Tuesday, March 27, 2012

#LifeCircle 9 - Defeated by Passover Cleaning

Life Circle task 9, set at the beginning of March and giving us almost the whole month to complete, was to create some me-time for ourselves. As the old saying goes: Laughed? I almost cried! Which brings me nicely to an opportunity to explain Pesach (Passover) cleaning.

Everyone does some sort of spring cleaning around this time of year, it's human nature to want to shake out all the dirt from a home that's been closed and heated throughout the long winter months. We want to throw open the windows and doors, roll up the rugs, put away the thick blankets, etc... So we do. We do as much or as little as we want. You would think. Until spring cleaning becomes a religious obligation, and then all of a sudden there are rules, standards to be met and, dare I say it, a certain amount of keeping up with the Cohens.

During the festival of Pesach, which lasts a full week, we are not allowed to eat any leavened bread (to comemorate the unleavened 'cracker' type bread the Israelites had to take out of Egypt with them in their haste to leave, i.e. no time for the dough to rise). In order that we don't make any mistakes on this one, the goal posts have been moved thus: We have to change to a special set of Pesach kitchenware (yup, everything in the kitchen that touches food - you can see my meagre Pesach kitchenware and supplies here). We have to buy all new food that contains no wheat flour (except for the matzo crackers which are baked and timed under rabbinical supervision). Ashkenazi Jews (of European descent) also eat no pulses or rice, incuding any foods that contain derivatives of such foods like rice vinegar  or soy sauce. And - here's the biggy - we have to clean our homes from top to bottom (every cupboard, drawer, under bed and over wardrobe) to make sure there are no crumbs anywhere. And anything that cannot be sufficiently cleaned must be covered. It takes days.

Passover Overkill

Normally it's just me at home so I do what I like can. On years that we go to my family in London I just lock the door behind us and don't even think about Pesach cleaning. This year, after last year's Seder Night fiasco, there was no way I wasn't going to stay with family. So we booked and then I saw a request from a friend on fb to rent an apartment in Jerusalem for Pesach. I jumped at the chance to make some extra money and, of course, assured said friend that the place would be 'clean for Pesach'.

So this month I've been working flat out - because half of next month is holiday, and trying to not just clean for Pesach, but also declutter and organise everything to make it suitable and comfortable for guests. They are coming on Friday morning so, after realizing that I was teaching until today, that gives me two more days to do what I have to do (dust, scrub, hoover, sweep, tidy, wash the floors and windows). And I did want to write one of those visitors' guides like they have in the holiday house swap programmes but I ran out of time.

As far as Midlife Singlemum is concerned, and after briefly considering scheduled posts and other such options, I have admitted defeat. This will be my last post until we return after the holiday. I'm probably committing blog-suicide by taking a three week break but I can't do everything. And the state of the blog will make for an interesting post when we get back. Yes, I could blog from England but I've made the decision that this will be my me-time. I'm going to go out with friends while Grandma and Grandpa babysit, I'm going to read a book or two, I'm going to watch British tv, and I'm going to see if I can remember what living in reality 24/7 was like.
Happy Pesach to those celebrating with me and Happy Easter to others. See you all next month!

* All illustrations from Google Images under Passover Cleaning.

Friday, March 23, 2012

#ArtIHeart 5 - Camping In The Wye Valley

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

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

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

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

Here's mine:

It's a photgraph, yes, but it's actually a printed copy of a photograph. Years ago my then flatmate, D, bought me a calendar as a present from her trip to England over the Christmas holidays. It had a photo of a pretty English scene for each month. This one was June. I'd forgotten this fact but for the information I found on the back of the frame when I took it down to photograph. I had written: River Avon, Warwichshire; Photo by Simon McBride; July 1990. I'm very impressed with my 27yo self for doing that.

I loved this scene from the moment I saw it. It reminded me of camping trips in the Wye Valley in the mid-1970s. The crisp air of early morning, a slight mist even in summer and the damp dew-covered grass soaking my flip-flopped feet. I could alsmost feel it. In July it was time to turn over to the next page which could have been York Cathedral or a London Bus - I have no idea. I tore out the page and took it straight to the framer. D was thrilled that I'd loved it enough to have it framed.

