Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Arik Einstein - The Soundtrack Of A Nation

Arik Einstein died yesterday evening. Israel is in mourning. President Shimon Peres called him 'The soundtrack of the nation.' 

My friend Jessica Steinberg wrote in The Times Of Israel, "Einstein’s music was and is the soundtrack of road trips, army bases and American Jewish summer camps. His are the songs heard in the car, at the beach, during Independence Day events, after terrorist attacks; his were the songs heard throughout the dark days following the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin."

The radio and television has been wall-to-wall Einstein all day. I've been singing 'Uf Gozal' (fly little bird) continuously. And when DD went to bed I put on my Arik Einstein CD. It was the least I could do. 

Fly Little Bird

My little birds have left the nest 
Spread their wings and flown away 
And me, the old bird, I stayed in the nest
I really hope that everything will be ok 

I always knew this day would come 
The time when we would have to part 
But now it's come upon me suddenly 
No wonder I worry a bit 

Fly, little bird 
Cut through the heavens
Fly wherever your fancy takes you 
Just don't forget 
There are eagles in the sky 
Be careful... 

And now the two of us are alone in the nest 
But we are together 
Hold me tight and tell me, 'Yes - 
Don't worry, it's fun to grow old together' 

Fly, little bird
Cut through the heavens 
Fly wherever your fancy takes you 
Just don't forget 
There's are eagles in the sky 
Be careful...

I know this is how it is in nature 
I also left the nest 
But now when the moment has come 
It catches in my throat
It catches in my throat 

Fly, little bird
Cut through the heavens 
Fly wherever your fancy takes you 
Just don't forget 
There are eagles in the sky 
Be careful...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Listography: 5 guilty pleasures

Only 5!? Oh ok then.

1. Crisps. I sometimes stop on my way home and buy a big packet all for me. Then I have to take the rubbish out before collecting DD from Kindergarten - she'd want to know who had eaten all those crisps without giving her any, for sure.

2. Candy Crush, Papa Pear, and Farm Heroes. I've limited myself to three computer game sagas as I can see it being about as dangerous as taking drugs. The fact that I can limit myself to just the three suggests I still have some control, no? You need more than one on the go as, if you play via facebook, they make you take rests when you run out of lives. It takes 2 1/2 hours to get a full quota of 5 lives back and I do try not to bother my friends with requests too much - only if I'm desperate. (Tip - if you change the date on your computer to a day ahead, your lives replenish and then you can change it back. Clever eh?)

3. Going to bed at 7pm. I do it about once a week. DD gets into my bed with me. She reads to me from her reading books and then I read to her. Then she snuggles up to me while I read my book. DD's better than a hot water bottle or an electric blanket. She falls asleep fairly quickly and I read until I feel sleepy myself. I'm usually asleep by 9pm.

4. A bottle of wine. All by myself. All for me. Ok, it does take me four days to drink it as I'll only have one glass of an evening. I may not have a car to drive but you have to be sober when you're the responsible adult in the house. And actually, one glass is enough. Gone are the days when I could drink 2 or 3 glasses of wine and still stink thraight.

5. Escape To The Country. My mum tapes them and saves them up for me. We usually only go to England once a year so that's 52 episodes over a two week holiday. No problem! What are the nights for when Grandma gets up to make breakfast for your 5 year old? I seriously need to re-examine my lifestyle, maybe I need to be looking for a cottage to renovate in Warwickshire or Herefordshire (both cheaper than Gloustershire don't you know). But how do you choose your shire? So much countryside and only one life.

So there you have it, my 5 guilty pleasures. The linky is with Anya this week (Older Single Mum). Go and have a nosy at everyone else's secret indulgences.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday Tidbits 11

DD: Can we go to that place in London again?
Me: Yes we can go to London again.
DD: No! That place in London.
ME: What place?
DD: Where they had the princess dresses.
ME: (Kvelling) The Victoria and Albert Museum? You liked the museum?
DD: Not so much.
ME: So why do you want to go there again?
DD: I want to buy another one of those orange drinks.

