Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

If I did nothing else today I had to write the final blog of 2011. New Year's Eve to me is like a religious festival. Having got past the age of wild parties and, although it would be nice to spend the evening with good friends, having entered the phase of staying at home with a young child, I use tonight to do all those introspective, contemplative things that I also do on the eve of my birthday and Rosh Hashana (The Jewish New Year).

In previous years I've opened a bottle of wine and ordered a pizza (the last one ever of course, as there's always a diet starting on January 1st). This year I'm too tired to indulge in the wine and the pizza is a total waste of money when I can do grilled cheese on toast with ketchup to similar effect.

I always write my list of New Year's resolutions - some of them have been on the list and remain not done for 30 years. Others have only recently (within the past five years) joined the list but, nevertheless, remain not done. So I could, in theory, just write: All the usual, and leave it at that. But I won't because I love the anticipation and hope that this year, despite the evidence of past experience, I just might be able to become the accomplished person I'd like to be with the self-discipline that I crave.

With two hours to go (I live in GMT+2 which is a small country just east of Europe) I have finally got DD to bed (though not to sleep) and I can give my full attention to the twelve months that lie clean and unspoiled, like a new carpet, before me. This year is an important one as it's the year I turn 50 so in fact I'd like to have myself all ship-shaped and perfected by September. This is the year I prepare myself for the second half of my life (assuming I'm going to live to 100 and why not?). This is the year my DD becomes old enough to start learning how to live her life from my role modelling (now that is scary enough to whip me into action!).

However, contrary to the impression I've given so far in this post, I'm not stupid. I'm not going to be speaking perfect Hebrew and French, playing the piano, have written a novel and a cookery book, lost #kg (mind your own business), and have kept the house sparkling clean, my feet pedicured and my body toned... all by September, or even next New Year's Eve. So my clever plan this year is to activate my Day Zero Project (101 things to accomplish in 1001 days - which is about 2 3/4 years) to start on January 1st 2012, in about one hour's time. Sorted.

Happy New Year to everyone everywhere and may all your resolutions, goals, manifestoes, no-pressure vague ideas, dogmatic anti-New Year's non-resolutions, etc... come true (haha would that it were so easy) be accomplished with much pride and smugness.

All illustrations are from Google images except the happy New Year badge below from We Don't Eat Anything With A Face who's hosting a New Year Resolutions Blog Hop.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best Present

Today we upgraded from the 'Bimba' (I don't know what you call it in English - the little red lorry thing) to the big girls' bike. It was a birthday present* from Grandma and Grandpa in London, niftily executed with the help of an  international credit card and my good friend with his car.

I was concerned that I'd not had time to buy a safety helmet for her yet, but as DD can't work the pedals I don't think the bike will be going outside until the spring. At the moment it's for climbing on, squeezing the squeaky duck (in lieu of a horn or bell), and me pushing it for rides up and down the apartment.

*I am very aware that DD didn't get a Hanukkah present from Grandma and Grandpa. I am determined that she is not going to fall into the well known December birthday trap of only one present. It was partly my fault for not having time to get the bike sorted out earlier, but there will be some years when DD's birthday does actually fall on Hanukkah. I'm ready to fight her corner.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Thank You Military Wives

Anyone reading this in the UK will obviously have heard this track. It has made the Number One spot in the UK charts for Christmas and so well deserved. I wanted to share it here for all my non-UK friends to hear and to document an important topical event.

It made me cry. Maybe because I live in a country where most of the men have been in the army and many of them do regular reserve duty for up to a month every year. Sometimes it's routine but at other times, in emergency situations, it can feel as though the northern border or Gaza are as far away as Afganistan.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in perpetual fear, as a single parent, while your husband is giving selflessly for the ultimate safety of us all. Thank you Military Wives everywhere, for the sacrifice and thank you these Military Wives for the music.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Miscellaneous was the first grown-up word I learned when I changed schools at 11. And I learned how to spell it aswell as its meaning. I'd never heard of it before then and now, 38 years later, it's cropped up as the theme for this week's Recipe Shed from Reluctant Housedad. So, as I'm not doing Christmas Dinner this year (it's the Cinderella thing), I thought I'd give you a recipe for latkes and tell you a bit about them.

Basically they are potato pancakes and, along with sufganiyot (doughnuts), are the traditional food for Hanukkah. The theme is food cooked in oil to remember the miracle of the eternal light in the reclaimed Temple lasting a full eight days instead of only one. The story is that they found only a small amount of oil and it took eight days to get a fresh supply.

Latkes is the Yiddish name, in Hebrew they are called levivot, they are also, as I said, potato pancakes. But whatever language you use, they are delicious, full of calories, and very easy to make.


salt and pepper
cooking oil

Grate the potato and onion into a bowl. Mix in some eggs and flour. Season with the salt and pepper.
Put tablespoons of the mixture into the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden brown.
Serve warm with... and here opinions differ.