I still love it and it hangs by the door in my spudy (spare-room/study). I am not at all a hoarder so this goes to show that some of my happiest memories are tied up with the art on my walls. Art I Heart is truly turning out to be trip down memory lane.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Old Is Old?

A few weeks ago Natasha from The 1970s Diet and I had an exchange of tweets about when one is considered to be old. It started with her saying that her 63 year old mum doesn't think that 70 is old. My response to that was something along the lines of - if she doesn't feel herself to be old then she's not old. After a bit more of a discussion we agreed to each write our thoughts on what 'old' means and to post them simultaneously with links to each other.

Before I give my opinion I'll tell you three very short, true stories.

1. When I was 8 and my brother was 5, he brought home a friend from school to play. When the boy's mother collected him she said that she loves it when he gets to play with children his own age as he only has a half-sister at home who is 12 and more like an aunty to him than a sister. As I said, I was 8 and I remember thinking: WOW 12, that's so old!

2. A few months ago I walking in the street with a much younger mother from DD's nursery and a friend from years ago passed us. We said a quick, 'hellohowareyou' and continued walking. I was actually shocked by how old my friend looked. I said to the friend I was walking with, 'would you believe that woman was in the same school year as me?' She was also shocked.

3. At her retirement party, a teacher I used to work with told me, 'I don't feel old inside. Inside I feel the same way I felt when I was 30 ro 40. They don't tell you this but all my friends feel the same.'

So what could we conclude from these anecdotes?

From number 1, that age is relative. A 20 year old thinks a 50 year old is older than a 45 year old thinks about the same person. But a 70 year old would consider the 50 year old to be young.

From number 2, we all age at different rates and it has little to do with our number of years. The woman we met was probably tired (she has five children), she had not dressed to her best advantage, she was not wearing any make-up and is naturally pale, and who knows what other factors were acting that day to make her look years older than me.

And from number 3, which is my favourite story, that whatever your age and however you look, you still feel young on the inside (until you don't). Yes of course there is a time when (hopefully - because it's better than the alternative) you will become old. But who is to say when that time is? I know people who were old at 20 and I know spritely 80 year olds.

As I get nearer to 50 I'm aware that I don't dress in the same way a 20 year old dresses. I wouldn't want to as I'd now prefer to be sophisticated and elegant than fun and frivolous. (And in minus about 20kg I will be sophisticated and elegant :~D. ) I can no longer do the gymnastics I did as a 14 year old but I know a sports teacher in her 40s who can. My tastes in entertainment have changed to quieter venues with fewer people and deeper conversation but that in no way diminishes the fun I expect to have.

On the other hand, I am a 'young' mother with a 3yo in nursery school. The other parents I mix with are between 5 and 25 years younger than me. I don't feel it. They are all very friendly and we have fun in the park after school and at the nursery parties and picnics. We have been invited to lunch and play on weekends and if the other children's Grandma is there, she's sometimes nearer my age than the parents. No one cares. It's not even a matter for comment.

What do you think? Is there a definitive age that is 'old' or is becoming old an individual experience and not totally dependent on your number of years?

*All pictures from Google Images

Monday, March 19, 2012

#Listography - 5 Reasons I know... I'm Not Starting A Detox Today

5 Reasons I know...

...you can fill in the rest with whatever takes your fancy. Read mine and then go and see the others at Listography on Kate Takes 5.

5 Reasons I know I'm not starting a detox today

1. The potatoes I bought yesterday for the magic eat-all-you-want soup turned into chips before I had time (or inclination) to make the soup.

2. The ketchup I ate with the chips isn't on the detox diet list - should have eaten them with cayenne pepper and maple syrup I think.

3. The plumber who fitted my new tap in the bathroom nine months ago, at great expense because he bought me the best most expensive tap on the market, and who assured me it was still under guarantee when it broke, told me he would fix the new one if I went to Plotsk to pick it up. I don't have a car and though it may not actually be Plotsk but it might as well be. I shouted at him, he told me I should be thanking him, I threatened him with my local huduyu fb group, he put the phone down on me, I burst into tears. Contacting him in the first place was my 'step out of your comfort zone' assignment for #LifeCircle. #Lifecirclefail and go searching for comfort in the fridge.

4. There was some chocolate left and I've already had the talk with DD about how we're not having anymore sugar at home for a while (she ate far to much over Purim and even she told me it was too much in the end). So who's going to eat it if I don't finish it off? I cannot waste food.

