Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Discipline and #itonlyworks

Looking for inspiration for the New Year, I trawled the blogosphere to find my motivation.

From Kate at Kate takes 5 came the idea of a word to anchor you and remind you of your direction for the year. My word for 2015 is Discipline.

We are going to bed too late, I am spending too much time online, I am not preparing lessons well enough in advance, housework is sporadic....

I've never been very self disciplined but some times are better than others. This year has been particularly sluggish with more than the usual amount of procrastination.

There is a quote: How you spend your days is how you spend your life. (Attributed to American author, Annie Dillard but I don't know if she said it first.)

My life is in danger of being lived almost entirely on fb and The DM Online. So no specific resolutions this year, just an overall discipline applied to each day.

I've also been following Jack Black on Mortgage Free in Three. His directive is to write down 30 goals in a short amount of time - without thinking too much about it, letting your subconscious in on the act, and not restricting yourself to what you perceive to be manageable. Then chunk these down to seven goals to concentrate on. He gives tasks that help imprint your goals onto your brain so that you are always working towards them even if you don't realize it. There is a bit of 'letting the universe take care of it' voodoo involved but I actually believe in what my friends Liska (New Mum Online) and Aviva Belfer call cosmic ordering. It usually delivers quite reliably in my experience. And Jack swears that #itonlyworks.

So there you have it, to be elaborated on in future posts. I won't be quite as organised as Nickie at Typecast with her bullet journal, Filofax and desk diary but you've got admit, she's got quite a system going there. I have my 30 year old Filofax and will certainly be making good use of it with lists aplenty.

Happy New Year to everyone, may 2015 be the year of our lives! xxx

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Lord Giveth....

... and the Lord taketh away.

A few weeks ago the Head of English at the college I applied to teach at last February, was accepted by, was rejected by temporarily, etc... called me and asked the progress of the verification of my MA at the Ministry of Education. I was happy to tell her that my application had been accepted and I was expecting a reply within the month.

"That's great," she said, "because we have a job for you here, starting next semester, in February."

Here are the posts about the hoops I jumped through just to get my application accepted by the MoE.


Yesterday the envelope arrived in the post. Full credit for both my first and second degree - each with a certificate of verification from the MoE.

The first thing I did was call the Head of English to tell her the good news and maybe arrange a time to meet with her. However... unfortunately... we have a problem....

The college has just issued a directive that they should only employ teachers with a PhD.

She's going to put in a special request for me because they need a good teacher, with experience, who is available... and not many PhDs are willing to teach level 4 English to students taking English under duress. (Every degree course in Israel requires that you reach a certain level of Academic English. Imagine if you had to have Academic French in order to get any degree in the UK - well that's how some most of the student's feel about it.)

God must have some very good reason for not wanting me to teach at this college. I'd go with His plan without a fight if He'd give me another source of income in its place.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Herbalife: The Verdict

You can read the backstory to this post by clicking on Herbalife. Basically I'd lost 1 stone (14lbs/6kg) in 4 weeks (through eating less and partly through being sick with a kidney infection for 10 days), stayed the same for the next 2 weeks, and was looking for something to kick start the weight loss momentum.

With Herbalife it's not just the weight loss but also a whole load of other numbers and measurements which, being a numbers person, sent me into numbers heaven. 

I paid 550nis (about 90GBP) for three weeks worth of weight loss shakes and tea. However, I couldn't do the shakes twice a day with only a small low-carb meal once a day and an additional high protein snack. This is what is required for proper weight loss but I just couldn't do it - I needed to chew more than once a day. So, I did the shakes only once a day and had two small meals. Apparently I was doing the maintenance programme. 

On the accidental maintenance programme I had enough tea and shakes for six weeks. So six weeks after starting Herbalife I went back to Debi Zylbermann for the verdict. Considering it was the maintenance programme I did very well:

All body measurements (bust, hips, upper arm) went down 2cm each, I lost 1kg (2lbs), body fat was down 2%, water content up 1% (still 6% off a healthy 45%), muscle mass up 1kg, physique rating up from 2 to 3 (this means still fat but with more muscle - the ideal is 6), visceral (internal) fat down from 12 to 11 (1-5 is good, 6-12 is ok, 13+ is excess), basal metabolic rate up by 19 calories to 1488 (I so want to get to 1500), and metabolic age down from 90 to 84 (I'm 52 so need a bit of work there). Bone mass still a healthy 2.4. 

I actually have enough shake powder left for another 5 days or so so I'm going to continue with that until it's gone. The raspberry tea is finished but I've discovered that hot apple juice (made with 100% apple juice concentrate and hot water) is delicious or lemon tea is also good. 

Its not over as Debi has invited me back in a month or so to do the numbers again. Whilst I won't be doing Herbalife I will be continuing what I've learnt from it and practices I've adopted. It will be interesting to see if I can lose weight quicker whilst satisfying my need to chew though. 

Here's what changed:

Each 500ml shake was preceded by a 500ml glass of tea, That's 1L of water once a day and I always had at least two more glasses or tea during the day. I hardly use my mugs anymore - only the 500ml (= to 2 mugs) glasses. I'll continue to use the double sized glasses and precede each meal with a cup of tea or hot apple. 

I eat far less bread and instead snack on cottage cheese or tuna on rice crackers. I do have some bread but not like I used to and it's not out of control. I seem to have been weaned from a long suffered carb addiction. Even when I make pasta or couscous for supper, I make enough for DD and a tiny bit extra for me as I know I will be finishing hers off as well. 

I was already eating healthily and in moderation when I started Herbalife but with more carbs and less protein, and less liquid intake. It seems that the changes are desirable. 

Now lets see what happens over the next month. I almost cancelled on Debi (again) this morning as I couldn't see the point of going to record a 1kg weight loss, but now I'm re-motivated to continue the challenge. 

Bottom lines: 

I lost weight on the maintenance programme because it's a healthy and moderate way to eat and I'm still overweight so it was there to lose. 

I am certain the weight loss programme works if you do it. I couldn't do it because I needed the chew factor. However, I am reminded of a quote from Wendy Shenkar's book: The Fat Girl's Guide To Life, "the weight loss industry is the only industry where if the product doesn't work you blame yourself rather than blaming the product." LOL, so true! Was it the product's fault that I couldn't do it or mine? Who knows, who cares, if you can manage it it will work. But then so will any other diet. 

If you're a numbers person this is the programme for you. Or you can buy your own digital analyzer scales for the price of about 8 months of shakes and teas from Herbalife and follow your own high-protein/low carb diet. 

Had I not done Herbalife I may or may not have kept off the 14lbs I lost in the first month and if I had kept it off I may or may not have lost more weight doing it my way. That's like saying if I'd not moved to Israel I may have married a millionaire in London and had 6 children before I was 40 or I may not. I'm happy with what I got on both accounts.

I am still motivated to continue losing weight and I don't feel I wasted my time doing Herbalife. I could have done with not spending the 550nis but it gave me an education in factors other than pounds or kg and the motivation to get all those numbers into the healthy zone. The education was expensive but the motivation is priceless and for that it was definitely worth it. 

See you here next month for the follow up. 

Jerusalem people, if you want to contact Debi Zylbermann she is on facebook. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Meal Hygiene

It seems to me that DD is hungry every evening just before supper. Even if I bring it forward to to try and catch her before the whine, "I'm hungry!" As soon as I go to make supper she's hungry. Of course I tell her to wait bearing in mind that she's eaten a number of snacks since coming home from school about an hour before. "Supper's in 10 minutes," I say.
"But I'm hungry now! What can I have to eat?"
"Nothing, you'll wait 10 minutes and we'll have supper."
"But I'm hungry! Can I have something to keep me going?"
"No there's nothing now, wait for supper.
"There must be something I can eat now." She goes to the fridge. 
"Get out of the fridge!" I shout, losing it. "We're not in Africa, you're not starving to death, you can wait 10 minutes!" I forcibly pull DD's head out of the fridge, shut the fridge door, and banish her from the kitchen.

Later while we eat, I tell her that when I was a little girl and I was hungry, I would ask, "what time's supper?" not "what can I have to eat now?" And if Grandma said supper was in 10 or 20 minutes, I'd go away and be hungry for 10 or 20 minutes while I waited for supper. I don't think she got it.  

