major uncontrollable fires all over Israel resulting in over 1,000 homes being destroyed or damaged. A big part of the problem was that everything was still so dry from the summer.

Today the heavens really opened. I hope the trees and the land got as soaked as I did on the way home this afternoon.

There's nothing like a raging storm outside when you're safe and warm inside and no reason to leave the house until tomorrow. Lovely.

Problems Solved
I had some problems at work which were making me seriously consider how much notice a teacher needs to give in order to leave a teaching post in the middle of the year.

This week they sorted out the glitch in my contract that meant I was being paid for 8 hours a month less than I was actually teaching. Entering the third month of this, it was adding up to quite a sum of unpaid work.

And the problematic class that was making me miserable has been re-distributed and disciplined which makes life a whole lot  easier. It turns out that the behaviour problems weren't only in my classes but across the board. Phew.

Today I breezed through the school day and it was all rather calm and pleasant.

Good Photos
My friend took some photos of last week's gleaning which were much better than mine so I'm including them here. It's a good job her birthday wasn't one week later or  we'd have had to cancel. (Or go in the rain, but nobody does anything in the rain here.)

Happy Birthday!
It's DD's birthday on Sunday. Eight already. Nothing baby about an eight year old. I find this exciting and also a little sad. However, she's still young enough that she's always up for a cuddle and still says cute things.

As usual I'm linking up with R2BC which has returned to Becky on Lakes Single Mum, for the month of December.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Israel Is Burning 2

I have a personal rule that I never publish two blog posts in one day. For more of the background see my previous post. Except that today I'm going to break that rule because I just read this personal account from Rachel Creeger on facebook, of how she escaped the fires in a village where I know several people. I have copied and pasted it in full.

May cause distress:
I am now safely back in Jerusalem with my parents after a terrifying experience. Yesterday I travelled with some family members from the UK (aunt, uncle, cousins) to our cousin's community to spend a special Shabbat (Sabbath) celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of his son. I was hosted by a wonderful Australian-Israeli family who made me very welcome. Following evening prayers and a huge, delicious family meal, I went back to my host family and we chatted for a while then I went to bed.
Not long afterwards there was a banging on my door and one of the host's daughters shouted, "Fire, fire is coming, we need to get out!" She threw a coat at me and I grabbed my bag (luckily I'd been too tired to unpack properly) and made for the door. From the front garden I could see the tops of flames in the brushland below the house.
The hostess called out that she was grabbing her phone and I ran back in to get mine too, while her husband went to turn off the electricity. We came out and met in front of the house and there was a sudden gust of wind and I saw the flames rise up to the house. We ran down pedestrian footpath through the houses shouting at the neighbours to get out and as we came through the trees to the road at the bottom we could see the fire.
The sky was full of glowing orange embers which were strangely beautiful, then suddenly there was a terrible smell of smoke.
We began to run towards the synagogue which was the emergency meeting point but then one of the daughters remembered an elderly couple who might not hear the commotion and so my host and hostess ran down the road to check on them, shouting to their daughters to look after me. I asked the girls where the house was that my relatives were staying in and they pointed towards it saying that they were sure everyone from there had been evacuated. At that moment we saw a figure moving about behind the curtains and realised that they were still inside.
The girls ran in to make them hurry and there was another gust of wind, and what I can only describe as a wall of fire rose up further down the road. I began to scream "the fire's here, get out, run!" My relatives and their host family ran out in their pyjamas, shoes and coats, there was no time for them to bring anything. We headed for the synagogue but the wind picked up and it was no longer safe.
We began to run towards the exit of the village, literally trying to outrun the flames and smoke. Those community members who had managed to get their cars were stopping and offering lifts to whoever they could fit in. Others were shouting that they were looking for their kids or their spouse. Someone had two seats so we sent our young cousins into that car. We continued to run and eventually another car with a mother and her 2 daughters offered the 3 of us places. By the time we got to the gate we had taken in other people so there were 7 of us in the 5 seater with 2 on laps.
We managed to get out and drove away without any plan of where to go. My aunt and uncle realised that their kids didn't have phones or any way to contact us and wouldn't know where we were. We had no idea whose car they were in or where they would be taken although we knew that they'd be looked after. The family decided to stay with a relative about 45 mins away and as they were travelling past my brother's town we asked them to drop us off.
On the way, the daughters were hysterical, thinking of their friends and family and home. The driver thankfully managed to speak to her husband who had found their other kids and told him where they were heading.
Once we were dropped off, following effusive thanks to the family who'd helped us get away, we woke up my brother and sister in law who were absolute stars and took us in, they could not have done more for us. My aunt and uncle had nothing but the clothes they stood up in and we all stank of smoke. By about 3.30am we'd found out that our Israeli family members were safe and together but no one knew the whereabouts of our 2 young English cousins who'd been in the other car. We were finally able to locate them this evening with much thanks to our Israeli cousins.
My brother took my aunt and uncle to collect their kids from a neighbouring village where they had been beautifully taken care of. The Bar Mitzvah family ended up in yet another village where the community had given their son the opportunity to read his Torah portion in their synagogue this morning. He had his parents, siblings, grandparents and a few cousins with him so even though many of us were now unable to attend he became bar mitzvah.
We discovered that the house that my uncle and aunt had been staying in had only received superficial smoke and water damage and my uncle was allowed to briefly enter tonight to collect their cases, passports and other items. I'd managed to grab most of my stuff but throughout today I noticed the things I'd left behind, my DMs and smart suede party shoes, odd bits of clothing, books, my charger... and what I saved smells of smoke.
To put it in perspective though, I was devastated to learn that the house I'd been staying in had been burnt to the ground and that wonderful, warm family had lost everything. It seems likely that the lady who drove us to safety did too, as it turns out that she lived in the same neighbourhood. At least 15 houses have been completely razed to the ground. I have seen an aerial photograph and only the brick outlines of the foundations remain.
This has been a incredibly traumatic experience and I am very shaken although so grateful to be alive and well, and to have been with family.
I will never forget the kindness shown to us, especially from my host family who had to worry about a stranger as well as their children. They have a tight knit community and I'm confident that they will move on and rebuild, both literally and figuratively, but I don't think we'll forget the past 24 hours in a hurry. I'm hoping that writing this will help to relieve some of my shakiness and anxiety so that I can sleep.
I am safe and well.