(We bought her orange juice in the cafe when we stopped for a coffee.)

ME: Why are your dirty clothes on the floor?
DD: It wasn't me, I didn't didded that.
ME: You're supposed to put them in the dirty washing basket.
DD: I yes put them in.
ME: You didn't.
DD: I yes!

ME: It's your Hebrew birthday today.
DD: Am I 5?
ME: No, not for another three weeks.
DD: So what am I if it's my Hebrew birthday?
ME: You're bat hamesh.
DD: I'm bat hamesh but I'm not 5? Bat hamesh is 5!
ME: I know, but you're only 5 in Hebrew.

(The Hebrew calendar is lunar and is 11 days shorter than the English solar calendar. The adjustment is made by adding an extra month 7 times every 19 years. Thus we all have two birthdays which can be up to 3 weeks apart.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

NOT-vember 11th: Reduce Your Food Bills Now!

In response to requests for help from friends who need to reduce their supermarket bills, here are my suggestions for starting a store-cupboard and shopping from your pantry.

1. Take stock of what food you have. You don't actually have to make a list but you do have to know what you have available in the house. Sometimes tins or packets of dried foods get 'lost' behind new items continuously being shoved in front of them. It's worth clearing out your food cupboards to see what's at the back that you might have forgotten. Ditto for your freezer.

2. Make a list of all the dishes you could make using what you have and adding a minimal amount of protein or dairy to turn it into a nutritious meal. I have polenta, for example, that will sit in the cupboard for years if I don't make a conscious decision to use some of it each week. If you don't enjoy cooking with the e.g. polenta (or whatever it is that you bought once but don't seem to get to) you don't need to buy it again. You do need to use up your stock though.

3. If you have uncooked chicken or fish in your freezer, eggs and cheese in your fridge, make them go further in dishes where they are combined with food from your store cupboard. Remember that you don't need a portion of chicken as big as your foot for each person. Chicken risotto would use one of those portions and feed four people. (see the Rubber Chicken and The Rubber Turkey on Mortgage Free in Three). Instead of making omelets, make egg-fried rice. A fish pie (fish in a white sauce with chopped hard boiled eggs, and topped with mashed potato and a sprinkling of grated cheese) makes the fish go further than giving everyone a whole fish.

4. Freeze food in one-meal size portions so you only have to take out sufficient for one dish at a time.

5. "Use everything you have paid for." Elaine Colliar (Mortgage Free in Three). If you make a chicken soup, take the cooked meat and vegetables from the consomme and make a chicken pie, risotto, or pasta dish. If your child won't eat the crusts, cut them off and freeze them to make breadcrumbs.

6. Utilize your leftovers. When you have leftovers don't just leave them in the fridge to be returned to later that evening and polished off as a late night snack. Portion it out and decide when it will become your lunch, part of a packed lunch for someone, or part of another supper. You may have a smorgesbord supper once in a while, consisting of all your leftover portions from the freezer.

7. Soup. This is your secret weapon in the winter. Once a week make a big pot of vegetable soup with all your leftover vegetables from the previous week. You can supplement it with barley or potatoes for a satisfying broth. You can have soup and toast for lunch every day. Or, in the evening, a meal served with a soup starter will fill everyone up nicely for very little expense.

8. Make a meal plan for the week. Make it a personal challenge to use what you have and only buy the essential fresh items to round it out into proper meals. Part of the challenge is to see how little you actually need to buy each week.

9. Make a shopping list from your meal plan and only buy what is on the list.

10. Don't forget to add what you need for breakfasts, lunches, snacks and treats. You need to know what you will give the kids when they're hungry between meals or to keep them going until supper. One of our favourites in the summer is the cheapest children's yogurts frozen with a plastic spoon in each one for an 'ice-lolly' that is in fact a yogurt. In the winter I buy the cheapest bags of pretzels and whatever fruit is cheapest.