I remember my brother-in-law saying that they never established good meal hygiene and that it had been a mistake. He wasn't referring to washing your hands before you eat and using a knife and fork, he meant serving proper meals at set times, sitting at the table and not running an all-day open buffet. I loved this idea and vowed to instigate in my home - but I've never quite managed it.

Natasha at The 1979s Diet writes this: In the 1970's we had 3 meals a day. The only snack we had was a piece of fruit. There were no take-aways, no giant cupcakes, no endless supply of nibbles ...... and you felt properly hungry between meals.

Natasha once wrote about this oft had conversation: "I'm hungry."
"Have an apple."
"I don't want an apple."
"You can't be very hungry then."

LOL, didn't we all get that response at some time in our childhood?

At what point in time did we stop waiting for supper (or any proper meal)? When did we make the shift away from three proper meals and a couple of tea/coffee breaks to just grabbing food whenever we felt like it?

I think in our case it might have been when I was about 9 with the instigation of packed lunches for school and my Mum going back to work. These two events meant that there was suddenly a stock of small bags of crisps and chocolate biscuits in the house to supplement the sandwich and fruit for packed lunches, and we were encouraged to take something for 'tea' to keep us going until supper - which changed from an early children's supper to one family supper later when Dad got home from work. Suddenly we were allowed to help ourselves and we did.

I tried to be more strict with DD and I got the following lecture from my 6yo: "But I'm hungry. You've got to let me eat something if I'm hungry. I didn't come here just to be hungry and not eat anything!"

I stood my ground but, as always, it ended with a fight. I won of course because I'm the grown up but I know why she fights it - because she's seen me eat whenever I'm hungry and not just at meal times.

So from now on this family is going back to 1970 when there were no ready made snacks in the house apart from fruit, meals were served at the table three time a day, and in between were a drink and a biscuit - just one. Well maybe two.

Does anyone practise meal hygiene these days? I'd be interested to hear how it works in your house.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Famous Photo

Last week, On Thursday evening, 4th December - DD's birthday, the dusk looked like this. I think everyone in Jerusalem and surrounding areas has these photos, I've seen at least 6 postings on fb. It was, in the real sense of the word, simply awesome.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Now We Are Six

Now I am Six

When I was one I had just begun,
When I was two I was nearly new,
When I was three I was almost me,
When I was four I was not much more,
When I was five I was just alive,
But now I am six I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six for ever and ever. 


The day started with two presents wrapped and sitting by the front door as if they'd come through the door somehow. I don't know why we do that as we don't even have a letter box, but that's what we do. Opened in my bed of course. One was from me and one from Grandma and Grandpa (although they don't know about it yet - I'm still waiting for my mother to get online so I can tell her what they bought and thank them). 

School and work followed as usual. I didn't dare suggest going out for tea after the fiasco on my birthday. So we came straight home to prepare for the party in school tomorrow. 

I don't get to stay for it but we have to take a cake with candles, some nasherai, paper plates and napkins, a present for the classroom (a book or game), a little gift for each child or prizes are optional (I found little tangram puzzles for 1.5nis each (25p)), and an activity for the teacher to do with the class. 

Until now, as far as I can gather, the activities have been either pass the parcel or musical statues. So I decided to make a pin the tail on the donkey. 

I'm not much of an artist but it's a donkey. And as it's all on plastic paper they don't actually pin with pins. I'm sending sellotape instead, and a blindfold of course. 

That's the end of my creativity. The cake started out as this:

But it ended up looking like this after DD decorated it herself:

That's a house and a butterfly btw. Obviously we will add the candles when we get to school tomorrow. 

So if I can drag DD away from her new tablet...

Before we turn out the lights and call it a [birth]day, I just want to say one word about tablets for children. If you are an only child with a single mum you need a tablet at least until you can read fluently. That's all. 

Happy Birthday DD 

Now you are six you're as clever as clever,
 I love you now and I'll love you forever. 

Your Mummy xoxoxo 
(with apologies to A.A.Milne)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


In May I wrote about suddenly being disqualified from M.A. status as a college tutor. You should read this first because I cannot bear to go over it all again, I'm far too traumatized. Here's the update.

I eventually heard back from all the institutions I contacted and gathered together a pile of emails saying I'd been awarded the B.Ed. (Council for National Academic Awards) and the M.A. (London University) but no one has transcripts of courses or grades from 1885 (although I could request they dig under the housing estate that is now my old college to see if we could find something) or even 1998 which were both in the pre-digital era.

I asked London University to write an official letter describing the course of study I completed and stamp it in red - because red is official innit. They sent it to my parents in London (for a 10 pound fee) who then gave it to their neighbours to bring to Israel when they came on holiday, thus saving the 15 pounds extra it costs for LU to send an official letter abroad.

My friend from the same course sent me a copy of her Ministry of  Education certificate showing that our M.A. has been accredited by them for the past 16 years. I copied my pay slips from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the college where I now teach to prove that - I don't know what it proves but I took them anyway. I filled in a five page questionnaire for each degree. I took my bound dissertation. I took my degree ceremony photograph with me posing in a robe and mortar board. I even took a published book that has my name in the acknowledgements as an expert with an M.A.

Off I went to the MoE with originals and copies of everything. I knew this would be the first of two visits as I didn't want to get anything notarized by a lawyer until I was sure I had everything. They accepted the B.Ed - even they couldn't see a way to get 30 year old grades from a housing estate. But the M.A. documents didn't satisfy them. I spoke to the boss, I waved my friend's certificate about and cried, "we sat next to each other in every lecture!" They weren't buying it.

Eventually, and I think it was because of my friend's certificate which they could see me using against them if they didn't find a solution for me (thanks Chana :~) ), they said if I got another official letter from LU explaining that they don't have transcripts and grades from 1998, they would accept my application. OK, I could do that.

It was June. I came home and put my head in the sand. Then we had a war and the summer holidays and I dug deeper into the sand. Then the new academic year started and I didn't start at the new college so I pulled my head out of the sand and wrote to LU. It took them a whole month to answer me, another two weeks for my parents in London to get the letter and another two weeks after that for the post office to deliver it to me in Jerusalem.

Today, 6 months later, I rushed to the MoE (the Israeli Government collapsed yesterday and the Ministry of Tourism is on Strike with no end announced so who knows what will go next) with everything in triplicate, the photo, the book, and my bound dissertation.

I saw the same lady I saw in June (not the boss lady) and went over everything again. She looked at all my certificates, papers, and copies. She even took a copy of Chana's certificate and wrote a note on it explaining why it was included. Then she told me I had everything except....

She was right, I'd never been to a lawyer to get notarized. The boss lady had said all I needed was the extra letter from LU. Therefore I thought the notarization wasn't necessary. Silly me. "Don't worry, you can do it now," said the nice lady. "Down the road is a law courts building. Go there and grab a lawyer, get him to stamp and sign this page and come back. Sometimes they make you pay sometimes they don't. You don't need to wait in line again, just bring it in to me."

Grab a lawyer? Grab a lawyer? Honey if I knew how to grab a lawyer I'd have done it 30 years ago and I'd now be out lunching with the other lawyers' wives. (I didn't say this.) However, she seemed to have seen this work before so I toddled down to the law courts and tried to grab a lawyer. It doesn't work like that of course. You can't just grab a lawyer. The guard on the gate told me to go to room 107.

There was a man behind a desk in room 107. The sign on the door said 'Secretary to Someone' but I asked him if he was a lawyer just to be polite.
"Do you need something notarized?" he asked. He was obviously used to this. "Go to room 100, pay 480 shekels (about 80 pounds) and bring me the receipt."
Me: "480 SHEKELS?!!!!"
Him: "No, not 480 shekels, 48 shekels."
I went, I paid, I brought back the receipt, Mr Secretary took out a stamp, he asked me if all the documents are true, I said 'yes', he stamped, he scribbled over the stamp (I think that activates it or something), and I left.

When I returned to the nice lady I told her about room 107 and the 48 shekels. She wrote it down to help others in the future. (Dear Karma, please note that I paid it forward.) She told me I should hear from them in about a month. I'm hoping that means I get accredited in a month but I'm trying not to think about it too much.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits 26: Almost Six

DD (trying on my sandals): Why don't you wear these anymore?
Me: Because it's too cold. I need to put them away for the winter.
DD: No, you mean you need to put them away for the summer!
(Now I'm not sure which one of us is right.)