Israel Is Burning

Not as dramatic as a photo of raging wildfires but rather the tragic aftermath.
This is what almost 1,000 families all over Israel are facing this week.
Since last Tuesday Israel has been burning, Wildfires all over the country have destroyed almost 1,000 homes. Hundreds of thousands of residents have been evacuated at different times over the past six days - some for several days.

Friends in Zichron Ya'akov lost their home completely. The house, along with ten other homes, has completely gone. Another friend showed similar pictures of his mother's house in Haifa where over 600 homes have been damaged and 400 completely destroyed. At my college today one of the lecturers told us that her daughter's house had been destroyed. Outside Jerusalem some of my students were evacuated. Other friends have posted photos of raging wildfires taken from their windows.

It has got to the stage where everyone in this small country knows someone directly affected.

And they have proof now that much of it it is arson (some of the original fires may not have been but at least 1/3 of the subsequent fires definitely are). A new form of terrorism for when the winds are strong and we have only had one short rain since the summer. As it's the end of November and we are in the Middle East, everything is extremely dry,

Being Israel, everyone is collecting and donating warm clothes and blankets, furniture and other household goods for the homeless families. Lists of phone numbers and locations are circulating where families are offering to take in another family or have empty accommodation to offer, The fire stations are drowning under mountains of home baked goods to keep them going over long shifts,

We have received help in the form of fire-fighting aircraft and crews from Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Turkey, France, Spain, Canada, and Sweden and Italy (and offers from others). The Palestinian Authority have sent fire-fighters to help extinguish the blazes on the ground.

They say rain expected on Wednesday. Meanwhile Israel is still burning,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gleaning For Leket - Reasons 2B Cheerful

My friend Netanya always celebrates her birthday with a good deed project (a mitzva project). This year she hired a bus and 50 friends went gleaning for Leket. You can read about Leket here but basically, it's a multi-faceted food rescue and redistribution organisation. This is what it says on their website....

Leket Israel is the largest food bank in Israel, and has been a leader and an expert in food rescue nationwide since 2003. The organization sources, collects and redistributes fresh, perishable, quality food, which would otherwise be considered waste, from farms, hotels, military bases and catering halls. This is done in an effort to aid the quarter of the country’s population that lives below the poverty line. Leket works with 195 non-profits throughout the country to provide nutritious food to over 175,000 Israelis weekly. Last year alone, Leket collected and delivered over 30 million pounds of fresh, healthy food for the needy.

Busy in the orange groves

I felt like the Biblical Ruth (although I'm probably more of a Naomi at my age) gleaning in the fields of Boaz my kinsman by marriage and eventual second husband. Ok, I'm getting carried way now - I didn't even put on make-up for goodness sake.