5. Was offered a slice a cake to celebrate someone's birthday at work. Well it would have been rude not to.

Friday, March 16, 2012

#ArtIHeart 4 - The Reason I'm Single?

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

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

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

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

Here's mine:

Girl With Lemons; W. Bouguereau, 1899
This was the picture that all the fuss was about. This was the picture that got me a lecture from my Feng Shui/Chinese Medicine friend about ruining my chances of ever getting married. This picture was the reason I bought this picture of perfect coupledom in order to strike a balance. However, my friend was adamant that the Girl With Lemons had to go if I were to make room for a man in my home. Quite frankly, I think I made the better choice ;)

Girl With Lemons is part of the Israel Museum Collection and what I have framed is a poster from the museum shop. I fell in love with this painting because of the colours, the setting and the girl herself. Maybe for the same reason that Mummy Plum chose this picture. Or I may be flattering myself. I knew that this was going to hang in my kitchen when I moved apartments and I even chose the colours of the kitchen around it. See...

Well you can't design a kitchen around someone and then chuck them out, can you?

I saw Girl With Lemons once in The Broadwalk Shopping Centre in Edgware while I was visiting family. She didn't have her lemons and in fact she was about nine years old as opposed to the older teenager on my wall. But it was the same girl by the same artist. I wanted to buy the print (small poster?) of her younger self but the stall holder had it framed in a fancy gilt surround and wanted 40 pounds for it. So I left her in Edgware.

I did some research (google) and found that W. Bouguereau (1825 - 1905, French) spent his life painting my girl - you can see loads of her here. He was married twice and had five children. As he painted this girl from when she was a child, I was hoping she was one of his daughters. But it seems she was a model he hired to pose for him.

P.S. did you notice the small picture tucked into the frame at the bottom R-H corner? I was so freaked out by my friend's lecture at the time that I cut up a catalogue from the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, NYC, and placed little copies of paintings depicting couples and families wherever I could find places. When I was going through IVF I placed mothers and daughters everywhere. There is one other one left tucked into the sockets in my bedroom. And I'm so not superstitious - I don't know what came over me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ladies Who Lu...mpect 3 - Unexpectedly Elusive

Back in September 2011 I wrote: My good friend, DancingInTheRain, is a career woman, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend to many, a writer, and a dancer. This was her story. Then DancingInTheRain continued her terrifying story in January of this year. You can read Part 2 here. So what other surprises does such an ordeal bring? Read on...

Latest step-by-step update:  Yeh!  All good.  Radiotherapy over.  Latest mammogram negative (good thing, remember?).  Visit to oncologist - no more treatments. Visit to breast surgeon – tick.   

The unexpectedly elusive lump (see LWL 2) was never actually found but those who understand these things agree that whatever it was must surely have been totally eliminated by those radiation rays.   Surely.   As it happens, as with the ‘step by step’ mantra, the ‘unexpectedly elusive’ seems to have become somewhat of a theme during this dance.  The elusive friend (the one who you thought was one of your very best friends but sort of disappeared when the going got tough – well at least in comparison to members of the Ladies Who Lumpect club), the elusive answer as to whether you ever really get rid of breast cancer or is it always lurking round the corner ready to pounce again when you at least expect it,  the elusive feeling of 'I'm trying not to be selfish especially when everyone is always doing their best to make sure I'm okay' when my 2 daughters and semi-adopted daughter have all gone off shopping leaving me all on my lonesome and there is the forever elusive ‘when things get back to normal again’.

I will expand slightly on just one of these ‘unexpectedly elusives’.  The unexpectedly elusive friend. (Midlife said ‘vent’ so I’m venting!)

In my first ‘’story’’ (Ladies Who Lumpect) I waxed lyrical about the camaraderie between all my 1 in 7s as well as the unmitigated support of friends and family.  A million thanks to everyone.  Old friends from the past have re-appeared, newer friends are suddenly always around and all-time friends are simply there non-stop – be it via phone, texting, email, personal facebook messages, home visits, hospital visits or a grand mix of the afore-mentioned.  By non-stop I mean if not every 2 days, then daily or even twice daily.  Certainly not elusive, that is, apart from one all-time ‘friend’ from the old country.  A ‘best’ friend since we were teenagers. 