DD (waking up in my bed with my radio-alarm on): Turn that music off, it's going right up my ears.

DD: It's a good thing the tooth fairy knows I like sticker books. How lucky!

DD: Do you know you can dance sitting down?
ME: Yes I think you can.
DD: Yes, it's for when you don't want to waste too much energy so you can dance sitting in your chair.
Me: Good to know. Thanks.
DD: You're welcome.

DD: Some of the songs in the films are my favourite.
Me (thinking of songs from Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music): Which songs are your favourite?
DD: Something from Shrek 2.
Me (thinking of Halleluia and I'm A Believer, etc.): Sing it to me.
DD: (wiggling her hips and arms in the air): I'm too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt!
Me (!@#$%):

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Wasn't Ready For This

I have said a number of times that age 5 was the most exciting year so far. Actually every year gets better than the last as I'm not one of those mothers who would like her baby to stay a baby for longer. Probably because I'm an older mother whose friends are all making weddings for their children and becoming grandparents, I am happy to embrace each new stage of intelligence and independence (hers and mine).

I love it when DD (occasionally) chooses what to wear and dresses herself. I swell with pride when she reads words in English that I didn't know she could read. I enjoy hearing her start to read in Hebrew. I'm bowled over by the connections she makes when doing number work. It's only numbers to 20 but when she says, "Of course 6 and 5 make 11 because we know 5 and 5 make 10 so if we add one more to one of the 5s to get 6, that makes one more than 10," I am amazed and in awe that she thinks like that.

I  get excited when DD has a play date and I know they will disappear into her bedroom and entertain themselves. Even better is when she goes to a friend's house. I'm fascinated by the fact that she has her own social life independent of me.

DD tells me (also occasionally as I don't get much information from school) something funny or good, or not fair, that happened at school and though it's 6 year old's gossip, it's getting more and more interesting. I can't wait till 10th Grade!

However, yesterday, two weeks before her 6th birthday, DD came home and showed me that she'd lost her first tooth. Reader I wasn't ready for this.

We bought her real jeans from Primark back in April. Put a child in jeans and they instantly look like a teenager (even if they are only 2 1/2). My little girl has been looking like a (small) teenager recently and I think it's cute. But she still has her milk teeth so she's still a very little girlie and I do love that.

Part of the shock was that we didn't even know the tooth was loose. It just came out with no warning. You should get some warning, right?

Then my 'big' girl got worried that the tooth fairy wouldn't know to come because she lost the tooth at school. (I was a bit upset too - I sort of wanted to see it and maybe keep it for a while.) I told her we'd write a letter and put it under her pillow. "Can't you just send her an email?" asked my child of the computer generation.

I could have made her write more but we were both tired after homework and everything else. DD wrote her name and drew a picture. "Can the tooth fairy read pictures?"
"Of course she can, she's magic."

This morning under the pillow was a new sticker book from the tooth fairy. "Oh, not a coin?" But she was thrilled and in awe about the sticker book (thanks to Grandma for sending it from London).

I wasn't ready for new teeth. It marks the beginning of the real end to that adorable baby face. I  know another adorable young girl face will take its place - one that comes with a reader, a backgammon player, a shopping pal, an independent little miss. But I wasn't quite ready for this.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Silliest, Most Unhelpful Response To Diets

As you know if you've been reading this blog recently, I'm doing Herbalife. With mixed results and another two weeks to go, I'm not making any final judgments until the end. You can read my Herbalife posts here.

However, I have to comment on what to me seems like the silliest response to anyone who announces they're on a diet. What overweight person hasn't heard it? As soon as you say, "not for me thanks I'm doing Atkins (or any of the other diet plan)," someone is going to respond with, "diets are all rubbish, all you need is to eat smaller amounts of healthy food." This is usually said by a slim person.

Whether it's Herbalife, The Cambridge Plan, Atkins, South Beach, Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Billy Connolly (it's not Billy Connolly - what's that woman's name who sells whole pre-packed meals and exercise dvds?), etc... I agree that all of them have a way of eating that you would not want to keep up for the rest of your life. Some are faddy and unhealthy for a long period, some too expensive, and some just too complicated to think about for more than a few months.

But how does it help to tell a fatty that all they need to do is eat smaller amounts of healthy food? Do you think they don't know that it wasn't a healthy diet that made them fat in the first place? Do you not think that if they were able to sustain a diet of smaller amounts of healthy food they would have been doing it for a while and not be fat?

It's not just a matter of willpower. I know fat Jewish women who, if you presented them with a sumptuous buffet and said, "by the way it's not kosher, everything's made with ham or cooked in lard," they would not touch a morsel. However hungry they were and however delicious the food looked, they would not even be tempted. It's not kosher so it's not for them any more than if you'd served a wonderfully presented dish of dog food. Yet they cannot restrain themselves from overeating in any other [kosher] setting.

Nor is it ignorance. Fat people often know more about nutrition than anyone due to years, lifetimes sometimes, of researching the solution to being overweight. They are not fat because they don't know that too many carbs result in too many kilos of fat. They don't eat those excess carbs because they think it's healthy. Fat people eat as compensation for something else in the way that an alcoholic or drug addict is tempted by their own particular poison when certain stress buttons are pushed.

If I'm upset, frustrated, angry (or even just a bit cross), nervous or agitated in any way, I find myself heading to the fridge for comfort. Under stress for long periods of time I've not had a heart attack, migraines, stomach problems, skin eruptions, a stroke, or a nervous breakdown. I've got fat.

The best antidote is to get into the right mindset and cure oneself by eating smaller amounts of healthy food. No Nobel prize for stating the obvious here. However, I bet a Nobel prize would be awarded to the billionaire (and they would become billionaires if they cracked this one) who discovered a sure way to get yourself into that mindset. I've done it a few times in my life and ended up slim and feeling great. In every instance I kept off the weight until I was sabotaged by extreme stress or upset. And every time it took me years to achieve the same mindset that enabled me to lose the weight in the first place. If I could only pinpoint the trigger I'd be writing the book as we speak.

In fact I did manage to lose a stone (14lbs) in the four weeks before I started a month of Hebalife. In my case it was desperation followed by ten days of a urine/kidney infection that left me without any appetite. Experience has taught me that a few weeks of eating smaller amounts of healthy food is not enough to keep me on the straight and narrow for the long haul.

I chose to do Herbalife because it would give me a strict programme to follow, without being complicated (involving too many choices or loads of preparation), for another month. Never mind how effective Herbalife is as a nutritional product, for me the success would come from knowing I'd paid quite a lot of money for it so I jolly well wasn't going to waste that, and from adding to my 14lbs of weight already lost as extra motivation to continue losing afterwards.

For those who cannot get themselves into the right mindset, diets like these (choose any of them, they all work if you stick to it) get you to the starting post without all the excess baggage. In the end if you want to stay slim and healthy, of course you must eat smaller amounts of healthy food. Nothing will take the place of changing your eating habits for life. But how much easier it is to do this from the starting line of being fit and healthy. How much easier it is to eat healthily without the added burdens of depression, low self esteem, ill health, restricted mobility and general sluggishness of being overweight.

So no we haven't been conned into paying for rubbish (rubbish is all the processed and fast food we might have been buying beforehand) or even wasting money on something we can do ourselves without paying for it (I clean my own home but I wouldn't ridicule those who employ a cleaner and don't do it themselves). Sometimes you need a little help to get started and you pay whatever takes. For me it's three weeks of guaranteed not falling off the diet wagon. And when I've reached my target weight, then it might be useful and helpful to remind me to eat smaller amounts of healthy food.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Herbalife 4: 10 Days In

For those who've been waiting, here are the results after 10 days of Herbalife. But first some other information...

Previous Herbalife posts here.

This past week started out really easy but by the end of the week I could not face another Herbalife shake. I've started having them hot when the weather is cold but this works better for the vanilla than the tropical fruit. I imagine it would also be good for chocolate but I didn't get chocolate. So on Tuesday, the day before my meeting with Debi, I didn't do it. Instead I ate four small meals which added up to about the same calories as the shake-shake-meal programme.

