Friday, February 28, 2014

Listography: 5 Simple Pleasures

I made a the silly mistake of reading some other Listographies first. Of course I now want to include ones that I read because they're spot on. You can read the others via Kate Takes 5. Now to try to be original...

1. Peaceful coffee/wine on the balcony with a view. Last weekend we went to Eilat and despite a day on the beach, feeding the dolphins, playing in and by the pool, eating far too much, and having fun with family, my best bit was 20 minutes alone on the balcony of a hotel room with a great view and a cup of coffee. It could have been wine but it was 9am so coffee was preferable. I can also do this at home where I have a perfectly good balcony of my own, plenty of coffee and wine and a great panoramic view of Jerusalem on the surrounding hills.

2. In bed with a good book. I've just finished Peaches for Monsieur le Cure, the third in the Chocolat trilogy by Joanne Harris. I may have been lying in my bed in Jerusalem but actually I was being Vianne Rocher putting the village of Lansquenet to rights. It's a hard act to follow, I may just have to read the Readers' Digest tonight.

3. And while I'm reading there's a little 5yo face on the pillow next to me, quietly snoring and probably dreaming of swimming with her cousins and eating ice-cream.

4. Tidying up, declutterng and organising. Yes I know that might be someone else's idea of hell but I love it. Even folding laundry has that element of making order out of chaos. I obviously missed my calling in life  - I should have been God but the job was filled by the time I came into this world.

5. This one has been done but I can't leave it out. Friday Evening. The house is clean, the dinner and Saturday's lunch are made, either in the fridge or bubbling away on the hotplate (unless we're invited out in which case it's all made at someone else's house). No work to do, or at least if there is we ignore it for the duration (25 hours).

Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits 16: The Eilat Edition

Sitting on Dolphin Reef Beach, a peacock wanders over to say hello...

DD: Oh look, here's a popcorn.

My brother-in-law does the party trick of magicking sweets out of DD's ears. First he listens to hear if there's a rattle. If there is, he takes out a sweet. On the bus on the way home...

DD: Mummy, I'll shake my head and you listen if it rattles. If it rattles can you take the sweet out? But only if you hear it rattle. There's only a sweet there if it rattles.

One day later at home DD is sitting and shaking her head... 

DD: Ohhh, there's no rattle in my ears. That means there are no sweets in there today.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Weekend In Eilat

I still get a kick out of the fact that we can get on a bus and drive down to Eilat for the weekend. The bus journey takes four hours but it's not too boring despite being largely desert landscape. We passed the Dead Sea

And Massada.

And once in Eilat we found a little bit of paradise waiting for us.

Best of all we found our cousins (my sister's family) by the pool.

Swimming with Aunty and Uncle

Dolphin sticker-mosaics with my cousin
The lobby had ice-cream and slushy drinks and we loved watching the boats in the marina.

Chilling is good. My moment was a relaxing coffee on the balcony overlooking the marina while DD went down to the pool with her cousins.

Can't beat chilling with a coffee and a view

Just chilling out on the beach

Three days in paradise with sun, sea, sand, pool and family (and quite a lot of good food not cooked by us). Just perfect.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Store Cupboard Vegan Dinner Party

I am aware that I may have upped the ante when it comes to store cupboard meals. If my store cupboard guru isn't proud of me for this one I give up.

It all started when an old friend from England, currently living in Tel Aviv, came for Friday Night Dinner. Notice the capital letters there? Friday Night Dinner isn't just food on a Friday evening. It's one of the two main Shabbat (Sabbath) meals. At least three courses are expected and there are often four.

My friend and I have a mutual friend living round the corner so I also invited her and her family of three. We were six at table, four courses, vegan, and almost entirely from the store cupboard.

The Menu

Hors d'ouvres
Wine - My friend from round the corner brought a bottle of wine.
Challa - I bought two loaves of challa. (about 6 shekels each but one is left over for sandwiches during the week)
Humus - Home Made and all from the cupboard.
Coleslaw - I had a cabbage and I made it with red bell peppers instead of carrots as that's what I had.
Salad - Tomato/cucumber/avocado
Pickled cucumbers - A tin from the cupboard.

Tomato soup - There was an offer of three one litre cartons of assorted soft drinks for 12 shekels. I bought apple and mango for drinking, and one litre of  tomato juice to add to the soup. The other ingredients were sauteed onions, red peppers and garlic, tomato puree and seasonings. I had all of those in stock.
Soup nuts - From the cupboard.

Main Course
Shepherd's pie - In the freezer I had a bag of Tivol 'minced meat' (tvp) which I sauteed up with onion, garlic, tomato puree, soy sauce and some powdered onion soup mix. The topping was made from two other packets found in the freezer which needed to be used up; cauliflower and artichoke hearts. (I'm not even sure why I bought the artichoke hearts, they must have been on offer.) Both boiled and processed into a puree with seasoning and some flour to bind it a bit.

