Monday, October 29, 2012

The British Hate Success

Today there is an article in The Mail Online about how the Middleton family are cashing in on Skyfall, the new James Bond film. As usual the Daily Mail sets the tone and invites comments of general outrage. Sometimes the comments under an article tell the DM to stop being ridiculously pathetic and can be absolutely hilarious. I love it when the true British dry sense of humour comes out as with yesterday's silly article about how chef Heston Blumenthal swabs his mouth with a tampon between bites so as to maximise the taste experience. One fellow wrote: What a great idea, I  must try it tonight with my beans on toast. I LOLed.

Generic secret agent with no name.
Today, however, the comments of general outrage and outright venom poured in. This not the first time this has happened. People were also put out about the Middletons' party business making money out of the Royal Wedding, the Jubilee and the Olympics. It seems that the Middletons are now fair targets. Any success is obviously a crude cashing in on their Royal connections, tacky and just plain greedy (all accusations thrown today in the DM comments).

Since when is running a successful business tacky and greedy? No one slams Primark for being tacky and greedy. JK Rowling was a struggling single mother who wrote a few books and she's practically a saint now.

Carole Middleton started Party Pieces by putting together party bags at her kitchen table. They were already millionaires by the time Kate started dating William. They built the business through hard work and initiative. When the Royal wedding was announced Kate was the darling of the masses - a commoner making it into the closed ranks of the aristocracy. A real success story, if not quite Cinderella.

Cashing in on Christmas?
Since then it's been down hill all the way for the Middletons as far as respect and public opinion goes. It seems that the British love a good success story unless you become too successful or are seen to be enjoying it too much. Then all outrage and venom breaks loose.

The thing about parties is that people need an excuse to have them - birthdays, Christmas, New Year, Midsummer, Back to School, Hallowe'en, Guy Fawkes, retirement, Bar/Bat Mitzva, wedding.... It doesn't matter the excuse, you never get an invitation saying: We're having a party because we haven't had one for a while and we feel like it. A party business provides the props to go with all the myriad of occasions and themes people choose. When a new blockbuster film comes out there are wizard parties, hobbit parties, or secret agent parties. There are Bafta, Grammy and Oscar parties. There are X Factor Final parties and World Cup Final parties. For all these parties we like to decorate and have the props.

Sue me!
We all opposed and decried the strict bans on any displays of Olympic themes that might benefit small businesses during the Games. Events like the Royal wedding, Jubilee and the Olympics are supposed to be national events that we can all benefit from. The nation paid for them after all. What would Christmas be like without the decorations, nativity scenes and Santas? The Jubilee would have been a bit flat without the street parties, school celebrations and the bunting don't you think?

Party Pieces is a successful business providing a service. If people didn't want that service the business would fail. As one (heavily red arrowed) commentor wrote: Some people are confusing opportunism with responding to demand. The Middletons work hard for their money unlike many of the aristocracy who were born into large tracts of land and lucrative trust funds. One comment in the DM had the audacity to say: This is why the Royal Family should never marry a commoner. Other comments said that the Middletons' greed and pushiness would be the downfall of the Royal Family.

If you only read the DM you'd think the British are a nation of jealous losers. It's ok to be born into wealth but not to earn it through hard work? When a small travel company gave Mr Thomas Cook a free weekend in Paris they were applauded for taking advantage of the company Thomas Cook's shortsightedness. Taking advantage of a situation is how businesses thrive. Only the Middletons aren't included in this economic general principle.

I have to admit that I was a little ashamed as well as disgusted with the comments in the DM today.

All pictures from Google images.

Friday, October 19, 2012

#ONEMums - No Misery Trip

Michelle Pannell (Mummy from the Heart) has been back from Ethiopia for nearly a week. I could almost say that 'we' have been home for nearly a week. Last week I was with Michelle in spirit all the way. Here are the posts I wrote about her mission with International.