I did some googling about Herbalife and it seems I'm on a very basic programme - others are taking pill supplements and eating protein bars as well as the shakes. I'm happy to keep it basic.

On Wednesday morning I weighed myself before setting off on my trek up the hill to Debi's clinic, and was aghast to see that I'd only lost 0.2lb since the previous Wednesday (0.6lb in total during the 10 days). It was a very despondent dieter who trekked up the hill that morning. And I was feeling a bit sluggish for some reason.

I seem have lost the entire 0.6lb from my bust which has gone down 2cm (if she measured it in exactly the same place and I used the same set of hooks on my bra). Apart from 1cm from my hips and 1cm from my upper arm, which went during the three day trial (ditto the above about the same place), all other measurements are the same.

The numbers on the magic scales were slightly better. Higher water content and less fat/higher muscle. So you could add those weights onto the weight loss to make it a bit more of a return for all the effort expended.

With that in mind I came home resolving to see better results next week. (Must try harder). One of the main problems is that the guidelines advise you eat more protein and I'm definitely not eating enough. However, having bought the shakes and the tea, I can't afford to buy more protein!

And would you believe it, this morning the scales were down another whole pound. Why does it always happen that weigh-in day is the one when you retain everything?

Anyway, two more weeks to go.....

Debi Zylbermann can be reached on fb. Jerusalem peeps, if you go to her please say you came because of my blog and I may be able to do another three weeks on the commission. Tnx.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Single Motherhood, Should You Or Shouldn't You?

There's a meme going around whereby you answer questions set by the person who tagged you. I was tagged by Candi at Looking for Blue Sky but, as luck would have it, the same week a friend asked me to answer some questions about being a single mother for a presentation she's giving next month. So I'm answering these questions instead but thank you Candi for the tag.

What is your name? Rachel, blogging about this very subject at

What is your child's name? Adiele
How old are they? 6
How old were you when you had them? 46

What are your hopes and dreams for your kids? The same as every parent I imagine - that she should be happy, healthy, fulfilled, and surrounded by loving family and good friends her entire life.

Why did you decide to take this route? I was entering my 40s, single, and facing the possibility that I would never be a Mummy. This was unacceptable to me and more than a bit scary.

How did people react to your decision? Most people understood me completely and were very positive and supportive. A couple of single women just a few years older than me said they'd wished they'd done it themselves but it hadn't been as accepted, available, or as successful even 10 years before. Interestingly it was the most religious women who were the happiest for me that I was pursuing this option as they totally got it about being a mother. Actually that's perhaps not so surprising on reflection. A few single men expressed regret that they didn't have the same option.

Others, also interestingly all of them women who already had children of their own and therefore never faced the prospect of being childless, were anti: it's selfish (not sure why it's any more selfish than two adults wanting a baby), it's irresponsible, you won't be able to cope, it's not fair on the child, you don't understand how hard it will be, etc... I had a very simple response to this. These people were dropped from my life at least until after Adiele was born. Then some of them came back but tbh, it was never the same relationship.

Who and how have people surprised you along your single mother by choice journey? The only surprise was how many other people were going this route or already had. Even more surprising were the women who'd done it 20 or 30 years ago (mostly without the IVF).

What have you learned along this journey? Getting pregnant and staying pregnant isn't so easy this side of 40 - I though it would be easier. You can't control everything so it's best to be laid back and fit in the 'procedures' around your regular life whilst just going with the flow (no pun intended). It took me four years from my initial meeting at the IVF clinic to bringing home my daughter. And when you have your baby you realize that the end goal of IVF and everything before the birth was nothing. Motherhood is where it all begins.

What would you advise someone thinking about it today? The best piece of advice I got was from my family doctor who said just do it. Don't think about it too much or you'll scare yourself out of it.

From the other side and six years on, I admit that there were difficult times - scarily low finances, day after day of baby/toddler routine with no promise of adult company at the end of the day (thank goodness for facebook), being torn three ways between needing to work for money, do household tasks and entertain your child, and putting your own social life almost completely on hold until you can afford babysitters or your child is old enough for sleepovers. But it all passes. Now we are 6 everything is a lot easier and, for me, a lot more fun.

For those with modest careers and no trust fund, the biggest fear seems to be one of finances, and rightly so. However, I believe that there is no such thing as not being able to afford one child if you want to be a mother. The question is how much you want it. Do you want it enough to move to a cheaper area, live a much more frugal life, change your career rather than be bankrupt by childcare fees, give up your car, etc, etc. I wanted to be a mother above all else so the choice for me was an easy one.

Do you have any regrets? No

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Herbalife 3: Hmmmmm

Today I got the results of my three day trial with Herbalife and I'm in two minds. You can read why I'm doing this here and about the daily regime here.

I stood on my scales this morning before going to meet Debi and I had lost only 0.4lb (150g) in the three days. I was disappointed as I initially dropped 1.6lbs after the first day but seem to have gained most of that back.

Wearing the same clothes I'd worn on Sunday and drinking the same amount of green tea before setting off, I walked the 30 minutes uphill (I've discovered shortcuts since Sunday) to Debi's clinic. I'd basically decided I was not going to continue with the programme. I have no doubt that it works and is great for people whose eating is out of control but for me.... I've been eating sensibly for seven weeks already and I can manage to lose 1lb a week on my own, eating real food and paying much less.

However, it's not about the weight apparently. It's about your percentage of fat as opposed to water and muscle mass, your measurements of course but also your basal metabolic rate (BMR - how many calories you'd use if you just slept all day), your metabolic age, bone mass and visceral fat (internal fat around your organs).

So in three days my bust went down 1 1/2cm, hips down 1cm and arm down 1cm (I forgot to mention the arm before). Waist and neck stayed the same.

Weight down 0.15kg (0.4lb), body fat down 0.3%, and Metabolic Age down from 90 (which is the maximum the scales can read so it could have been higher) to 89.

Water content was up 0.1% (good because I am about 12% below the healthy 50% - 60%), muscle mass up 0.1 (g I suppose but I don't know for sure) and BMR up from 1469 to 1472 (3 calories is 3 calories :~P).

Bone Mass is is a very healthy 2.4 (kg?) and visceral fat is a just ok 12 (0-5 is healthy, 6-12 is just ok, 13+ is excess, I've no idea what the unit of measurement is). No change in either.

Of course I signed up for another three weeks of this. I'm a numbers person and I need to see those numbers improve. The cost is an issue as it's over half my monthly household budget (food and cleaning/toiletries) for three weeks. However, I'm also paying for the numbers and the weekly consultation.

I'll report back after my meeting next Wednesday. As I said, I'm in two minds. On the one hand I can't believe I just paid so much for two tins of formula and  packet of tea (Debi threw in a shake shaker for free which actually makes it a lot easier). On the other hand I know that health isn't just about how many kgs you weigh. In a word: Hmmmmm.

Debi Zylbermann can be reached on fb. Jerusalem peeps, if you go to her please say you came because of my blog and I may be able to do another three weeks on the commission. Tnx.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Herbalife Day One

You can read here my reasons for doing this, Today is about the first day.

Yesterday I had my first meeting with Debi Zylbermann. I drank one glass of herbal tea before setting off at 8am and walked the 40 minutes uphill to her clinic (yes she has a clinic, she doesn't sell sachets of cup-o-soup from her handbag).

On my way, with plenty of time to think, I'm already wondering why you need to buy a meal replacement powdered soup rather than make a big healthy soup yourself and have one cup for lunch every day. I'm also resenting the fact that I will have to buy milk again, having virtually given it up, in order to make the shakes, and I don't much care for chocolate or strawberry flavour, etc, etc, etc.

When I arrived everything changed (either they are very friendly or I'm very gullible) and I went with the flow. Debi's assistant (a clinic with an assistant even) gave me a 2-cup (500ml) glass of tea. Raspberry flavour. It was good,

Debi measured my height (hooray I'm just over 5'3" and 161cm - I always thought I was only 160cm and was also worried that I may have started shrinking). Then I stood on the scales with bare feet (required) and a series of numbers flashed up. I recognised the number of kg relating to my weight and Debi said she'd explain all the others when we meet on Wednesday.

She also measured my neck, bust, waist, and hips. All a good 10 inches above the measurements I remember from the Miss World contestants on the telly all those years ago (well I don't know about the neck).