It actually took me back to my kibbutz days 35 years ago, picking pomegranates and avocados from dawn till high-noon. Ahhh those were the days.... 

Back to reality. In one morning Leket collected about 30 of these big crates (see the photo above), each holding 400 kg of fruit. We only worked for about an hour but it felt good that we, along with many other volunteers from all over Israel, helped to pick 12,000 kg of clementines to be given to people in need. At about 3 shekels/kg for clementines, that's over 7,000 GBPs worth of fruit (or $9.000). 

Who knew that tangerine trees had thorns? #learnedsomethingnew

As usual I'm linking up with R2BC on Mummy from the Heart.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Not This Turkey!

When DD was little we used to go to story-time in the library every week. I, along with the other mothers, would take my turn choosing and reading stories to the group of about 20 regulars and their mothers. As our children grew too old for picture books, we moved on and a new generation took over.

Two days ago the word went round that Jessica, one of the story-time mums from our story-time heyday, would be reading her first published children's book. Of course all the old crowd dragged our seven and eight year olds back to story-time for a glorious reunion and, very timely for the time of year if you're American, Not This Turkey!

Jessica Steinberg reading Not This Turkey! at story-time.
It's a Thanksgiving story from post-war New York. The story could have been from any time but I was able to work out the rough time in which the story is set because of the baby. The family are new immigrants from Europe who have been in the US for four years. They have a number of children including one little American-born baby called David.

The thing is, I know this David. David is now a grandfather living in Jerusalem. I taught his, now grown up, children in school.

Jessica told us that she was at David's house and he told the story of how his father ..... well I won't give it away. Jessica wrote the story, changed a couple of details so as not to give children nightmares, and got it published as a delightful children's picture book.

And me... I obviously spent all evening trying to remember old family stories that could possibly become children's picture books.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - All Round Entertainment

Full Circle
When I was little my best friend's younger sister announced one day that she was as bored as a stiff. I remembered that today when DD asked if she could go on the computer while I popped out to the shop. "Otherwise I'll be stiff board," she reasoned. Obviously I had to say yes.

It's Show Time
My year of mourning for my father is over on Sunday (so my sister informed me yesterday as I wasn't keeping track of the lunar calendar). For eleven months I've not worn any new clothes or been to any parties, celebrations, or places of entertainment.

I've just booked for DD and I to go to see two shows over the winter. Annie in December and The Wizard of Oz in January. They are both amateur productions but these shows are usually of a high standard with live music and a few professional actors along with the enthusiasts. One of my thrid grade students is a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz so that's added interest for me.

Hungry Yeshiva Bocher (young man) pops in for supper
Notice the d.i.y Yeshiva haircut
An enterprising roommate charges 10 shekels for a "BotchYaCoiffe Ltd" special
A Family Supper
I came home to find a message from my nephew asking if he can come for supper. A quick dash out to the shop for a gluten-free pizza and we're in business. He's due any minute.

As usual I have a light bulb for him to change but that's not why I'm cheerful. It's been a long time since we had family who could pop in for supper and we love it.

A Must See Movie
I found Taare Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth) in English and I've told everyone about it.

I'm linking up with Michelle's R2BC on Mummy from the Heart.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Like Stars On Earth

At age six you expect and hope that your child will learn to read. 
My fifth graders were taken to the library to watch a film today. As it ran over their English lesson I went too. It's an Indian film called Taare Zameen Par. We show it in the original Hindi with Hebrew subtitles. In Hebrew it's called Kochavim Al Pnei Ha'adama (Stars on the Face of the Earth). In the English version it's called Like Stars On Earth. Both versions are on You Tube.

About five minutes into the film I find myself tearing up. By the end of the first half hour I'm sobbing. At one hour all the children are laughing at me as I try to mop up my face with a disintegrating tissue.

During the break (it's 2 hours 42 minutes long) one sweet girl came to me and said, "Hamorah Rachel (Teacher Rachel), I've seen the end before and it's going to be okay."

A lot of the film is in English even in the Hindi version. I can follow the Hebrew subtitles enough to get the gist of what's going on. However, I came home, found it in English, and watched the whole thing again.

The film is about an eight year old boy with dyslexia. In our school they show it to all the fifth grade every year. Personally, I think every teacher should see it. And every parent. Every child who has dyslexia and/or any other learning difficulty and every child who doesn't but who has friends should see this film. Anyone who works with children or who knows children would do well to see it. Have I covered everyone yet? If not, all those not mentioned above should definitely watch this film.