My #ONEMums (#ONEMoms) posts:
Where You Live Determines If You Live
Lend Us Your Voice
Living Proof

A Simple Idea - MaryJoy
FashionABLE - A Different Opportunity
The Biggest Problem You Never Heard OF
Dont' All Thunderclap At Once

I learnt so much from this mission. First I read Michelle's posts (and listened to her soundclouds) which you can also read (listen to) at Mummy from the Heart, then I followed her links to the websites of the organisations she visited. There were those who were expecting a misery trip. I can tell you that this was no misery trip. This is what I learnt last week.

1. You don't need to be rich to make a difference. International asks for your voice to give them the strength of numbers to carry out their work. Their work is to follow up on all the promises made by countries and other organisations to give foreign aid. To make sure the promises are kept. To make sure the money goes to worthwhile projects and not into the pockets of corruption. To monitor the projects for efficiency and effective results. We are talking about billions of dollars donated by people like us. ONE makes sure it isn't wasted. You can see it all here on the  Living Proof Website and you can add your voice by scrolling down this blog on the right to the ONE widget.

2. Ethiopia is a beautiful country with much to offer. It's no longer the country of severe famine that we watched on the news 15 years ago. Whilst there is still extreme poverty there is also a growing middle class, an increasing tourist industry and vastly improved social initiatives helping towards greater employment, education and healthcare for everyone. There is a long way to go but the progress so far shows a country filled with hope.

3. Helping people to help themselves and move beyond poverty is the best way to give lasting aid. The cooperatives (especially those started and run by women) are nothing short of inspirational. They take families out of poverty, empower them and allow them to educate the next generation. Some provide work and income for families in the villages while others are major businesses exporting e.g. fashion items, around the world.

4. Missions like the ONEMums and ONEMoms work. While Michelle and 11 other bloggers were reporting from Ethiopia and their Ground Support Teams (bloggers like me) were adding our own posts, sharing, tweeting and retweeting. The #ONEMums hashtag had over 6 million hits on twitter. That doesn't include fb and G+ activity. (I'm not sure if it included #ONEMoms or not). That's an enormous number of voices added to, most of whom had never heard of the organisation or what they do before last week. It's also an enormous number of people who have read about Ethiopia as a happening country, dispelling other more depressing images left over from harder times.

5. A meaningful trip can change your life. (Or: 5. Michelle Pannell is an exceptional woman. Probably both.) Michelle wrote in one of her posts, Down to Earth with a Bump, that the culture shock was in coming home (and realizing how much we have, a lot of it that we don't even need -  my words). She writes:
   "...just allow the processing to take place and slowly the information will fall into place and then dh and I can make some decisions about how we want our lives to change and we both know that we do.  Last year dh went to India on mission and that touched and changed him and now my Ethiopia journey has done the same for me, but we need to see how those changes translate to real everyday life."

6. Not everything has to succeed 100%. My thunderclap has rumbled off into the distance to quietly expire. I chose the smallest number of supporters (100) and the longest time available (14 days) but with only 3 days to go, we have only 26 supporters and a reach of over 40,000. I've let it go. Oh well, you win some you lose some. If any of you would like to cast a sympathy vote you can do so here but really, I'm over it. *sobs quietly* ;~)

7. One little photo can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Thank you Michelle and all the ONEMums\ONEMoms. You did a terrific job and I am honoured to have been with you all the way.

Bottom right on the poster is me :~)

All photos are taken from the ONEMums Pinterest file.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Listography: 5 Things I'd Like To Be reincarnated As

I so wasn't going to do this one. It's a bit silly isn't it, after all? So I went to bed after reading some of the other entries (all available for viewing at Kate Takes 5) and things kept popping into my mind just I was dozing off. Well you don't ignore your Blog when it calls you urgently in the middle of the night so up I got...

Five things I would like to be reincarnated as:

1. The twins - Hindsight and Insight. They work together. When Hindsight tells you what will happen if you follow a certain doomed direction, Insight tells you that even though the situation is slightly different this time Hindsight still knows what he's talking about. I'd never make a wrong decision, a dodgy investment, or a stupid move. I'd be made.

2. A juicer. I'd have to eat healthily then. I mean you can't juice a box of chocolates, a slice of cake or even a plate of chips.