I was presented with my first shake (Vanilla - phew!) and though it was quite creamy I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was made with water not milk. As I sipped Debi asked me questions about my eating habits and lifestyle. We agreed that we're not expecting spectacular results from a three day trial as I've already lost a stone (14lbs/6kg) in the past six weeks. So actually this will be a more realistic test of Herbalife than had I come to them from being totally out of control.

My questions were answered:
1. They only have one soup (tomato) and it's fortified with extra vitamins, minerals and protein. My vegetable soup at home has a lot less protein even if I do add rice and beans,

2. One of the principles is that you lose weight faster on a high-protein diet which is why it's better to make the shakes with low-fat milk or soya milk than to make them with water. We agreed on half/half water and milk.

I was given five scoops of the tea (actually a different flavour not as nice as the raspberry) and five sachets of the vanilla shake mix. This was the three day trial pack. I also had a list of instructions: One protein snack in the afternoon (Debi suggested one or two hard boiled eggs) with a piece of fruit, and a light meal at about 6pm (mostly vegetables, a serving of protein, low on carbs). The tea (500ml) was to be drunk directly before the shake (500ml) and another 1.5 litres (6 cups) of water or other herbal tea to be drunk aswell during the day. Simple.

I walked home and beyond to the supermarket to buy my 1% fat milk (I should've bought soya milk but it's three times the price), a dozen eggs, and some fruit. I arrived home just in time replace my lunch and boil the eggs for later.

I finished lunch and tried to do some work but actually, I was counting the minutes until I could eat my eggs and fruit. I got no work done. I was far too pre-occupied by the regime. I filled the time with cups of herbal tea and going to the loo.

I loved those hard boiled eggs at 3.30pm, sprinkled with a little salt. I didn't fancy an apple after that so I had a less commendable banana but so what.

Supper was a big salad of lettuce, avocado, tomato, grated cheese (the protein element) with a lemon and olive oil dressing. I also had two rice crackers with humus and a spicy aubergine pate on top. This was a bit sneaky as the rice crackers and humus were what I would have had for breakfast only on toast.

Into bed at 9pm with a good book even though I wasn't remotely tired (and I usually am). Lights out at 9.30 still not tired but too nervous to get up and work in case I ate something and resolving to get up early in the morning to work instead.

12.30 woke up to go to the loo and couldn't get back to sleep. Worrying about all the work I'd not done the previous day. Read a bit. Fell asleep again at about 3am and woke at 7 which is the usual time not early at all.

I stood on my scales this morning and had dropped 1.6lbs since yesterday! :~).

Btw, I ditched the blender and made my shake with an egg whisk - just as good, no electricity, and less washing up. Debi suggested I put ice-cubes in the shake which wouldn't work with an egg whisk but I'm happy with milk and water both from the fridge.

Today I had planned to walk to the bank (40 minutes uphill) and home again but I really didn't have the time. I also had a meeting at someone's house where I had two cups of coffee (decaf because that's what they had) with soya milk. I know it's not herbal tea but it has some protein right? I took the bus home aswell.

So now I'm finishing my tea, going to make my shake for lunch, and dreaming about my hard boiled eggs. And I'll probably have a banana too.

Tomorrow I won't be walking much as I'm in college all day - must remember to take my tea and shake with me. And on Wednesday I will walk the 40 minutes uphill to Debi's clinic (no direct bus so no choice) to find out the results of my three day trial and decide what to do next.

Jerusalem people, you can contact Debi Zylbermann on fb.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Herbalife, Why Am I Doing This?

Some of you may have noticed the little pink ticker on the right of my blog. It says Weight Loss Target and it hadn't moved in many months (I updated it today to show that I've lost 20% of what I want to lose). I put it up there in March - I know because I still have the email from when Elaine (Mortgage Free in Three) sent it to me. I've had my fat times and my thin times. Usually fat times are triggered by episodes of stress or grief and even though the stress/grief goes away, it can take years to get back into the right frame of mind to lose the weight again. Even big family or social events are not enough motivation. Tbh, I don't know what the best motivation is.

This time it was shock, shear desperation, the mirror and photos. I'd hit a very high number of kg (and an even higher number of lbs :~P) by the beginning of this year - my highest ever. This was enough of a shock to get me started but I could never sustain the weight loss for more than two weeks at a time. All my motivating factors came and went - a holiday in Eilat, going to London for Pesach (Passover), a wedding, the summer at the pool... I stayed the same weight throughout.

Then I started to really take stock - some of my friends were looking great at 50 whereas I was beginning to look decidedly (and unnecessarily) middle-aged. I was starting to feel uncomfortable after any physical effort. I was starting to avoid any physical effort. The other parents at my daughter's school are between 10 and 25 years younger than me. I cannot change my age but I don't want to look like the Granny picking up from school.  And one day someone actually asked me if I was DD's grandma. This final item may have been the last straw.

On September 24th (The day before Rosh Hashannah - Jewish New Year) I started eating less and managed to avoid all sugary desserts, snacking between meals, and late night eating, for the entire festival. As luck would have it I got a kidney infection after two weeks of dieting (not related) and hardly ate anything for the two weeks after that. In four weeks I lost a stone (14lbs/6kg).

Over the next two weeks I lost only one more pound which I may have put back on again. I needed to get back with the programme (or a programme). As if to order, Debi Zylbermann posted on fb about a three day trial with Herbalife. You have to understand that Herbalife (and all other meal replacement schemes) go against everything I believe in. I believe in real food, little sugar or processed foods, and a lot less of it. So I immediately called Debi on the phone.

I'm doing it because I need a kick start (or re-start), I don't want to lose the momentum of motivation that helped me lose a stone, I need a simple regime, and I want the support. So the three day trial is to see if it agrees with me. If it does I envisage doing it for up to a month but not more - despite what they say it is more expensive than just eating sensibly (but cheaper than eating your children's crisps and other snacks between meals).

I had my first meeting with Debi this morning and I will be reporting back regularly. Jerusalem people, you can contact Debi Zylbermann via fb.

P.S. One of the things Aviva said to me was that I need to learn to ask for help more. Maybe this is the beginning of asking for help? I always looked down on throwing money at losing weight - just eat less for goodness sake! But maybe sometimes one does need the help.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Are You A Driver Or A Passenger In Your Life?

I told you I took tea with my friend and neighbour Aviva Belfer. Aviva is a life enhancer - both the outer (manicures, pedicures, and waxing) and the inner (Reiki, Journey Therapy, and Access Consciousness - she is a certified practitioner of all three).

I was interested in The Journey. I could link to The Journey official website but I don't want to as I'm not intending to be a Journey Practitioner myself I have no interest in promoting a new-age guru, making her into some sort of Goddess, and adding to her billion dollar industry. The Journey as a technique uses much of the same empowering devices as Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP) and many other systems found on the self-help/new-age shelf of the library.

What I am interested in is the bottom line. Why do some people seem to have enchanted lives while others struggle and yet others have downright tragic existences? Why can some people cure themselves of life-threatening illnesses while others succumb to the medical prognosis. Why do some people succeed at everything while others fail at everything? Is luck just luck or do we make our own luck? Why are some people the drivers of their own lives while others are passengers?

Aviva uses Journey methods which she learned at Journey seminars and courses. I believe in it because I cannot accept that all those people I alluded to in the paragraph above have to be the victims of chaos, coincidence and luck for their whole lives. Something must make the universe work with some people and against others. Unless you believe that the universe (insert your God here if that works for you better) is vindictive and has favourites, the answer has to come from within ourselves.

I also believe that, without hero worship or creating new-age gods (and billionaires), you can find someone to help you unlock whatever is holding you back from realizing your potential and achieving your dreams. My visit with Aviva gave me a taste of how this can work.

A big part of The Journey is about letting go of past 'issues'. This can mean hurts, humiliations, anger, fear, regrets, guilt, and/or injustices. The premise is that these emotions are held in the very cells of our bodies and they hold us back or, even worse, can make us sick. We all know the effects of stress for example, can be physically debilitating so there is some truth in this we can all agree on. In my mind it doesn't matter if it's the whole truth or not and whether the same results could be achieved with e.g NLP or The Secret. The important thing is the result and the person who can help you get there. Any talk therapy that works is good.