I only remembered to photograph it afterwards. #bloggerfail
Roast potatoes - Yup, we had potatoes and oil in stock.
Mixed vegetables - I used up whatever there was. It was mainly mushrooms, peas, tofu cubes, and onions.

Hot vanilla-iced cake - I bought it (14 shekels)
Dates and fresh strawberries - Brought by friend from Tel Aviv.
Tea and coffee

The total cost for dinner for six was 6 shekels for the challa, 12 shekels for the drinks, and 14 shekels for the cake. 32 shekels is about 5.50GBP. And there are leftovers for the week in the fridge.

Obviously you can't do this every week as you have to buy food sometimes but it's great when you can pull it off. If I'd not had so many vegetables in the fridge I could have made the shepherd's pie into a pasta bake and the mixed vegetables could have been tinned mushrooms and a gravy to be served with couscous or rice. I always have tvp and peas in the freezer and a cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers in the fridge. The soup nuts are also a staple here as DD likes a little bag of them to take to school for a snack.

For more about store cupboard eating look here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Secrets Of The Notebook

While I'm writing about books that had an impact on me... Again, I took the image url from so you can't look inside and this is not a sponsored post.

Imagine you are a housewife in North West London, you have a job, you are Jewish, you have a husband and English children. You fled Germany as a child with your parents but left behind your beloved grandmother who was eventually killed by the nazis. You are no different from any number of German refugees who became British and live and work in the capital.

There is one thing. A notebook your father showed you when you were 16 years old but warned you not to delve into its meaning. You inherit the notebook on the death of your mother and of course you delve.

You discover that you are descended from a Prussian prince and you are in fact a cousin to Queen Elizabeth and most of the European royal families. Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing is that your beloved grandmother wasn't even Jewish, although she didn't know it herself. And Hitler killed the granddaughter of a European prince he greatly admired.

This is the true story of Eve Haas, an ordinary woman living in Hampstead, NW London. I loved this book because it could have been any of us.

However, it hasn't changed anything in the lives of the Haas family. They are still an ordinary family working for their living. They haven't inherited a palace or land or art collections. I find it a bit sad that having left the Royal fold (or been abandoned by it) three generations ago, you can't go back in. It seems aristocracy is as much a matter of nurture as it is nature (or DNA).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why I Read Historical Novels

The Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem

About 16 years ago they opened the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. A big, purpose built, modern building, dedicated to artifacts and knowledge about life in the Near East in Biblical Times. I had absolutely no interest in visiting it whatsoever.

One Monday in the late afternoon, I took myself off to the Israel Museum which is next door to the Bible Lands. The Israel Museum has art and I love art. What I didn't know was that it's closed on Monday afternoons.

It was pre-mobile phones and by the time I'd walked to the gate, realised it was locked, and walked back to the car park, my taxi had left. I decided to not waste the journey completely and so I wandered, half-heartedly, over to the Bible Lands Museum.

This museum was closing in 90 minutes. Perfect. I expected to be out of there well within the hour.

Reader, I spent the entire 90 minutes in the first room and still had not finished when the closing bell sounded. I usually skim the labels in museums. On this occasion I found myself reading every word mesmerised by all of it. I'd expected Bible stories and parchments. The reality was everyday items depicting an entire way of life in biblical times. There are Bible stories and parchments later but I didn't get that far.

I had to reluctantly leave at closing time but vowed to return very soon. Since then I've been back twice. Once for a music lecture and once for a Bar Mitzva party. Both those events were in the evening and neither had any connection to the museum itself.

Chapter 1

She Wrote On Clay is a book I read last month. You can't look inside, I took the image url from Despite the link, this is not a sponsored post. I read She Wrote On Clay for three reasons:

1. It's an historical romance set in Ancient Babylon. How could I resist a chance to get some insight into life in Ancient Babylon which isn't too distant from where I'm living?  (In kms I mean, not time.)

2. The author, Shirley Graetz, is a friend of mine. A local Mum whom I met a few years ago in the park and now regularly chat with outside the school gates at the end of the day.

3. It's a romance but it's also about a rare occurrence of feminism in ancient times. Litani, the heroine, is a female scribe in a male dominated profession. Sometimes we think we invented feminists and feminism but not so.

I loved the book and am eagerly awaiting the sequel as I absolutely need to grow old with Litani, the feisty, feminist, heroine.

Chapter 2

A few days ago I was talking on the phone with another friend who is a tour guide. She mentioned that a fellow guide was giving her a tour of the Bible Lands Museum on Monday morning. I remembered how much I had loved that museum so I made the right noises and she invited me to join them.