3. A mermaid. Whereas in this life I just get on with it and sort out my own problems, there are those women - usually with flowing locks and floaty long skirts so you can't see their (lack of) legs - who in the face of a crisis, will stand in the centre of the room wittering, "how could I have been so silly...?" Meanwhile everyone (male and female) is rushing around trying to fix things for them, gathering whatever they need, seeing to their children, falling over themselves to make it all better for the (I'm convinced of it) mermaid. I want that.

4. A small bottle of water. Lets face it, they get taken everywhere these days. No celebrity, A-lister,  Royalty, or just plain billionaire, ever leaves home without their little bottle of water. Just think of the places I'd go and the people I'd meet. And then I'd 'spill' everything to Hello Magazine and retire comfortably on the pay-off.

5. Google Translate. I'd be able to read everything in almost every language in the world. I'd be highly sought after by diplomats, scholars and global businesses. It's true that no one will understand a word I say but you can't have everything.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lost Souls

Tonight's 100 Word Challenge from Julia (at Julia's Place where you can see all the other entries) came with the prompt: can't be that time...

I immediately thought that it can't be that time heals. I didn't even know what I meant by that. Then I saw a call from a friend on fb, a friend who suffered greatly as I know many women do. I don't remember suffering to be honest, although there was a certain amount of shock. However, I answered the call.

Two chemical pregnancies passed pregnancy tests but never achieved a pulse. One with a pulse lasted seven weeks. 

My twin girls were lost at five months. I didn't mourn them. I didn't look back. If you never lived you never were. I wanted a take-home baby.

A friend named her two tiny unborns and buried them. Tonight another friend invited mothers to light a memorial candle for all the lost souls. 

It can't be that time heals when there wasn't any suffering. It could't get any easier than, "I moved on." But I do think about my twin daughters sometimes. Tonight I lit a candle.

This was the call:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lemony Roast Vegetables With Ptitim

Keith the Reluctant Housedad (aka Big Chief Recipe Shed) took up my challenge to make a lemony vegetarian dish that isn't dessert. He came up with Lemony Middle Eastern Roast Vegetables with Zatar served on (so tempted to write: a bed of...) Fluffy Couscous and Feta Cheese. It looks amazing. I was especially intrigued by the cubes of lemon with the peel that get roasted with the vegetables. Of course I promised to cook it myself and blog about it...

Now what would be the point of reproducing exactly Keith's recipe and writing an almost identical post? Exactly. So I've made a few modifications....

1. Instead of butternut squash, I substituted aubergine. I love roast aubergine and it's still very Middle Eastern.

2. I'm not a fan of cooked chickpeas and anyway I use chickpeas a lot in my homemade humus and falafel. So I left out the chickpeas and put in garlic.

3. I forgot to buy a green pepper so I just have the red pepper and courgettes (mine are the light green ones rather than the dark ones that Keith used) to go with my aubergine and garlic.

4. I can't put feta cheese in my couscous because I'm doing a DIY-Detox with Jane from Diary Of a Desperate Exmoor Woman. I've cut out dairy completely so no cheese sorry.

5. We're not big on couscous although the couscous with feta sounds amazing. Seeing as I'm not doing the feta and I'm also trying to feed a 3yo I used coucous ptitim intsead.

About Ptitim

In the early days of the State of Israel in the 1950s, there were many refugees from Arab countries. They weren't used to the pasta and potatoes familiar to the Europeans. They cooked with couscous, lentils and rice. A cheap oven-baked pasta was created in the shapes of rice (like orzo), lentils, couscous, and the giant pearl couscous (maftoul or mograbeih). You cook it like rice or pasta. They are now a favourite Israeli food and come in rings, stars and hearts as well. Follow the links for a fuller account on Wikipedia.

So here it is:

For the marinade: Olive oil, lemon juice, zatar (if you can't find zatar cumin is also good and still Middle Eastern). I added salt and pepper though Keith didn't.

Cube the vegetables: aubergine, courgettes, red pepper, garlic (throw in whole cloves with the peel still on). I left out the whole cubed lemon as this was my second attempt. The one I made yesterday I found too lemony. Keith, however says he likes the sharpness so it's a matter of taste. I prefer a subtle hint of lemon.