I didn't go in with a particular problem. In order to discuss The Journey I remembered something I did in my youth that I regret bitterly. Interestingly, Aviva wasn't interested in the story. What happened happened and we can't change it after all. Aviva was only interested in exploring how this event was blocking me and limiting my life. I admit that I sort of wanted to unburden myself by telling the story but though she was willing to listen if I needed to tell it, it wasn't relevant to the process. I didn't share the story. I'm not sure what happened to that thread because as we delved deeper into the emotions and impulses involved, we uncovered a much bigger issue in my childhood and went off on a tangent.

Using guided imagery techniques, Aviva asked me to invite all the players to a campfire and ask them all in turn to explain their side of the events. I reached a point where I could understand why everyone behaved as they did and I could let go of some of the injustice I felt. I could not go as far as forgiving the person I felt should have helped me at the time. I know I was supposed to be able to say, "I forgive you," but I don't. I understand them but I think the wrong choices were made by grown-ups even though they didn't know any better and thought they were doing the best for me. (So I probably won't be retiring to my villa in the South of France just yet. :~P) Maybe it takes longer or maybe understanding is enough. What is forgiveness anyway?

On the other hand, I no longer feel like a failure in this instance. I now realize that I was failed (without hating anyone for it but not exactly forgiving them either). Before you start getting the wrong idea, it's not about shifting all the blame for everything onto others but about absolving the guilt. If you mess up there is usually a reason. You can make bad choices and wrong decisions and even though you made them yourself, they didn't come from nowhere. Something even further back led to you not being able to take the better path. This is The Journey - going back to find the point of destruction and changing the points of creation (or is it the other way around?).

The next day I had a meeting about working on a project that I could call my dream job. Not being sure exactly how many hours work it will entail, the 'boss' suggested he advance me X amount of money and we'd see how far it goes. The X represents exactly the amount I needed to get me through to the next payout for another project without going into overdraft. I also have not indulged in any comfort eating since my session with Aviva and I've organised my two college courses so they should run smoothly through the semester without any hitches or last minute planning panics - something I was putting off for no apparent reason. It's not a villa in Provence but it's a start.

Aviva Belfer can be contacted through her website.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Are We Nearly There Yet?

I've spent my life on this journey, as we all have, and I can tell you that I'm more than ready to arrive somewhere already.

I read once that there is a time for 'doing' and a time for 'being'. Having finished the phenomenal task of over 3 years of IVF, three pregnancies, one late miscarriage, and all the while saving up enough money so that I could afford to enjoy my baby when she eventually arrived (whilst paying for IVF at the same time), I absolutely deserved a long period of 'being' rather than 'doing'.

Not that I've been idle for the past six years, there is obviously plenty of doing necessary when you are a single parent (especially when you are also an expat living a continent away from any family support). However, I enjoyed going through my savings thinking that I'd simply go back to work and earn like I did pre-motherhood. I started teaching again at some point but was shocked by the limited hours I had available even with great (and expensive) childcare. Besides that, I didn't want to have her in childcare from dawn till dusk every day. I wanted to be available for parties at the nursery, to be able to keep her at home if she were sick without stressing out about my job, to take her to the park and make friends, and to have time to cook real food, read stories and play games. In short, I wanted to live my life as a mother and bring up my daughter, not just organise babysitters to do it for me.

But now we are six (almost) and I've known for some months now that the time for doing has come around again. DD is in a good place, my doing for her has been consistent. I'm now talking about my doing for me. For us actually as living only two months ahead of the bank balance affects us both. So I made some inroads into new territories but stopped before anything big could happen.

I got a very good part-time job at a(nother - I already teach part-time at one college) prestigious teacher training college in Jerusalem but had to have my MA verified by the Ministry of Education. I got to the point of needing one more document from London University and stalled. I put my head in the sand and couldn't get past the procrastination. (Just this month I've sent the necessary emails but I'm still waiting to hear back).

I set myself up as domestic organizer (I will help you declutter your home and organize your life). No professional certification but I love making order out of chaos and I'm good at it. I got one client, I did their kitchen, and I never heard from them again. I sent a message on fb but no feedback whatsoever. I think I did a great job but now I'm wondering if I offended them in some way or maybe the dog died between me leaving the house and them returning to it? So I've avoided posting my services again.

I rent out my spare room to friends/family of friends/friends of friends who don't have room to host them but want something local and cheaper than hotel prices. No one came over the summer because of the war and since then I've not been advertising the room as I should.

If all these things were in place we'd be doing fine. So what is stopping me? I've read some self help stuff about letting grace into your life (you can't control everything so let the universe know what you want and let her help you) and the secret (visualizing the life you want). Both of these seem a bit passive to me. I once did a whole course on NLP (neurolinguistic programming) whereby you change your life paradigms, attitudes, and even your language to achieve success in anything. This is what life coaches use. I get the theory but you still need to tackle the procrastination problem which is a whole other issue.

Despite all this ostrich behaviour, things have started to shift in the past month. It's subtle but it's positive. I lost a stone in weight (14lbs) during October. This  was partly due to desperation about my escalating weight, partly the need to cut my supermarket bills in half and partly due to a kidney infection. Hey ho, whatever it takes. I did write those emails about my M.A. I did have one client for my decluttering services. I have picked up some editing work. As I said, it's subtle but something is happening.

Then today I had a cup of tea with my friend and neighbour, Aviva Belfer. Aviva has been on The Journey (not a journey - The Journey). Tomorrow I'll tell you about The Journey and about Aviva.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits 25: The App Edition

DD is playing Moy2 with annoying sound effects - falling water, chewing, bouncing, cash register....
Me: Can you stop that?
DD: But Mummy, I have to make him happy. And also I don't want to waste money and waste food. I'm just trying to cheer him up that's why I have to keep playing it.
Me: Oh ok.

DD (while watching Peppa Pig): If you're a mummy or a daddy and it's your birthday you have to go to work.
Me: That's true.
DD: Yes, because otherwise how will they prepare all your surprises?
(Children have selective memories don't they?)

I sometimes try to make DD more comfortable when she's fallen asleep in an impossible position or propped up by too many pillows. Recently she woke up and got cross.  
DD (as I tucked her into bed): Now don't interfere with my comfortable. If I'm uncomfortable I'll sort myself out. You don't start moving my pillows. OK?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Treble Clef

DD has music twice a week in School. When I was 5 music meant singing, possibly with a box of small percussion instruments to be handed out to the lucky few - tambourines, triangles, wooden blocks.

I still remember some of those songs from my Reception class in 1967. Or I should say some of some of those songs. We sang 'Jimmy Crack Corn And I Don't Care' (it seems racism hadn't been invented yet let alone the concept of politically correct). We sang 'All Thing Bright And Beautiful' (but not the verse about the rich man in his castle - so maybe there was some political correctness). And we sang 'What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?' (Would that even be allowed today?).

I have no idea what DD is doing in Music. She doesn't tell me much about what goes on in school at all. When I ask her what she had for lunch she answers, "Um, I don't think I should tell you." She means, "you're not going to like this but I didn't eat any of it." I'm slowly learning to decode.

Yesterday after music DD brought home this.

Now I know that blogging about your children is a form of bragging as well as keeping a record for posterity. We try to keep it interesting though and include the more difficult moments so it's not just showing off our wonderful little darlings. However, I just think this is the cutest thing I've seen come home from school yet (including all the Mother's Day cards, Rosh Hashana Blessings, etc...).

No apologies, I love this attempt at a treble clef. I don't even know what it's called in Hebrew (and neither does DD) but it makes me smile every time I look at it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits 24: Shana Tova

At the school ceremony for Rosh Hashana. (It's a white shirt day for special days)

I bought a load of cheap sweets and chocolates at the new supermarket as they were such good value. However DD only gets sweets on Shabbat (Friday night/Saturday) so I put most of them away to ration out over the weeks. Last weekend we went to stay with friends who have twins.

On Friday before we left:
DD: Can I have some smarties?
Me: No
DD: I'm taking some. I am....
Me: I said, 'no.'
DD: I'm going to get some....
Me: If you take any sweets there'll be trouble.
DD: What will happen if I take some?
Me: I'll take all the sweets I bought this week and give them to the twins.
DD (with hands on her hips): Well THAT would be a waste of money, wouldn't it?