Traditionally we ate them with meat (corned beef) and pickled cucumbers. Then people started getting trendy and serving latkes with apple sauce and sour cream. There are no rules except to enjoy!

PS We ate ours before I had time to get the camera out so the illustrations are from Google images.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm The Christmas Cinderella

When I was a child we didn't celebrate Christmas (much). Well in some ways you couldn't help but celebrate it. There was no school obviously, great TV - The Sound of Music, The Queen's Speech and Morcambe And Wise's Christmas Special - and the radio was full of wonderful carols. As it was a bank holiday we often had the family round for lunch which was absolutely not to be called Christmas Dinner, although my Aunty Rene made a mean steamed fruit pudding which we set alight with brandy. And my mum made her own mince pies.

After lunch we would play pontoon (21) with about eight people sitting round the table each with a pile of matchsticks to wager with. Did I mention that in the morning we were always invited round to our nextdoor neighbours for Christmas drinks and to see their amazing tree?

Of course we did it all at school. Swapping Christmas cards with friends, carol singing in music lessons. The Jewish girls were allowed to opt out of the school Carol Service and gleefully spent the day shopping in Brent Cross. What idiots we were to miss carol singing in St Martin's In The Field by Trafalgar Square. Later as an Old Girl I received an invitation but felt too ashamed to go after opting out all those years. Yes school is definitely wasted on teenagers.

We do Hanukkah. Same but different. I'm preparing to be shot for saying that but, on a superficial level regarding the feel-good factor it's similar. We light candles for eight nights to commemorate the miracle of the oil for the eternal light in the Temple lasting the eight day wait until more could be brought. We give presents because after so many years living alongside Christians we have adopted the custom. (Many diehard families only give the more traditional money - symbolizing the gold coins donated to the Temple I think.) We have our traditional foods of potato pancakes (latkes) and doughnuts (sufganiyot) because they are cooked in oil (see the connection?). The real meaning of Hanuka? Usual joke: they tried to kill us, we won, let's eat.

Yes we do Hanukkah, it's a family affair, it has its own foods and songs, we have Hanukkah Parties... and yet, somehow, at Christmas time I feel like Cinderella not going to the ball. There's a meme going round at the moment called: My Favourite Christmas Song. I was going to join in and offer 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas' which I love. I also love almost all the songs on my Kings College Choir Christmas Album which I listen to religiously throughout December. But only in December - other times it just doesn't feel right. However, I came across this on Youtube and it sort of summed up my feelings nicely so I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Not So Silent Night

The 100 Word Challenge from Julia's Place (click to see the other entries) is getting into the Christmas spirit this week with a re-wording of a popular carol on the theme of Christmas Dinner. We all love it and have fond memories of stuffing our faces till we're fit to burst. All the traditional foods, the minions of family and other guests around the table, the excitement of the first carve of the turkey, the brandy alight on the Christmas pudding, the mince pies with coffee afterwards. And, yes a wee drop of Baileys in the coffee, thank you, I only do this on Christmas you know... But how did this fine feast appear on the table? Maybe we should take a moment to remember the cook? The woman, usually, who didn't have such a Silent Night....

Last night, long night
Stuffed the turkey tying it tight
Peeled potatoes setting them right
Round the turkey as squashed as I might
Put in the oven at first light
No wonder I'm looking a fright.

Last night, eternal night
Brussel sprouts taste like shite
But they're still a Christmas rite
I made the pudding to set alight
I was up cooking past midnight
No wonder I'm looking a fright.

Last night, all night
Baked mince pies for carollers' bite
Sausage rolls that always delight
Kitchen cleaned and shining bright
A Bottle of Baileys eased my plight
No wonder I'm looking a fright.

*The picures are from Google Images under Exhausted Woman

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Whisky Lovers' Christmas Fruit Cake

Recipe Shed time again and this week it's right up my alley - not. Christmas Recipes! Being Jewish, I'm not cooking up a storm for a festival we don't celebrate (much) so I thought I'd share this fantastic Whisky Lovers' Christmas Fruit Cake recipe with you for pure fun. I didn't write it myself, it went round the internet about five years ago with no name attached. If anyone knows the origin I will be happy to give credit where it is most definitely due. Meanwhile it's too good a recipe to keep to myself for lack of an author.

Check the quality of the whisky!
8oz self-raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup dried fruit
Itsp baking powder
lemon juice
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
4 large eggs
1tsp salt
1 bottle whisky (sample whisky to check quality)

Take a large bowl. Check whisky again for validity to be sure it is of the highest quality. Pour 1 level cup and drink. Repeat just to make sure.