11. Take advantage of cheap offers to 1. replenish your store cupboard. Spend 10nis a week on e.g 3 packets of pasta for 10nis, or 1+1 on rice, or a pack of 6 tins of tuna for less, or a sale on chickens. Don't fill your whole store cupboard for the year in one week. Do it slowly as the offers appear. And 2. to make batches of e.g. apple sauce from cheap apples, vegetable soups from past-its-best produce, jams and fruit pies from any cheap fruit.

12. Cook from scratch as much as you can. One cake, and a batch of muffins or cookies each week should see you through. Some people make their own bread, crackers, mayonnaise, jam, etc... I don't although I do buy cheap apples when I find them (or help to harvest someone's tree) in order to stew them for apple sauce, and cheap fruit for pies. I also make my own pancake type fritters and vegetable burgers rather than buying the processed vegetarian shnitzels. We are currently working on perfecting our home made pizza.

13. Cook multiple batches and fill the freezer. Don't forget to eat from the freezer as well.

14. When Shabbat/dinner guests offer to bring something, don't refuse the offer and end up with another box of chocolates you don't need. Wine is always helpful but you can also ask for a salad or a dessert to contribute to the meal. Obviously find something the guest is comfortable bringing.

Let's make it a challenge to see how little we can spend. And please add in the comments any tips you have that I've not thought of.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Real Carrot And Apple Mini-Muffins

After my stressful baking experience last week, this week I made real carrot and apple mini-muffins with real butter. I also upped the sugar and apples as last week they weren't quite sweet enough. I've removed last week's recipe as we don't need to know how to make muffins that were only ok. These are good and DD will have one in her snack box each day for school.

Real Carrot and Apple Mini-Muffins

A . Cook all the following ingredients together until the carrots are soft and the water is reduced to a slightly thicker syrup. You'll include the syrup in the cake batter. 
4 carrots peeled and sliced
2 apples peeled and sliced
water to cover
4 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

B. Put all of A (including the syruppy water) into the food processor and add the following ingredients. Whizh until you have something that looks and tastes like cake batter.
2 cups of wholewheat flour
1 sachet of baking powder (12g)
100g butter
2 medium eggs
4 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
pinch of salt (Not sure why but I remember we always had to add a pinch of salt in school cookery lessons, so I did.)

C. Resisting the urge to skip straight to the bit where you get to lick the bowl, put about 2 tbs of batter into about 22 medium fairy cake (cupcake) holders and bake in a hot oven until they're done.

By the way, when we got to lunch last week my host had made dessert herself. Turns out she loves making desserts and couldn't resist. Grrrr.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Listography: Top 5 Life Lessons

Listography has reappeared on Kate Takes 5 (hooray!) with the Top 5 Life Lessons. Follow the link to read some of the other entries.

What are the top 5 lessons I've learned that you may not see on a fridge magnet? The fridge magnet lessons are good but we all know them and even though we know them, we don't always live by them. Here are my Top 5 Life Lessons that have actually changed my life.

1. Some things change with time anyway.
I was always a night person and if I made it to bed before 2am I'd be reading till the small hours. Consequently, I could lie in bed in the morning till lunchtime (and beyond). On the other hand, I firmly agreed with the old rhyme: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy and wise. So I spent years of my life fighting my natural bio-rhythms and trying to be a morning person. One day I realized that I'd become a morning person without even noticing.

I used to procrastinate over homework to the extent of not doing it at all. I believe it was more than just laziness, such was the effort it took to sit and get started, although I'm not sure what it was exactly. This affliction continued into adulthood with preparing lessons and housework. Until the day I realized that I now eagerly rush through jobs so that I can  tick them off my list. (It's not the list, I always made lists.) I don't know when or how I changed but it happened. Maybe it's a matter of maturity or maybe hormonal changes calming ADD tendencies - who knows?

2. A parent's greatest resource is parents with older children.
We had a three-day activity camp over half term and you could pay by the day. I needed to send DD on the first day as I had to work but after that it was her choice. When I took her on the first day I found out that they were going swimming on the second day. DD can't swim, she can't dry or dress herself alone, she's never been to that pool, the camp was for K, 1st grade and 2nd grade together and DD was the youngest kid from Kindergarten. There was no way she was going swimming with them even though the leader promised me she would help her dress. Then I spoke to mothers from the camp who had older children who had been there before. I trusted their judgement, DD went swimming and had the time of her life.