Taare Zameen Par, Like Stars on Earth, Kochavim Al Pnei Ha'adama. Whatever your language, please watch this film.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #43 - No Honestly

An Honest Reply
Me: DD! Do you want to see this photo of me as a baby that my cousin just sent me?
DD: Nah. It'll probably be boring.

An Honest Mistake
DD: Can you make orange soup. I feel like having orange soup.
(Delighted that she wants something healthy I go and buy carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato and onions. I make orange soup, Unfortunately DD comes in and sees it before I've had a chance to liquidize it.)
DD: What's that? Ugh it's got vegetables in it.
Me: It's your orange soup that you asked for.
DD: I didn't want it with vegetables in it! Take those vegetables out!
Me: You don't take them out, you blend them in,
DD: No, take them out! I don't want them blended in! Take them out! I know I asked for orange soup but I didn't want it made with vegetables! NOW TAKE THEM OUT!
(Reader, I have had delicious orange soup for supper every day this week. And there's still some in jars in the freezer.)

An Honest Misunderstanding
This one is from my adult students learning English as a foreign language. 
Me (with a wondrous look on my face): Did anyone see the supermoon last night?
Class (after a moment of stunned silence): Superman? Did she ask if we saw Superman last night? 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Super Moon

I dragged DD out to see the supermoon over Jerusalem. It was a balmy November evening and she wore her flipflops because she couldn't be bothered to put her socks and shoes on again. I should have checked out the camera beforehand to make sure the batteries were charged. Oh well, luckily I had my phone.

We met fellow travelers along the way to the park for the historic event. DD shlumped along the road muttering to herself, "boring......boring.......boring........boring, etc...." I tried to explain to her that the last supermoon was 68 years ago in 1948 and the next one won't be until she's 25 years old in 2034. "Boring....... boring.......boring.....boring, etc....," until we reached the park and she found some of her friends there.

There were a few other miseries besides DD who swore they'd seen bigger moons over the summer. I thought it was absolutely super. A real supermoon of the first order.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Three Weeks Of No Sugar

11 items containing sugar that I found in my kitchen two weeks ago
I was going to wait until the month was up before posting any results but so many people have been asking and after three weeks I have a nice tidy result. So here's the update.

First the original blog post titled Poisoned by Sugar in which I recommended three videos about the effects of sugar in our lives and on our bodies. It was the single most successful blog post I've ever published with over 1,000 views in one day. This proves the point, as if we didn't already know, that people know that something is not right with the western diet, they are searching for answers, some of them are desperate, and the information we are getting is often heavily biased according to who's paying the big money.

I chose three videos that I liked and trusted. The first is a woman whose family gave up sugar for a year. It's an honest unpretentious account of what happened. The second is a Doctor and activist who is fighting at the highest levels of Government to get sugar recognised as a drug on a par with tobacco and alcohol. And the third is actually a series of six videos where Dr Jason Fung explains how too much sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes, a collective name for insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, heart disease, kidney failure, and probably eventually dementia.

If you are already pre-diabetic and have a fatty liver, which I probably do, Dr Fung assures us that you can reverse some of these conditions by giving up sugar, cutting down on carbs and intermittent fasting. I have been doing all this and will tell you more about it in a moment. First a few words about the reactions to the blog post.

Some people said, "That looks interesting, I'll take a look over the next week or so."

However, many people were positively incensed that I should recommend watching videos about a healthy diet. Interestingly, all these nay-sayers are intelligent educated people in real life but in this instance, without even watching one of the videos felt very strongly that they were all a load of rubbish, they would no more watch these videos than join the Flat Earth Society, and that it was very dangerous of me to suggest that anyone else watch them. Presumably because no one is intelligent enough to watch and make up their own minds. It was all a bit like trying to argue with a cult who shut out the modern world lest people be tempted by something that makes more sense than the lives they have lived for the past 50 years.

Others saw the word 'fast' in the phrase 'intermittent fasting' and, because they didn't watch the Fung videos, didn't understand that I wasn't promoting some sort of anorexia approach.

And finally, there were those who cannot condone any dietary choices, even giving up sugar and alcohol, without first discussing it with my doctor. They didn't like the fact that I had read all the symptoms of a fatty liver and, because I have every single one of them (from blood test results, how I felt, and visible signs), concluded that I probably do have fatty liver disease. And, because they also had not watched the videos, didn't understand that the best thing to do about is to make the dietary changes, lose weight asap, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and then check out the situation again with more blood tests. Because, unless you already have liver cirrhosis or cardiac arrest, every doctor is going to advise just that.

Here is what I did and what happened....