Turn on electric mixer and beat 1 cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 peastoon of sugar and beat again. Make sure whisky is still ok. Cry another tup. Turn off mixer, break 2 leggs and add to the bowl, then chuck in the cup of fried drute. Mix in the turner, check shisky. If fruit gets stuck in the beaters, pry loose with a screwdriver. sample whisky again to check tonsisticity and to make shure it hasn't gone off.

Next shift 2 cups of salt or something - who cares! Check whisky again. Now sift the lemon juice and strain the nuts. Add 1 babblespoon of brown sugar or whatever colour you can find. Wix mell. Grease oven. Turn cake pan 350 gredees. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Throw the bowl out of the window. Check whisky again and bo to ged.

Note: A rootle of bum say be mubstituted for tthththeee whissssky. The wesults will bill sthe shame.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Is It Me Or Are Bells Ringing?

The title above is this week's prompt from Julia's Place for the 100 word challenge. Please enjoy mine and then click on the link to read the other entries. The bells are from Google Images.

Even in the dimly lit restaurant she could see something was wrong. She waited, not daring to ask.

"You should congratulate me. My ex-wife got remarried today."
"Did you go?"
"I was invited but I wasn't expected to accept."
"Are you OK?"
"Yes." There was no conviction in his affirmation. "We've been divorced for two years. We had our chances."
She squeezed his hand gently. "It's still hard though."

He swallowed slowly and nodded. He was grateful for her understanding. She returned his gaze with sympathy brimming in her eyes. But inside her heart was singing: She's remarried! She's remarried! Is it me or are bells ringing?

Monday, December 5, 2011

The First Return

It was June 2005 and my IVF journey continued...

I called first thing on Sunday morning. They had 4 embryos for me. Again I was surprised. 16 eggs retrieved and I end up with only 4 embryos? I went to see Dr. B and he explained it to me:

"We had 16 eggs. As this was  your first IVF we did an experiment. We put eight of the eggs in a dish with sperm and waited to see if any of them would be fertilized. None of them were. The other eight we fertilized by ICSI (actively putting the sperm into the egg). Four of them took and we are going to return these to you today."

I went down to 'Day-Surgery' and undressed up to my waist. There was no anaesthetic so no pre-op procedures. I was told to drink a lot as the embryos are easier to place on a full bladder. So I lay on a bed sipping from a little bottle of water. I finished the water and waited. I was desperate to wee and the nurse said it would be another 15 minutes until I went in. Impossible! I was advised to go and partially empty my bladder. Well you try doing that on a full bladder. Whoosh! I was empty.

I quickly refilled my water bottle and gulpted down 750ml in one go, hoping it would have enough time to reach my bladder before I went in. Twelve minutes later I was called in. I gave my name to the Cheshire Cat face in the hatch and put my legs up into the stirrups. "Have you drunk?" "Yes," I replied truthfully.

The metal clamp was inserted into my vagina and the doctor began to screw the two lips apart. This was the most painful part, having your vagina stretched to the circumference determined by the doctor for her convenience. The rest was a doddle. The slight twinge as the catheter touched the internal nerves was so slight compared to the stretching pain that it was almost a welcome distraction. She didn't mention the state of my bladder so I wasn't about to ask.

Then it was all over. They wheeled my bed in from outside and had me slide carefully on to it. I was wheeled back to the before-and-after room and told to lie still for at least half an hour for the cervix to close. Then I could go home.

I got out my book and started to read. The effects of the 750ml of water suddenly hit me. I looked at my watch. I'd only been there for 10 minutes. My bladder felt fit to bursting and I had to lie there like that for at least another 20 minutes. I tried concentrating on my book. I made myself read to the end of the page before checking the time again. Less than two minutes had passed. Another page read - another two minutes. Still 16 minutes to wait.

I worked out that five minutes was 300 seconds so if I counted to 1000 slowly I would be over the time. I started counting. Strangely enough it was easier to count than to read. When I reached 500 I did a time check. I'd counted so slowly that ten minutes had passed. 360 more seconds and I could go to the loo! I made myself count to 400. I was comfortably over the half hour but uncomfortably about to wet myself. I tried to walk smoothly to the bathroom, not wanting to jiggle the embryo if it had found a nice place to implant itself, but it was at best a fast-smooth walk. Needs must.

Greatly relieved in every sense of the word, I took a taxi home. I asked the driver to drive as smoothly as possible but I don't think he understood the importance of the request. I attempted to glide up the three flights of stairs to my apartment and, once there, I slid into my bed for the remainder of the day with a pile of magazines I had prepared earlier.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I recently recieved a comment under a post from my old friend Anonymous, asking if I wouldn't mind conitnuing my IVF story. I looked back through the archives and found that my last blog on this subject was back in July. I hadn't meant to leave it this long so thank you for the push to resume the journey. We had left things just as I'd been switched from IUI to emergency IVF as I had far too many eggs to leave things to chance.