After three weeks at school and every morning being a struggle to separate with 'just one more cuddle,' and 'just one more kiss,' etc. And every morning I leave the classroom as the teacher is waiting to begin the lesson. (I'm not the last parent to leave btw and other children are sometimes in tears.) This morning as the bell went...

DD: Bye bye Mummy you can go now. (One kiss and a cuddle and that was it, I left.)

Shana Tova to everyone for a very healthy, happy, and successful new year. xxx

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Supermarket Wars in Jerusalem

Until the beginning of the summer there were five main shopping choices for people in my neighbourhood.

1. The Shuk. The open air market downtown. Very cheap but bustling and noisy, no parking and a bus ride away (if you can be bothered to bring all your weekly shopping home on the bus!) There are those who make it a virtue to go to the shuk but most of my friends are not shuk people.

2. Super Deal. Mid-mountain where I live and just oh so conveniently around the corner from me. Unfortunately it's very expensive and quite small.

3. Rami Levy. The cheapest option, along the mid-mountain road a little further away. Imagine a shop the size of your local sweet shop/newagent being stuffed full of everything in Lidl and 200 people trying to get round it with shopping trolleys. I went there once and still have flash-backs.

4. Shufersal. In the valley. A bit like Lidl. Looks like an aircraft hangar but good fruit and veg and cheapish.

5. Mega Bool. In the valley opposite Shufersal and under a nice shopping mall. Mega Bool started off cheap but then got more expensive. However by that time I'd already got the credit card and it was pleasant to walk through the mall to get there and it was the closest thing to Sainsbury's in the area. In short I felt at home in Mega Bool and so did my friends.

[FYI: 1nis is about 18p, 6nis = 1 pound]

Then Mega Bool closed. It was a slow death lasting several weeks while they were open but didn't restock. Pitiful actually. It was painful to watch and one by one we stayed away and cancelled our loyalty cards. But where to go?

I was in denial for a couple of months and popped into Super Deal every couple of days while I made my mind up. I spent 2,000nis/month for the two of us instead of the usual 1,250. Rami Levy would have been about half that for the same food and household goods but I just couldn't. The only choice for me was Shufersal in the aircraft hangar. I met some of the old crowd there and was slowly getting used to it.

And then, big news! Osher Ad opened yesterday where Mega Bool had been. Osher Ad is a bit like Costco except they are not catering primarily to businesses but provide bulk buying opportunities for large religious families with lots of children and not very much money.

I asked for impressions on fb in Secret Jerusalem and got over 200 comments. It's been hilarious. I had people walking round doing live updates. They wouldn't allow photos to be taken as apparently there were spies there from Rami Levy. It was open till midnight, all 24 checkouts working, cheaper than cheap prices, no delivery service unfortunately. The lifts from the shopping mall aren't working yet so if you're not driving you have to walk all the way round. And it doesn't open until 10am which is very inconvenient for parents who drop their kids off at school for 8am - what are you supposed to do for 2 hours while you wait?

I went today. On my way I popped into Shufersal to compare a few prices. Tomatoes had dropped from 3.90nis/kg to 0.90nis/kg and cucumbers were also down to 1.45nis/kg from 3.90. So I guess Shuferal also sent spies yesterday. I reckoned it would be pretty cheap to shop at Shufersal today so I decided to do a quick reccy in Osher Ad and come back to Shufersal. I already had it in my mind that there would be an oppressively religious atmosphere in Osher Ad and I wanted nothing to do with it.

I arrived at 9.57am. Think of the start of a marathon except with shopping trolleys. Think of passport control at the airport in August. Everyone was in a jolly and expectant mood. There were people in strappy tops with bare shoulders, there were Arabs, and there were the orthodox Jews - the usual mixture of clientele for my neighbourhood. No religious coercion here (in some places supermarkets have been known to have dress codes for women).

It's huge. A bit like Costco and Tesco's rolled into one. I'd gone 20 paces when I realised I had to shop here today. Even though the tomatoes and cucumbers were 1.90nis/kg, everything else was a bargain. I bought the 3.2kg block of cheese but will cut it into 6 portions and freeze 5 of them. I bought 2.5kg of hair conditioner for 14nis which I'll decant into 750l water bottles. Sweets for Shabbat were 1nis per packet that usually cost between 5 and 8nis elsewhere. Crisps at 2nis/50g packet. Bread, rolls and pittot at reduced prices. A big box of chocolate croissants for 8.90nis will be quartered and frozen. I bought 1kg of carrots for 1nis. LOL, I don't even like carrots but at that price it would have been rude not to. And the list goes on.

Of course I spent twice what I would usually spend for one week but at least half of it is part of a bulk buy that will last a month. The cashiers didn't know how to work the tills but they'll learn. Unfortunately I had to schlep it all up the mountain in 30 degree heat. I broke my shopping trolley as it was all too heavy for it. So that's about 60nis for a new one of those. But then the cleaner who'd just finished the stairwell in my building offered to carry it all upstairs for me. All in all, I think I will be going there again. And again. And again. Until, as the cynics have pointed out, the prices start to creep up as they do once they've got you chained to their loyalty card.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Single Mother's Birthday

It started with this exchange:

Me: What nice thing shall we do to celebrate my birthday?
DD: Actually I think it's only for children.

And ended with this exchange:

Me: I'm not reading a story to someone who can't even wish me Happy Birthday.
DD: *big sigh* Happy Birthday Mummy can I have the dinosaur book?

In between was a series of mishaps and meltdowns one after the other. 

7am. Up, make 10 o'clock snack, shower, dress myself. Usual mad panic to get DD awake and cooperative enough for me to dress her. Bully and threaten her with no stories, no playing on my phone, no sugar things, etc... until she goes to the loo and drinks her apple juice. Eventually leave the house - she has a small bag of pretzels in her hand in lieu of breakfast (don't worry, packed lunches are eaten at 10am in school). Make it to school just as the bell is ringing. Class teacher has to prise DD's fingers off my dress to let me go. 

8.05am. Back home, make coffee, check twitter, blog, emails, facebook. Facebook is full of lovely messages wishing me a fabulous, wonderful, fun-filled, day. It hopes I'm spoiled and pampered and made to feel special on my special day. I put on a load of laundry and get to work preparing lessons for my college courses.

Work all day, occasionally check in to all the above forums. More pressure from facebook but it serves me right for going there. Make and eat a million rounds of cheese on toast to compensate for having an ordinary day on my birthday.

4.30pm. Pick up DD from school and, feeling the pressure from facebook, suggest we go out for ice-cream. She has a little drink from her water bottle and we go to the nearest cafe. (This is significant).

4.45pm. I don't even like ice-cream so I just ordered a celebratory coffee. Just instant because that's what I like. It cost 16nis (Over 3 pounds) for something I could have had free at home. 2 scoops of ice-cream cost 28nis (almost 5 pounds!) and of course DD had to also have a drink. Last time we go there (Cafe BeGeenah if you're interested). 

After we ordered and before it came I suggested we see what homework DD had. On opening her bag I realize I'd neglected to put her pencil case back inside when I'd removed it to get her water bottle out. It was sitting on a bench in school. DD promptly had a meltdown. I suggested we run and get it. She didn't want to, preferring to sit and scream about it. I kept thinking about all those coloured pencils and felt tip pens individually labelled with her name - hours of work to redo if we've lost her pencil case. 

5pm. The ice-cream came. It was served in a sundae glass and filled to the top. As DD put her spoon in the ice-cream dribbled out all over the top and ran down the outside onto the table. Meltdown 2. I went to the kitchen to get a bowl and paper napkins, I cleaned up the mess, I sat down. 
DD: I don't even like this ice-cream.

5.20pm. We leave the cafe 10 pounds poorer. I'm in a foul mood. I give myself the tip for cleaning the table.  

5.30pm. We get back to school and rattle the locked doors until the cleaner hears us and lets us in. We find the pencil case under the bench (where it had fallen which is why I didn't notice it when repacking the bag). This was the highlight of my day.