Mix the marinade into the vegetables and leave to marinate for at least an hour.

Roast the vegetables in the oven for about an hour turning them over occasionally. (Yesterday I added black olives after about 45 minutes and it was a nice touch. Today I didn't have any.)

Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their peels and squash each one lightly with a fork to release the flavour.

Serve the roast vegetables on a bed of  (just kidding) with ptitim.

When I packed the leftovers away I mixed everything together and it actually looks like a very nice side dish to serve with fish or chicken.

Thanks Keith!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Biggest Problem You've Never Heard OF

I didn't make the heading up myself. I read it on the Operation OF website. Today is the first UN International day of the Girl. Many bloggers and journalists are writing about this important initiative and there is certainly much to write.

The International Day of the Girl includes equality in education for girls, equal standing in traditional families, fighting to stop childhood marriage (where it is invariably the girl who is still the child), equal opportunities for girls, and just about every issue in which girls get less or are treated as less than boys.

One of the loudest causes has been the fight against child marriage. There are lots of obvious reasons (and some less obvious) why a girl should not be 'sold' into marriage as a young teenager. Follow @WorldVisionUK and @WorldVisionPR and World Vision’s facebook page for news and stories on #childmarriage. One of them is the biggest problem you've never heard of (or OF) - obstetric fistula.

The Hamlin Fistula Hosptal, Addis Ababa

Michelle describes her visit to the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa as part of the ONEMums mission. She states that the physical immaturity of the child-mothers makes this condition more likely to occur. Operation OF describes it as follows:

"Obstetric Fistula is the Biggest Problem You’ve Never Heard OF

Imagine five days of labor that end in stillbirth. As you try to pull yourself together emotionally after this unimaginable loss, you realize that you’re constantly wet. You don’t know why, but that five days of labor made a hole in your bladder that constantly leaks urine. This hole is also known as an obstetric fistula. You try to drink less, but that makes your wretched smell even stronger. Your husband thinks you’re cursed so he leaves. No one wants to work with you because you stink. You can’t even get water because you are the unclean. You are left alone on the margins of society begging for an end to your suffering. This is obstetric fistula."

Some of the women treated at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, Addis Ababa

And yet this condition is easily treatable with a relatively quick and simple operation. Read the women's stories on the OperationOF website. Read Michelle's account of the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa. Both have suggestions for how you can help if you are so moved. This is the issue that grabbed my attention and moved me. 11/10 is the International Day of the Girl. A girl is a girl, not a wife/mother/breadwinner. Remember what it was like to be a girl? There are, as I said, many causes involved with this Day. Find yours and make a difference. 

Related posts: 
Where You Live Determines If You Live
Lend Us Your Voice
Living Proof

A Simple Idea - MaryJoy
FashionABLE - A Different Opportunity

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Simple Idea - MaryJoy

Zebider Zewdie, a nurse in Addis Ababa, came up with a simple idea. In a country and city where AIDS/HIV is rife, poverty endemic, death in childbirth common, there are few jobs, high rates of illiteracy, and scant healthcare; there are obviously many orphans, homeless and old people without means or family. 

Zebider Zewdie had the simple idea of building a community for these underserved people. She started what became the MaryJoy Aid Through Development centres. Centres where the lonely and outcast are welcome and given resources to put their lives back on a track. Where they are part of a supportive community and where they can belong.

A simple idea but with colossal effect on the lives of over 1 1/2 million Ethiopians in 63 centres. Huge. Just huge.

The ONEMums in Ethiopia visited a MaryJoy centre yesterday. This is what Michelle writes about it. Did you know you could sponsor a child for all their nutritional and educational needs, and give them a roof over their heads all for $10 a month?

Meanwhile I started a ONEMums in Africa Thunderclap. If we get 100 supporters in 14 days something wonderful happens. I'm not sure what exactly but it's worth trying to reach the target in order to find out, isn't it? Please click on the badge below and follow it through.