We had married within a year of each other, ditto re: having kids.  It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that although we lived in different towns we more or less shared the last 30+ years.   Nowadays she lives only a 40 minute drive away, doesn’t work, has time and a car on her hands, a healthy relationship with husband and grown up children, financial independence and the means to go wherever she likes, whenever.

Yet she suddenly became unexpectedly elusive, every now and then showing a deep interest in all the intricate details but then forgetting to phone for what seemed like weeks compared to everyone else’s phone calls, despite hints from my loving hubby and even one sarcastic txt msg from yours truly after being somewhat taken aback when she said that she might visit when she had “nothing else on”.   I was totally devastated when, in response to my request for an explanation (in the form of a suggestion that we ‘’talk’’), she explained that she cannot cope with having me in her life anymore because I am unpredictable.  

My immediate gut reaction, you ask?  Well after recoiling from the kick, I yelled silently:  “I am the one with cancer and yet you whinge that you can’t cope with your life (if I am in it).”  What could I say in my defence?  That I am a ‘little’ tense? – definitely;  anxious? – undoubtedly;  emotional? – certainly;  selfish? - quite probably;  but ‘unpredictable’?  Maybe so.  But what could actually be more predictable than unpredictable behavior in someone diagnosed with breast cancer (especially someone who had just been told that her extra lump is still lost and a 3rd op might be on the cards)?  So I said nothing.  I walked away.  Out of the gates of the cemetery where we had met by chance to attend the memorial service for a mutual friend, exactly 30 days after he had died of cancer.

500 fantastic deeds performed by a whole host of fantastic friends and family should outweigh one shameful deed – so why does this still lie so heavy on my heart?  It’s the answer to that question that still eludes me.

Next oncologist’s check up – in 3 months time.  Current issues on the agenda - step-by-step back to normality for the rest of the family, while for me it’s step-by-step to building a new normality, a normality whose identity I am still seeking.  Normality – a new dance. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

#Listography - Cookery Books

My American friends laugh when I talk about cookery books. They say it sounds like some sort of witchery-pokery with spells and hocus-pocus. Well they can have their cookbooks - mine are cookery books. And here are my five favourites. Visit Kate Takes 5 for more cookery book collections.

1. Florence Greenberg's Jewish Cookery Book

First published in 1947, mine is the eighth edition (1972). Up until the mid1970s this was the only Jewish cookery book available in the UK and every girl received a copy on her Bat Mitzva at the age of 12 (the equivalent to the boys' Bar Mitzva at 13). My mother was still using hers when mine came along. I love the notices to Jewish housewives about being careful to buy only kosher food and the adverts from 1947:

It's amazing to see the way people ate in those days - everything was cooked in shmaltze (beef or chicken fat). It has all the traditional Jewish recipes from long ago with the Yiddish names transported from the shtetls of Europe. But you can't beat it when you need a basic recipe for e.g. shortcrust pastry, sponge cake, custard, and other things that most people don't bother to make from scratch these days.

2. A Proper Tea by Joanna Isles

Everything you ever wanted to know about afternoon tea. Beautiful illustrations of teatime in various styles, including the recipes. Exquisite is the only word to describe this book.

3. A selection of bumper Vegetarian Cookery Books

Between them these books contain everything you could possibly do with an aubergine, a tomato, a potato or a mushroom. You are welcome to add some meat to your menu but there's really no need.

4. French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

This isn't cheating as it does contain some very nice recipes. However, it's also my Bible. when I found this book all my diet books (and I had a few *ahem*) were thrown out. You can create wonderful cuisine to your heart's delight but if you don't know how to eat like a mensch (a civilised human being) what's the point?

5. The Book Of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur

A recipe book, yes, but also a social history of the food and eating culture in Israel. And a comprehensive review of where, who and how we eat today. I read it cover to cover before I even went into the kitchen with it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

#ArtIHeart 3 - From London, Love Implied

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

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

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

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

Here's mine:

As you can see, it's a print of a water colour (although printed on crinkly card so it looks remarkably like an original water colour) of the River Thames with London Bridge, and Westminster and The London Eye in the background. I love the soft colours of grey, pale yellow and orange depicting a realistic wintery dawn over London. And the whispy quality of the painting gives it an old-fashioned, romantic air. If not for The Eye, it could be from yesterday or from Victorian times.