I went up to IVF at 8am on Thursday as intructed and one of the nurses, Anat, took me down to 'Day-Surgery' in the bowels of Haddasah Hospital. "I'm coming with you as it's your first time," she told me, "next time you can come straight down here yourself." What next time? I've got 22 eggs, why would I need a next time? At some point I noticed that my phone had no reception. It was like Journey to the Centre of the World.

I went through all the preliminaries with the nurse on duty - medical history, weight, blood pressure/pulse. I undressed, put my belongings in a locker and returned the key to the nurse. I kept my glasses, my book and my watch - time is more manageable if you know how much of it has passed. The woman in the next bed went in and came out again within half an hour. And after 40 minutes I was taken in to the operating theatre.

Dr. B was there with his big smile. He had that Tony Blair/Ehud Barak thing about him - like a big schoolboy about to have fun with cutting things and technology. The politician's first commandment: look like you're enjoying all this immensely (except when someone has died) and everyone will think  you have it all under control, nothing to worry about. If this was the case, it worked. I felt safe and relaxed. As I got to know Dr. B better I learned that there is nothing calculating about his behaviour and it was his sincerity that led me to trust him completely.

The anaesthetist started sticking little round patches in strategic places around my upper chest and shoulders. These are... well actually I meant to ask but I never did and so I still have no idea what that was about. Suddenly a grinning face appeared through a hole in the wall. It asked me to say my name. wished me good luck and disappeared. If I dreamt about the Cheshire Cat I'd know why. The drip was connected via my arm and I was told to count to ten. I don't remember how far I got.

I woke in the recovery room. I call it the recovery room but it was more of a corridor half-way between the operating theatre and the before-and-after room. It was cold and my stomach hurt. Not really my stomach of course but rather like a bad period pain. There was no one else around as far as I could see in front of me and I was still too out of it to be able to turn over and do a full recky. I decided that groaning would help. The noise detracts from the discomfort and it may attract a nurse. I wanted a blanket and a painkiller.

Someone came. It was Anat from IVF. She found a blanket and put it over me. "I'll get you something for the pain," she said. Then she put her hand on my forearm and stroked. Three quick strokes up and down followed by a gentle squeeze, and she was gone. I cannot express how much comfort that brief moment of human contact gave me. This wasn't a warm room with a picture on the wall, a bedside table, and a comfortable chair by the bed. It was the corridor with the air-conditioning on too strong and not a soul in sight. I just wanted Anat to return and and put her hand on my arm again. I was reliving that moment like it was the most desireable of fantasies one could ever have.

They must have put me back to sleep again as the next thing I knew I was waking up in the before-and-after room. I was warm and the pain had gone. My glasses, watch and book were in the drawer next to the bed where I had left them. All was right with the world. The nurse popped her head in and told me to wait for the doctor. About 20 minutes later Dr. B arrived looking very pleased with himself.

"We got 16 eggs." he said. I was surprised as there had been 22 eggs measured and listed on the ultrasound chart, what happened to the other six? I didn't like to ask so I just said 'thank you' in my terribly British way.

I stayed and rested for about an hour, drifting in and out of sleep. Dr. B said that the test was if I could walk to the door and back without falling over I could go home. I needed to go to the bathroom, which killed two birds with one stone as it required walking even farther than the door. On the way back I retrieved my locker key from the nurse and picked up my clothes and bag. "Take it easy for the rest of the day and be ready to come in on Sunday morning as we may be putting back embryos."

I got into a taxi and went home leaving them to make my baby in the lab.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mildly Curried Rice With Everything

Big Chief Recipeshed (aka Reluctant Housedad) issued the directive - One Pot Wonders. Tbh, I've done one of these as my vegetarian cholent has to be the ultimate OPW. And the not the carrot tsimmes was pretty much an OPW except that I served it with rice on the side. However, I rose to the challenge and came up with Mildly Curried Rice With Everything. Certainly makes one wonder, eh?
You can use any vegetables you happen to have for this dish but I would say that the onion and potato are pretty much essential, along with the rice and lentils of course. I used the following:

Mildly Curried Rice With Everything

1 cup rice
1/2 cup lentils (soaked for an hour in cold water)
1 potato
1 onion
3 carrots
a chunk of cabbage
a handful of frozen sweetcorn
what was left of the frozen green-beans
oil for frying
water for cooking
Seasonings: salt, pepper, curry powder, soy sauce.

1. Soak your lentils
2. cut all the fresh vegetables into very small cubes.
3. Put the oil in the wonder pot and saute all the vegetables until they are starting to brown.
4. Add the lentils and rice and saute for a further 1-2 minutes.
5. Add about 6 cups of water and bring to the boil.
6. Add the seasonings. I used about a tablespoon of curry powder for a very mild curry taste.
7. Simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.
8. Turn off the heat and let it sit for a further 10 minutes to absorb the last of the liquid.

Easy peasy lemon squeezey! :~)