Related posts: 
Where You Live Determines If You Live
Lend Us Your Voice
Living Proof

Monday, October 8, 2012

Living Proof

So Jen and Michelle (@JHowze of BritMums and Jenography and @MichelleTwinMum of Mummy from the Heart and Honest Mummy Reviewsare in Ethiopia for a week to check out the work of ONE International in Africa. See my two previous posts: Where You Live Determines If You Live; and Lend Us Your Voice. They are seeing, experiencing, tweeting and blogging. There are photos up in a Pinterest file and meme doing the rounds. A whole team of us here on the ground are giving support by tweeting and retweeting, blogging and generally whipping up as much enthusiasm as we can. And of course we invite everyone to join in with any of the above. Here are some tweets from Michelle:

> On the most amazing trip ever, the people of  are so warm. Thank you 

> Yesterday I danced with loads of Ethiopian women and kids and boy did it rock!! #ONEMoms

 > Yes really here and being blown away, the people of  are wonderful 

At the Mary-Joy Organisation
 had the most amazing day yesterday at an outreach community centre in the city. Mary-Joy organisation   

And I have tweeted back to Michelle things like: Have a great day! Enjoy! #ONEMoms

What is going on here?

Millions of dollars in aid are given to Africa every year to try to alleviate the poverty, starvation, sickness and death caused by curable diseases, illiteracy, the spread of AIDS, drought and famine, etc...etc...etc...etc...etc...

And yet this trip feels like one big sightseeing holiday with partying and even a dose of, 'wish you were here' thrown in. What, in light of the above paragraph, in the world is going on here? Well, this is a celebration not a misery trip

What are we celebrating?

The millions of dollars given as part of aid programmes and intiatives are working. You can see it all here on the Living Proof website. Be warned, I popped in to have a quick look around and was caught up in all the personal stories and inspiring transformations over the years. They even address some of the FAQs that cross all our minds, lets be honest... 

Doesn't a lot of aid money get diverted by corrupt officials? It's part of ONE Interantional's brief to follow the money and make sure this does not happen.

Aren't we going to create an overpopulation disaster which will spill over into Europe? It's a proven fact that when life expectancy goes up the birthrate decreases dramatically. Birthrate also decreases with improved education. 

Doesn't monetary aid stop these people from helping themselves? It's not hand-outs that are effective but rather programmes that enable people to help themselves: education, small business intiatives, empowerment for women, engineering, technical, medical and agricultural know-how...

#ONEMoms taking notes
Where does ONE International fit in? 

The best description I've seen among the Ground Support Bloggers is this one from Kylie at Not Even A Bag Of Sugar:

"ONE is different. We are not asking for money. ONE is a grassroots campaigning organisation, that seeks to hold governments accountable for their decisions in regard to aid. ONE is all about voices, using our voice to effect change. By showing that aid is working then this should mean more adherence by governments to the commitments they make. It's easy in a conference to say "yes we will help", but organisations like ONE, to coin a very Australian turn of phrase, are there to "*keep the bastards honest." 

Have you signed up with to lend your voice? (Signing up widget on the right, just scroll down.)

Thank you for your support.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Shaking The Lulav

This is what it says in the Bible:

Leviticus 23:40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. (English Standard Version)

So this is what we do. We take the three branches of trees mentioned (palm fond/lulav, hadass/myrtle and aravah/willow and we bind them together. We hold the fruit of splendid trees (interpreted as an etrog/citron) together with the bound branches and we shake it all about. I'm not being funny. We say a blessing and shake towards the four compass points and up and down, to show that God is everywhere, whilst praying for His mercy and forgiveness. (The Book of Life that we want to be inscribed in for another year is not closed and sealed until the last day of  Sukkot.) We shake the lulav every day of the festival of Sukkot (but, as the song says, not on Shabbat).  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sukkot Nightlife, Jerusalem

We went to the Sukkot street fair and party on the main shopping street one block from where we live. Music, food, entertainment, market, and just about everyone we know from the neighbourhood. 

Music on every block 
There were two of these lumbering along the road
So much to see I couldn't get her to keep still
A photography exhibition

Watching the break dancing
Open gardens with more to see
The bubble man - a highlight of the evening for DD
Remember Spyro Gyra?

Eating in the sukka
Don't jump!
Chess for fun!
20 shekels well spent!
Every eatery has its own sukka