5.40pm. Get out DD's homework. There was quite a lot to do. For Hebrew she had to draw over the outlines of the aleph-bet and then go back to colour all the letters in. By the time she got to the colouring she'd had enough. I told her to leave it for a while and do some more after supper. 
DD: No you do it.
Me: I can't do your homework for you, it's not allowed. 
DD: Just do it! JUST DO IT FOR ME!
Me: Ok, I'll do a few letters. (It was a lot of busy work after all.)
I coloured in three letters and suddenly there was a howl of despair from DD. Apparently there was a pattern going on in the colours and I'd done the wrong colours. Meltdown 3. 

6pm. I go to make supper which is usually served at 6pm but because we'd been out it wasn't made yet. 
DD: Can I have suffink (sic) to keep me going? (I give her a packet of crisps.)

6.20pm. I serve supper. 
DD: Actually I'm not hungry. I'm full up from ice-cream and crisps. (Okey dokey.)

7.30pm. After the dinosaur book and a couple of other stories I left DD in bed and ended the evening on facebook reading about various people being whisked off to the Carmel Spa or at least taken out for a special dinner for their birthdays. They were all feeling the luuuurv. Oh good. Happy for them. Really. 

Happy Birthday to me and all single mothers everywhere! 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ode To Autumn In A Hot Country

It's like a cool shower after a day toiling in the fields. Like a comfortable bed after a camping holiday. Like flicking off your party shoes after a night of dancing. In a word - relief.

I'm talking about the Autumn after a Summer that's been sizzling hot since May. I know that September doesn't automatically mean instantly cooler weather but there is a subtle psychology that says it does feel cooler. The nights are noticeably so and the days are drawing in. There are clouds in the sky (although no rain as yet) and gentle breezes. Sleeveless top and dresses are not quite enough in the mornings and late afternoons. There is change in the air.

Schools go back and, therefore, parents go back to work properly. Routine is restored and bedtimes enforced once again. Proper clothes are beginning to emerge, with even a layer or two. Shoes instead of sandals. School uniforms instead of shorts. A general smartening up occurs.

There's an energy. Personal energy as it becomes comfortable to walk more without the incessant heat that was June, July and August. Even cleaning your house is easier and more worthwhile as it seems to stay tidier for longer when the holidays end. There is work to do and schedules to stick to so no time for constantly stopping by the fridge for something to nosh.

I colour my hair and pluck my eyebrows - when was the last time I did that? It feels good and I get into the grooming groove. How about a facial scrub, a deep cleanse, some toner, and a bit of makeup now that the tan is beginning to fade? All these lotions and potions are somewhere in the back of the bathroom cabinet from before the Summer surrender to sweat, sand and frizzy hair.

I look at the parched (that means dead) flowers and plants on my balcony that were neglected in the heat and think about planting anew for the next season. I have seeds and sprouting potatoes ready. I start googling about growing vegetables on a small balcony. I'm thinking about soups and stews all of a sudden. And suppers that warm and fill rather than grabbing a yogurt and some grapes. Now that spending time in the kitchen is bearable again, my culinary ideas are getting more ambitious.

It's a natural build up to Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year). Invitations are given and menus planned. There is a desire for everything to be physically clean as well as spiritually prepared. It's a new beginning, a new start, a new leaf, a breath of fresh air, expectation, hope, ambition, inspiration, and motivation. It's Autumn.

The Chinese Bamboo, a story of inspiration and motivation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tidbits 23: Food And Education

DD's in bed and I'm sitting in the living room. Suddenly I hear soft whimpering and moaning coming from DD's bedroom. 
Me: DD are you all right?
Me: Darling, what's the matter? Are you ok?
DD: Be quiet I wasn't talking to you.
Me: What's going on in there then?
DD: I'm just telling myself a story. I don't know why you heard me, I'm telling it very quietly.

In the supermarket.
DD: Do we need carrots?
Me: No, we're not really carrot people.
DD: Of course we're cucumber and tomato people.
DD: Are we potato people? (Yes)
DD: Are we aubergine people? (I am, you're not)
DD: I'm gummy bears people.

A few days later
DD: Mummy why aren't we avocado people any more?
Me: We are Darling but they're not in season at the moment.

DD: Rock and Roll is a kind of music.
Me: Did you learn that in music at school?
DD: No, I learned it from Bubble Guppies. You can learn everything from Bubble Guppies. Even important things. You should watch it. I don't know why you don't watch it.
Me: Do you learn more from Bubble Guppies than you learn from going to school?
DD: Of course! They even have a 'First Day of School' on Bubble Guppies so I already know everything!

DD: Right we never had a chance to say goodbye?
Me: Say to goodbye to who?
DD: To the dinosaurs because they're dead already.

*Photos by Sarit Doron

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dinner Was Hijacked

Having discovered a packet of frozen tvp 'minced meat' (Tivol/Tivall) in the freezer I decided to make couscous with a vegan bolognese sauce.

DD has had couscous before and loved it. The last time was at Shabbat lunch at the home of friends. The couscous was served as a salad with cut up vegetables mixed in and a salad dressing. On that occasion I didn't happen to have any as there was so much other food on the table.

I started the sauce and as it was simmering on the hob I got the couscous out. It's an instant couscous - you just add some olive oil, spices and boiling water, wait five minutes and it's ready to eat. DD wandered in to the kitchen to see what I was up to and supervise as she is wont to do.
"Ooh is that couscous?"
"Yes, I'm making it with that meaty sauce."
"Can you cut up cucumbers and tomatoes in it instead like we had the other day on Shabbat?"
"I'll do some for you like that and some for me with the bolognese sauce."
"Well I'm only eating the salad one!"

In the end I put the bolognese sauce in the freezer for another time and made the whole coucous dish into a salad as instructed. It just wasn't worth the washing up to make two different meals.

We sat down to eat and DD tucked in. Between mouthfuls I got the following lecture: "This is delicious. Much better than that meaty sauce. I don't know why you didn't try this the other day on Shabbat. Why didn't you try it? I love this salad. Can I have some more please? Can I take some to school tomorrow? I never want to have that meaty sauce with couscous. Uh uh. Uh uh means no. Are you enjoying it?" And on and on and on......

Couscous salad with vegetables is very good but I wanted couscous bolognese. I felt like dinner had been  hijacked.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cara Delevingne Was My Friend

Absolutely true. For a few weeks Cara Delevingne was my friend on fb. And she asked me, I didn't ask her. Up she popped one day requesting my friendship and I thought she was a woman in Jerusalem who belongs to one of the parenting groups I frequent. Obviously I accepted - she might be able to help me find a babysitter after all.

A few days later I was scrolling down the Daily Mail Online looking for some reading matter about how someone lost 200lbs in 3 minutes and now goes camping in all her loose skin, or such like, when I see the name Cara Delevingne. "Oh," I said to myself, "she's got a very similar name to that woman in Jerusalem."

I went to look as I couldn't quite remember that woman's exact name. Whoa. I found myself fully friended and therefore able to comment on a timeline where the previous status was from Georgia Jagger.

Some detective work was in order. I noticed that Cara and I have two mutual friends. I quickly messaged one of them - my friend Sharon. I can't remember who the other mutual friend is now.

Click on image to enlarge it. 

Sharon and I chatted for a while and I knew I had to blog about this. Meanwhile Cara popped up on my newsfeed a few times. I smiled but actually, I was far more interested in hearing how the new Supermarket in a local shopping mall is due to open in two weeks and that it's rumoured to be one of the cheaper chains. 

The next thing I know facebook is asking me if I want to friend Hugh Grant. Whoa again. I admit that grabbed my attention more than news about the supermarket opening. 

I let a week or so go by as I had to catch up on blogging about the summer holiday in various pursuits that are a million trillion miles from how Ms Delevigne spent her summer. Perhaps that's why she did it? 

Today I was ready to write this post and I went to see how Cara was doing first. OK, I just wanted to see if there were any more names I could drop, if I want to see how she's doing I'll go to the Daily Mail won't I? To my dismay I saw that facebook had directed me to her public page which I was 'invited' to follow. FOLLOW?! We were friends once yer know. 

At this point I started to think I may have imagined it all. I rushed to my messages to see if my conversation with Sharon was still there. It was. Phew, I knew it. Cara is a fickle friend. I wrote to Sharon immediately.

Click on image to enlarge it.
So if any of you bump into Cara Delevingne and she asks for my phone number, please don't pass it on. I'm not talking to her atm.

*With thanks to Netanya and Sarah for the lessons in Screen Shots.