(I should have a photo here of the three of us at the museum, but I don't.)

I saw the clay tablets Litani had written on. I saw the perfume bottles and the amulets. I saw the ornate boxes they used to store their possessions, the writing tools, the buildings they lived in (well models of them), the cities, the kitchen utensils they used, seals, jewellery...

If I was fascinated last time, this time with a bit of insight into the background and lifestyles of the people, I was positively spellbound.

I'm done with school and studying for studying's sake. I further my knowledge with YouTube, TV dramas, short articles shared by friends on facebook, and reading for pleasure. Not all my book choices are novels. There are many highly enjoyable popular history/sociology/philosophy books written for the lay person. I wouldn't bother with anything heavy. Historical novels have given me more over the past 30 years than years of history lessons in school. No school outing to any museum ever thrilled me as much as seeing She Wrote On Clay come to life in the Bible Lands Museum today.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Last week I interviewed for a job teaching English at a teachers' training college. I already teach at one teachers' training college so this job was right up my alley. I got the job and they wanted me to start this coming semester which begins next week.

I had to deal with the formalities first of course. I went to HR with my B.Ed and M.A. certificates and various other pieces of paper that I thought might be useful. They asked me if my M.A. was accredited by the Ministry of Education in Israel as it's a foreign degree. This has never been a requirement for independent institutions that are not supported by the MoE. It's new, within the last four years since I started my other job at another college.

I have an M.A. from London University, Institute of Education. One of the top 2 or 3 places in the world for education studies. Why wouldn't the MoE accept it? As it happens, I know that they do. I did this degree in Israel as part of an external course run in Tel Aviv and hosted by The British Council (1996-1998). There were 30 students, most of them teaching in Israeli schools and paid by the MoE at M.A. level. (And the course was run at least three times.) I remember it being discussed at the time and letters being handed out to submit to the MoE. I don't know where any of those students are now or indeed even remember their names.

I didn't request a letter as I had always worked in institutions independent of the MoE - Universities, Colleges, private schools, and The British Council. Even when I worked in a state school, I was paid through the extra-curricular budget as I was teaching the Native English Speakers.

So I called the MoE to ask them to look on their list of accredited foreign degrees and please fax me a letter saying that mine was included. Simples. No.

MoE: We don't do that. You have to send in a request form and we will process it? Where did you do your first degree?
Me: In England.
MoE: You need to verify your first degree first.
Me: But they wouldn't have accepted me into London University to do an M.A. without a valid first degree.
MoE: We can't look at your second degree until we have verified your first degree. Send in the forms.

I downloaded the forms. Luckily you can send them both in together. And I downloaded the list of other documents they require. WTF???!!!

1. Cerificates - ok
2. Transcripts of all courses taken with grades achieved for each course - Hahaha.
3. For a first degree verification, a High School Diploma. - I don't have my O level and A Level certificates as I have B.Ed. and M.A. certificates from reputable institutions. I left school in 1981, forget it.
4. Official documents showing any name changes of the institutions you attended. Well I went to a teachers' training college in Hertfordshire (1982-1985) which has since closed and become a housing estate. It was part of Hatfield Poly which has now become The University of Hertfordshire. What are the chances?
5. A statement which I have to get notified by a lawyer. Oh I've got plenty to say all right.
6. Questionnaires from the MoE. - I've not even looked at these yet.

Thank God a million times that we are no longer living in the age of sending letters by post and waiting for replies.

1st, a phone call: The British Council. Sorry, we don't have any records of anything going back that far.
2nd, an email to The University of Hertfordshire. Sorry, contact the Council for National Academic Awards (who awarded my B.Ed.). And he gave me the email address of the CNAA aftercare department.
3rd, an email to the CNAA - as yet no reply.
4th, an email to The Institute of Education - as yet no reply.
5th, printed out all emails and replies as proof that I tried my best to comply.
6th, a phone call to the Head of English at the college where I want to work to tell her that this isn't going to be resolved by next week. She was very nice and said they definitely want me to teach there in September but I can't start this semester without the paperwork. No problem, it's only 10,000 shekels worth of work. What's 10,000 shekels when you're already living on the breadline?

Last night I suddenly remembered that one of my co-students from the M.A. course is still living in Jerusalem and teaching in two high schools - in one of which she is the Head of English. So 7th, I'm going to call her this evening to see if she has any documentation I can copy. At the very least I can use her as an example - "You let heeeeeer, it's not faiaiaiaiar!"

So I'm collecting my bits of paper and [not] looking forward to going into the MoE offices to plead my case. Watch this space, I'll keep you posted.