Down to 9 items this week. The ice-cream, Nutella, and cake is for DD
I expect we will throw out the jelly as DD has gone off it - too sweet
DD also gets chocolate for Shabbat but there's none left by Sunday
Astoundingly the gluten-free flour (for my nephew) is cornflour and sugar
No Sugar
I cut out almost all sugar. I did not eat cakes, sweets, biscuits, chocolate, most processed foods including yogurt, fruit juices (even 100% juice), ketchup, soft drinks, alcohol, honey, jam, or maple syrup. I looked at the ingredients of anything that came packaged in any way and rejected those items with sugar in any of its forms.

Exceptions: I chose the mayonnaise with the least sugar but when this jar is finished I am going to try making my own. I also kept the soup powder I use to add flavour to soups as the one teaspoon per litre of liquid is acceptable to me. (That is 1 tsp of soup powder, not 1 tsp of sugar.) I also kept the soy sauce as, even though the main ingredient is molasses, the tiny amount I use is negligible. Finally, I am also using up my mustard and next time will either buy the option in the supermarket with the least sugar or buy mustard powder to make my own.

This is what I eat: vegetables, fruit, cheese, eggs, fish, bread, rice and other grains, pasta, humus, olive oil, non-dairy milks (because I don't like milk), nuts and dried fruit, tea and coffee. (I also choose not to eat meat.) I have to confess that I've also been eating crisps occasionally which is not a good choice but it's my treat instead of anything sweet.

I have been drinking lots of lemon water with apple cider vinegar. I don't know if the apple cider vinegar has the magical qualities that are claimed for it but I've grown to like it and it must be better than too much tea and coffee, which I now drink only occasionally. Mostly I just drink water.

Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting can be anything from not eating in between meals, to following the 5:2 regime (where the 2 fasting days allow you to eat between 500 - 800 calories), to the one meal a day diet (OMAD), to not eating anything for 2, 3, 5, 7, 14, 21, 28, 30 or 40 days straight (drinking plenty of course).

Without even consulting my doctor, I decided not to eat in between meals. ;~p And I've never been a breakfast eater even as a child so I am in fact eating only two meals a day, lunch and supper. I'd like to say that my meals are low carb but many of them are not. I wanted to give up bread but sometimes a sandwich or toast is the easiest option. On the other hand, with two small meals a day, the carbs are automatically reduced by default.

So mainly by cutting out sugar, intermittent fasting, drinking plenty of water, and eating lots of vegetables, I have lost 10 lbs (about 4.5kg) in three weeks.

The fasting has been easy for me as my food addiction is similar to that of an alcoholic. It is impossible for me to eat something small to keep me going until the next meal without opening the floodgates and ending up bingeing on anything and everything. This happened a couple of times and my binges were all about bread and potatoes - no sugary foods.

In general I ended up not eating from about 7pm until 2pm the next day (19 hours). In reality this means not eating in the evening, which is the hardest part for me. In the morning I'm rushing off to work and busy without a break until lunchtime so I don't even think about food until then. I do sometimes have a tea of coffee in the morning with milk.

I feel less stiff, the pain I was getting in my knees when I climbed the stairs is gone (I live in a third floor walk-up), and I am less breathless when I reach my front door.

I intend to continue until the weight has gone and then check out the fatty liver situation to see if a more modified diet is needed to reverse it more.

If anyone has any questions please watch the videos before asking as all the answers I have are answered in them.

Friday, November 11, 2016

I Have A Poppy

I have a poppy. I think the last time I was in the UK on 11/11 was in 1987 just before I came to live in Israel so my poppy must be 29 years old. It's an old paper one and a bit torn. I have a poppy but I don't have a button hole so I've put the poppy next to my Shabbat candles (and DD's candles that she made in art) so I'll think about it when I light tonight.

I've also added a memorial candle. We light these 25-hour candles on the anniversary of a death or major tragedy. WW1 wasn't a specifically Jewish event but the outcome did affect my life because I grew up in an England that was free and accepting of other cultures and religions while allowing us to be fully English and patriotic at the same time.

And then came WW11 in which Britain and the allies defeated Hitler and almost certainly saved my British-born parents' lives and allowed me to be British-born and proud of it.

I was in Israel during the Falklands and during the Afghani and Iraqi operations. I sang along and cried with The Military Wives Choir from my armchair in Jerusalem.

When I was a little girl I was always at Hebrew Classes at 11 am on Remembrance Sunday. The class stopped and we all stood for the two minute's silence before going back to our Bible studies and Hebrew reading practice.