One of the parents from  my after school 'Learning to Read English Group' almost cancelled as her daughter was worrying about being picked up from Kindergarten by another parent and brought to my place when she doesn't even know me. The other, more experienced, parent advised her that it was worth her while to take an hour off work to bring her daughter herself the first time. She did that and the little girl now comes to English happily with her friend's mum. Not rocket science I know, but sometimes it takes a parent who's already been there to see the obvious solution.

3. Homework is for life but you want this.
It was a grey day when I realized that all jobs that are worth doing and bring the most rewards, come with some kind of homework (preparation, accounts, paperwork...) However, unless you want to work for someone else on minimum pay, you will actually look for a job with homework. Not for the homework, obviously, but because the alternative is likely to be less rewarding, either financially or emotionally, or both.

4. Facebook, twitter and blogs don't necessarily tell you about a person's real life.
Sometimes, usually at the end of a busy work day when DD won't go to bed and I've not prepared my lessons for tomorrow, it's hard to see yet another status from a friend who seems to spend her life jet-setting around the world on business. What she never mentions is that she never sees her family, her teenage daughters hate her, her husband is threatening to divorce her, she lives in dread of the nanny letting her down, and she suffers from chronic back pain which is getting worse. (I made all that up but you know what I mean.)

I do have a friend who I keep up with via facebook statuses and I assumed I knew basically what was happening in her life. It wasn't until we met up after not seeing each other in the flesh for almost two years, that she told me her husband had been out of a job for almost a year and they were not in good shape. As she pointed out to me, there are some things you don't put on facebook.

5. Your desires change with the circumstances of your life.
When a friend of mine who had been an ambitious businessman, became ill with an auto-immune disease, suddenly all he wanted was to be able to walk a bit, wash and dress himself, and make himself a cup of tea - and to live of course. Had he been given even that limited life, he would have been very grateful.

As a single mother, all I want now is for us both to be healthy, and to be able to cover my bills comfortably, and save money for emergencies and some nice treats. A big difference from the days when I wanted to be a famous actress or, failing that, to be Princess Diana. Given the choice now, I wouldn't want to be famous or even an actress. If you'd told the teenage me that I'd be happy to be a single mother living in my own apartment and working as a teacher, I'd have doubted that could be me. But it is.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

NOT-vember 2nd: Meal Planning

As I wrote here, a store cupboard full of food requires a mega amount of will power not to eat it all in the first week. However my NOT-vember Challenge is to build on lessons learned in Elaine's STOP-tober (Mortgage Free in Three) and keep those bills down to a minimum.

I did a big shop, stocking up the store cupboard and including our weekly shop. Remember that this also includes all household and toiletry items bought in the supermarket. I've already over-spent on biscuits because they were on offer. I'm safe from these as I don't like this sugary stuff. However, instead of buying a stock of biscuits, I should be baking a cake and a batch of homemade cookies each week for desserts and treats for DD. On the other hand, if I bake I'll bake what I like and it won't be so safe. (The chocolates are for gifts - I wish I'd rearranged the cupboard before I took the photo).

The only sure way to manage this is menu planning. Not only does it make you use the fresh produce before it goes off but it also stops the tendency towards a week's worth of something on toast for supper. So here's mine for the week...

Breakfast at the moment is cheerios for DD who has to be at kindergarten between 7.30 and 8.15am. I have coffee and toast with something on it during the day when it's convenient. Every day is different so it's sometimes breakfast and sometimes nearer to lunch. DD takes boxed meal to kindergarten (e.g. sandwich, some cut up vegetables, a mini-muffin) for 10 o'clock snack and she gets a meaty hot lunch at 2pm.