Would you believe it was a birthday card? Every year about a week before my birthday, with business efficiency, I get an envelope in the post with my Father's beautiful penmanship indicating that my birthday card has arrived. Inside is a card - sometimes birthday specific sometimes not. I know before even opening it that it will say: To Rachel, from Mum and Dad. That's it apart from any printed message from hallmark themselves. Every year the same. My friend kills herself laughing as it reminds her of the formality of 84 Charring Cross Road - except fewer words. And in many ways my Father is from that era, a bit younger maybe  but he had older parents. (Btw, my mother phones - or these days Skypes). The birthday that fell only a few weeks after I'd had a late miscarriage, he added: Thinking of you.

Anyway, I loved the picture so much I had it mounted and framed. I love London and I'm not there. A picture on the wall is the nearest I can get for most of the year. Below you can see it in situ above my dining table. My only regret (naughtily) is that I could have signed it in pencil in the bottom R-H corner and in the L-H corner written: A/P :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Purim 2012

I'm not going to go into a long explanation as I explained it all last year - through my tears. But then I took some great photos on the way home which you can see here. And DD finished off the celebrations with a lesson in diplomacy for Mummy.

So I'll just give you today's photos showing that Purim has kicked off again in the usual style...

Unlike last year, DD loved dressing up (as a fairy).

Waiting for the school bus.

There was a Purim Party at nursery.
The staff were all Mini Mouse.
Raheli - the best Nursery Teacher in the world!
Daddies can dress up too.
The most ingenius costume of the day!
A fairy and a princess on the see-saw.
I wish you all a Happy Purim!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

#LifeCircle 8 - Just Say 'No' And Get Over It

This week our LifeCircle assignment was to say 'no' to something you'd normally find hard to refuse or, worse, would say 'yes' to and cause yourself significant inconvenience as a consequence. The last time I tried to put my foot down and say 'no' (actually is was a case of 'no more') this happened. Another time I did manage to say 'no' to a good friend who made it clear that she expected me to bring my then 2yo out in the evening to an event she was holding. I got this response. So you see it's not always as easy as just being firm and saying 'no'.
On the other hand, it usually is just a case of being firm and saying 'no'. One problem is that I often want to do whatever it is. I like organising. I like being involved in community stuff. I enjoy the whole being part of something gig. But, of course the biggest problem is not wanting to let people down, worrying that they may think less of me or be offended (in the case of declining an invitation).

I made the decision that when DD is at nursery I must use the time to work. I made this decision a few times and every time something more interesting comes up, I relent. I reason that what's the point of doing freelance work if I can't be flexible with my time? Of course I can be flexible with my time - I could stay up working all night if I wanted. However, even if I wanted, I'm often too tired to do any work when DD is finally asleep. So it's a nice idea that just doesn't work and I have to use the hours I have during the day.

Last week I went out for breakfast with a friend who teaches at a college. As he was on mid-semester break, it seemed silly to pay for a babysitter in order to see him. Then a good friend from New York was here on a (literally) flying visit. I get to see her once every three years or so - how could I not have lunch with her? This week another friend asked if I were free for lunch. I would love to meet her for lunch. Believe me it'd be a lot more fun than planning 28 hours of  English language lessons for next semester (which starts on Tuesday and I've not started).

I admit there was a little guilt as this particular friend has to come in from Tel Aviv and I'd said 'no' to her last time she was in Jerusalem for similar reasons. There was a little angst in the form of: will she think I don't want to see her? She emailed me the suggestion we meet at the beginning of the week and I uhmed and ahhed at her, pushing off the final decision until today. Partly because I didn't like to say 'no' and also partly because I was hoping against all hope that I'd be in better shape workwise - there was about 0% chance of this happening.

This afternoon I emailed her explaining that I wouldn't be able to meet her for lunch tomorrow. She'd second guessed me and had already made alternative arrangements. How much better if I'd simply told her 'no' in the first place. I wouldn't  have had it on my mind all week and she would've known what she was doing much earlier without having to second guess my plans.

I have another friend who, at the slightest hint of guilt-angst, says, 'get over it.' She's so right. No one cares about these things as much as yourself. In future I'm going to just say 'no' and get over it. (btw, it helps if you say 'no, sorry'.)