Tonight on 11/11/2016 I will light my Shabbat candles and remember that 100 years ago around six million men marched off to war and over a million of them did not return. They made the ultimate sacrifice so that people like me could go to Hebrew classes on a Sunday morning in London, buy poppies from the poppy seller at the station on our way to school, and have the carefree childhood that we enjoyed.

Lest we Forget.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - Just Hanging

Working from home
The Weekend
It's the end of the week and I don't teach again until Monday. That's a 3-day weekend, every week. Well not really as tomorrow I have to do my weekly shop, go to the post office, clean the house, cook for shabbat, and do some grading. And on Sunday I have to meet with students in college, But no actual teaching means no pressure and it feels like a mini holiday every Thursday afternoon.

Sugar Free
Almost three weeks into my no sugar campaign. It's going well and I've not cheated once. I'll probably blog about when I've reached the one full month mark.

US Elections
The US elections are over and I can have my facebook feed back, full of nice conversations with friends and acquaintances about all sorts of other things.

A Broken Tablet
It's new. We only got it about seven weeks ago, She dropped it on the tile floor and the screen shattered. So we have to get it fixed and we will, And DD is going to pay for the repair out of her closely guarded pocket money that she counts and recounts but will not spend except for in an emergency situation like this one. Yeah I'm annoyed but on the other hand, shes stopped carrying the blasted thing around like an extension of her arm. She has got the old laptop in her bedroom to play on but at least that doesn't come into the living room or my bedroom with her. So yes, I'm cheerful about it. We may even make some more progress on the reading front.

TOTS100 Ranking
Whilst I'm not obsessive about the blog stats like I once was, it was irritating to drop from the top 500 to almost 1,500 in less than a year. These past three months I've been clawing my way back and with an 140-something gain this month I'm almost back into the top 1,000. Not that it makes any difference whatsoever and I don't even try to compete with the new generation of professional bloggers and vloggers, but still, I have my pride.

There is no 6. I was just kidding.

I'm linking up with all the good people with R2BC over at Mummy from the Heart.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Five Of The Best

Filofax: the ultimate Listography master.
Listography is back! Kate Takes 5 has resurrected for a one off to celebrate her 6th Blogiversary. My 6th is a still a few months away but I'm happy to help Kate celebrate. Listography was always one of my favourite linkies.

This week's list is five of your favourite blog posts.

It was hard making the selection. It took time as I got caught up in reading old posts I have loved. There were also some posts that could be deleted with the passage of time. Many photos and video clips have disappeared if they were copied from other sites. I've learned only to use my own photos.

I really ought to go back and edit this whole blog but with 766 posts, it's not something I could quickly do while waiting for the eggs to boil.

1. This was a fun post. A tongue in cheek guide to blogging. Everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask. Surprisingly, the whole competitive side of blogging and the stats has faded into irrelevance for me (as I know it has for many of us veteran bloggers). But there are a million new and more professional bloggers out there who will find this to be essential reading.
The Blogging Charter

2. Another of my favourite linkies for a while was The 100 Word Challenge. Each week we received a prompt from Julia's Place and we had to write 100 words on the subject. This one was re-writing a Christmas carol from the Woman's point of view.
Not So Silent Night

3. I just like this one. A bit of nostalgia.
The Sound of Music and Me

4. It had the makings of a best seller. It was so obvious. But unfortunately it had to be scrapped due to it being based on a pack of lies and fakery.
Why The Downton Diet Won't Work

5. I'm still hoping that Filofax will choose me to be a Filofax Ambassador or whatever people who get sent brand new Malden Filofaxes in soft aubergine leather are called. Meanwhile, this is a personal history of my lifelong love affair with Filofax.
Dear Filofax

Thanks for this Kate and Happy 6th Blogiversary!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - When We Were Very Young

1964, Westcliff-On-Sea. I am the toddler. 
It rained again this week. The weather turned from summer to definite autumn, even on sunny days. Finally, finally, at the beginning of November I can no longer wear sleeveless tops and sandals. This is a good thing. The hot weather slows you down. And it's lovely to sleep snuggled under the duvet.

No sugar
I've almost finished two weeks of no sugar. It's already made a difference. Update on Sunday.

The best year
I asked DD how's she's doing in her school lessons and she said it's much easier this year because she can read better. Then she added, "I think 3rd grade is going to be the best year so far."

The Half Blood Prince
We are 100 pages into the 6th Harry Potter and this is also the best so far. It's getting darker and more brutal. We're loving it. (Of course I've read all the books before but I don't remember the details of each book).