Friday: Lunch, Baked potatoes and cottage cheese. Dinner, tomato soup, challah with egg salad and homemade hummus, tom/cuc salad. Carrot and apple mini-muffins for dessert. (Yes there is a course missing here but we are a woman and a 4yo - it's enough).

Shabbat: Out to lunch. Supper, tomato soup with leftover rice from the fridge and croutons. Toast and butter if necessary, a yogurt for DD for dessert and a cut up apple.

Sunday: Homemade pizza (trying a proper yeast base for the first time.)

Monday, library day so something quick: Tomato soup (from the big pot made on Friday), Rice, corn and peas, fish cakes, tom/cuc salad, cabbage salad.

Tuesday, DD has a birthday party at 4.30 where I expect they will serve pizza and cake which is the usual party supper. I'll have some Tomato soup and leftovers.

Wednesday: Fish and chips, tom/cuc salad.

Thursday, English lesson after Kindergarten so something quick: stovies but with mushrooms, cabbage and fried onions instead of mince meat, tom/cuc salad.
I'm joining in with Meal Planning Monday (At Home with Mrs M). Everyone else has much more exciting menus planned for the week so why don't you go over and take a look.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NOT-vember 1st: Baking Stress

Having driven all my friends mad this morning on facebook, here's the story...

I have taken on the NOT-vember challenge from Elaine (Mortgage Free in Three) to continue her STOP-tober challenge - a money diet and store cupboard amnesty - which I posted about all last month. The most important thing I learned from last month is that it's a learning curve and you won't get the best results by doing it for only one month.

One aspect I failed to internalize sufficiently is that the store cupboard has the basic ingredients so that when your friend asks you to bring dessert to contribute to Shabbat Lunch, you can make a dessert for free out of your store cupboard rather than trotting off to the shops to buy something. That's the whole point, to keep your spending down to a bare minimum.

As well as the NOT-vember challenge, there are four other factors that had to be considered...

1. My friend is serving meat tomorrow and she keeps kosher. This means milk and meat are kept totally separate and she can only serve/eat something with dairy in it, three hours after eating meat or chicken.

2. I don't really like cakes, biscuits or chocolate. I don't like dry and sweet. To me a cake is simply something on which to serve the cream and icing. The sort of desserts I like are creme caramel, cheese cake, real ice-cream, and fruit salad. On the other hand, a moist cake or pastry made with real butter can be delicious. I'm more than happy to fill up on the main course and skip dessert after a meat meal.

3. My friend has a medical reason that she can't eat fruit. So my fallback of always offering to bring a fruit salad wasn't appropriate here.

4. I hate using stuff that isn't real food. Examples of this are: margarine, non-dairy creams and ice-creams, and too much sugar in anything.

So we had this impossible situation where all my friend was asking of me was to go to the shop and by a non-dairy cake that the children would enjoy for dessert. And all I was thinking was that I couldn't do that because I had to 'shop' from my store cupboard.

I then had to find something I'm prepared to bake without butter. The vast amount of oil in some of the vegan recipes didn't appeal. I put it on facebook and got some fabulous suggestions including, meringues with lemon curd, and carrot cake made with oil and apple sauce. These were really the only two that covered all the bases. (I'll say it again - I know you can bake without using butter but I don't like it and I will not use non-dairy creams.)

So I adapted the carrot cake recipe as I wanted to make muffins rather than a cake, I wanted to use less oil and sugar, and I didn't have enough apples to make apple sauce. (I was that close to buying apple sauce in the supermarket when I remembered that I should make it.)

Verdict: we got 21 mini-muffins and they're..... ok. But what do I know, they're sweet so I'm not that interested. Next time if they don't want a fruit salad I can bring a vegetable salad or a bottle of wine. This whole episode was far too stressful. And the funny thing is, it's happened before - although of course I only remembered afterwards.

I'm still planning to make cakes and biscuits for us at home but as we don't have meat in our house at all, I can happily bake with butter.

One week later: I removed the recipe I had here as the muffins were only ok. The next week I made Carrot and Apple Mini-Muffins with real butter and they were great. You can see the recipe here.