"Tell a child that someone is their cousin and they will love them forever." Sarah Kaber Pottebaum

My cousin Susie found this picture of us from about 1964. It was the day of the parade in Westcliff. Our Grandparents lived on Chalkwell Avenue and it was a hightlight of the year to visit them and watch the parade go right past their house. Susie's brother Philip is standing on the wall (see the full photo above). Happy Days.

I'm linking up with R2BC wich is back with Mummy from the Heart this month.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #42 - Religion, Psychology, and Divination

DD; What does this word say? Aich, oh, upsidedowntunnel, ess, ee.
Me: House.

DD: It's great that Hermione gave us those clues before she was petrified.

DD: Hey my tooth is wobbly! (She goes to look in the mirror) It's so tiny next to these two big ones in the middle.
Me: Well when the new ones grow in either side they'll be bigger and they'll push your front teeth together so you won't have that gap.
DD; Elohim thinks of everything.

Me: Do you have any homework?
DD: Well it's not exactly homework. It's a page to help us practice for the test in Torah. But you don't have to do it. It's only if you want to do really well in the test.
Me: Don't you want to do really well in the test.
DD: Nah.
Me: I thought you wanted to be like Hermione Granger. I bet she'd do her practice pages.
DD: It depends what subject. It's like divination. Who cares about stupid divination?
Me: Well this is Torah. It's not stupid.
DD: Yes but it's not like maths or something important like that.
Me: What else is important besides maths?
DD: English.
Me: What about Hebrew?
DD: Well I suppose that is important but I'm not good at it so I make myself not care about it.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Poisoned By Sugar

The 11 items in my kitchen that contain sugar. More about this on a later post.
I've been saying that sugar is poison for years. I knew it to be true but I couldn't explain why except that sugar is known to be empty calories. I'd read Pure, White and Deadly and also Fast Food Nation but I didn't retain enough facts to be able to make the argument. And despite knowing that it was true, it's ever so hard to give up on sugar completely.

Then I had some routine blood tests done and some of the results were shocking. I've always been healthy if, at times, overweight. This was a big wake-up call especially as the 'at times overweight' has slipped into obesity over the past couple of years.

As you know from reading this blog, I've tried everything in a quest to eat a healthy diet. For me it was never just about losing weight (except when I was desperate), it was was always about finding the healthiest diet to ward of disease, to keep from becoming an old woman before my time, to be able to get the most out of life, etc... Of course this also includes not being fat.

My 'wake-up' call was actually frightening, all the more so because my father died this year from multiple complications of type two diabetes, which isn't a disease in itself but rather a collection of symptoms including insulin resistance and any number of the following: non-alcoholic fatty liver, fatigue, obesity, pressure on the heart and kidneys, circulation problems leading to leg ulcers and amputation, skin problems, loss of eyesight, and possibly alzheimer's disease.

I started googling about healthy diets for prediabetics. Folks, it's all about the sugar - even the sugar in carbohydrates such as bread and pasta. Ok, we knew this already. But did you know the extent of the sugar in your food? And do you know what it's doing to you?

I love this entertaining talk about Our Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub. I'm giving you the link rather than embedding the video because it's more reliable in the long term. Please watch it, it will make you think about how you feed your family.

I was then all fired up against the food industry and thought that surely, after all these years of being told about it, someone must be fighting it. I found Dr Robert Lustig on You Tube who is waging a similar war to the anti-tobacco wars. The two are remarkably similar in many ways. Please watch Dr Lustig here, it's shocking.

And finally I found Dr Jason Fung, an expert in obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type two diabetes. I wanted a real doctor, not a health guru with something to sell. And I wanted information that applies to everyone, not a specific diet. I love it that he tells you how you can reverse type two and that the drugs are not the answer.  This is also for anyone who doesn't want to be fat or unhealthy in the first place. (Warning: this is the first in a series of six videos.)

If you care enough about this issue and you take the time to watch all eight hours of video that I've given you, you will be well informed. What you do after that is up to you.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The First Rain - Reasons 2B Cheerful

Woohoo, HaYoreh higiya!
I wrote just that on facebook and within half a minute it had a dozen likes, four comments and a share. It means in,The First rain is here!

It's a big thing after no rain since April. And it's a storm with thunder and lightning and giant raindrops and everything. I went to school in a sleeveless dress this morning so it's not cold - just wet.

It's also a dirty rain, washing away all the dust in the air after five months of drought. I'm watching a car that's been parked on our street for months and covered in dirt. On the other hand, I'm not bothering to wash the windows. No need to water the plants. Cool fresh air and cosier clothes.

I love it that the whole country gets so excited over an act of nature.

Without You
DD has a friend whose father often picks them up from school and takes them on a bike ride or to the park with rollerblades (they have a spare pair}. The friend is also a very clever girl and she helps DD with her Hebrew. I've seen them doing homework together and the friend is a real little teacher - she makes DD work but helps her when she needs it.

The other day DD went over to play and her friend was having a crisis of confidence. Actually more of an hysterical meltdown of confidence as only little girls can. The mother told me afterwards that DD gave her friend a talking to. "You are a very important person," she lectured. "Without you I wouldn't get all my homework done. Without you I wouldn't get to go on rollerblades. Without you I wouldn't get to go out on my bike so often. Without you..... etc."

Apparently, this really calmed the friend down. Her mother said she could see her face relaxing as she listened to the list of how she makes DD's life so much better. I kvelled.

The Umbrella Dilemma
First birthday party of the year tomorrow and I bought the birthday girl an umbrella today. Either it's the most apt present or she will get five of them tomorrow. Oh well, there are plenty more parties to come so she could always re-gift it.

I'm linking up to R2BC over at Lakes Single Mum.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Written In The Book Of Life

In Israel and in the Jewish calendar the new year begins on September 1st in the solar calendar (schools go back) and Tshrei 1st in the lunar calendar (Rosh Hashanna). The Hebrew new year starts three weeks of intensive festivals marking the new year, days of repentance, atonement, finishing the annual cycle of reading the Torah, and the sealing of the book of life and death.

Rosh Hashana can fall any time from September 5th to October 5th. and this year was almost the latest it ever gets. There has been loads of synagogue time, eating with friends and family, holidays from work and school, street festivals, days out, etc... However, it's also a time of retrospection, repentance, and atonement.

Tonight was the final sealing of the book of life or death for the coming year. We hope we have been written in the book of life, but of course there's no way of knowing. Did we do enough praying, apologising and forgiving during the past three weeks? I probably didn't.

What I did do was a lot of introspecting (is that a word?), declutterng, preparing coursework for the coming year, and mental revving up for the duration.

For months no one has been motivated to get much done as there is no real routine. No sooner do we go back to school than we have three weeks of holidays and holy days. The phrase, 'after the festivals,' is ubiquitously used as an excuse for not really getting stuck in to anything after the long summer until the end of the festival period.

Well it starts tomorrow folks! No more excuses. Yesterday I was actually cold enough to put on socks and long sleeves. New Year, I'm ready for you! I'm written in the book of readiness and good intentions, this much I know.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Just Good Stuff - Reasons 2B Cheerful

A whole village of sukkot between buildings
Remember the frame for this one
A Bevvy of Booths?
The sukkot are sprouting between the buildings and on the balconies. Some have to be finished but they have until Sunday evening to complete them.

A den
The friend who DD disappeared with last week for the whole day, came to our place today.

First they sat at the table and did all their homework for the holiday (we have 11 days holiday for the festival of Sukkot). DD didn't panic at all like she does when I'm helping her with her Hebrew homework - shows how much she doesn't trust me with it. Her friend was a great teacher, making DD read parts of the text and find the answers.

Then they had lunch. And then they disappeared to play in DD's bedroom and I've not seen them since. After 5pm. I offered to take them to the park but they were too busy building a den.

Finally the friend's dad came by on his way to the park with the dog and took them both to run around outside for a while.  And then we're going to friends for dinner. Another great Friday.

This just started growing in this pot.
So I watered it and weeded out the other stuff.
It's a succulent of some sort. I have no idea where it came from. 
A Happy Teacher
Without any interruptions this afternoon I am completely up to date with grading for my online courses. Hooray!

Greenish Fingers
Operation Cuttings is coming along slowly but surely on the balcony. It would be so much easier just to pop down to the nursery and buy a box of plants ready to plant. But that's not the point. I want to grow plants not just arrange them in the pots.

This was a weed in the succulent. I replanted it in its own pot.
I'm waiting to see what happens.
Technically it's no longer a weed.
The Lemon Scented Geranium from London is doing well.
It's next to a dead geranium which isn't.
I'm keeping it in case it comes alive again. 
I think I mentioned that we are now on holiday for 11 days. And for three of those days DD's school afternoon program runs a summer camp for the whole day including two meals. Another hooray!

I managed to keep this gift from a pupil alive all summer.
I managed to keep the pupil alive all year.

Every child at my Kibbutz School went home with a baby something to plant.
I found this one abandoned on the path so I adopted it.
I'm linking up with Reasons 2B Cheerful over at Lakes Single Mum.