Friday, November 27, 2015

Make It A Habit 2, R2BCheerful, And Loose Ends.

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful, again hosted by Ojo's World.

1. Since starting my own Make It A Habit facebook group at the beginning of the month (after being expelled from the original one), we have 12 members, some more active than others, and some very real success stories.

My own first habit was to eat three modest meals a day with no snacking in between. After the intial four weeks (including the week in the other group) it had indeed become a habit and I lost 8lbs.

Last Friday I decided to rev up the health factor and my new habit is to eat an apple and a carrot (I am not a carrot person), and drink two large glasses of herbal tea every day. So far I've stuck to it except for Wednesday and Thursday this week when I ran out of apples - two days short of shopping day. 10lbs lost since October 23rd and feeling good.

Jerusalem Cokkbook Club cooks Ottolenghi
2. The first Jerusalem Cookbook Club dinner was a lot of fun and a great success. I'm very bad at going out in the evenings these days as it usually has to involve a babysitter. This time it was at my next door neighbour's I took DD along, armed with her tablet, and she watched videos for the duration. However, as I enjoyed the evening so much, next time I will invest in a babysitter and not have to be the first to leave at the end.

In other news, the College Summer Course that I tried to close in the middle of October would not stay dead. I was asked nicely if I could re-open it for select students who had almost finished. Tbh, it behooves me to comply as I'd rather let them finish a few tasks now than have them reappear next year and have to grade all thier papers again.

This last week, he's looking a bit stronger now.
Our baby lettuce plant is still alive and looking a bit more sturdy. As of yet no new growth though. I was so inpsired by the whole composting thing, and having set up my own composting station behind the kitchen taps, I continued to collect all our vegetable waste in the 'golden' glass jar.

The compost centre in the golden glass jar behind the taps.
Turns out the compost collection at school was a one off and hereonafter we have to find our own composting centres (as most of us in this neighbourhood live in apartments rather than houses). I know there is a composter in a community garden in our local park but it's kept locked. I was intending to find out the hours that you can take your compost along but I never got round to it. When the bag inside the golden glass was full I threw it out with the rest of the rubbish. *sigh* In my next life, I promise.

So there you have it, the end of a good week (apart from the composting). Shabbat Shalom Ya'll and have a great weekend, xxx

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Cookbook Club

Actually it's Jerusalem Cookbook Club but it can be done anywhere of course. It all started with this article about why cookbook clubs should be the new way we entertain. One friend sent it to another and within a month Jeruselem Cookbook Club had it's inaugural dinner party at the home of Aviva, who conveniently lives next door to me.

Some of the gang before everyone had arrived.
Our cookbook of choice was Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. A fitting choice as Ottolenghi is a local lad after all. We soon expanded the cookbook choice to include Plenty More and even then there was a flurry of sharing recipes online and popping over to Aviva's house to peruse the actual book. We decided next time to choose a chef or cookery author rather than limit ourselves to one cookbook.

As I looked through the recipes I was torn between the easy option of a dish with ingredients I have in the house or could easily get, and something more exotic and complicated. In the end I took the middle ground - uncomplicated ingredients but an unusual dish. I chose to make the Aubergine Cheesecake. It's more of a flan than a cake and definitely savoury.

Most of the ingredients were in my local supermarket but not the 10 fresh oregano leaves to tear over the roasted aubergine slices and tomato base. I waivered between buying fresh basil leaves instead or dried oregano flakes. In the end I opted for half and half and bought both. There were also no baby plum tomatoes but as they were to be chopped up anyway I sneakily used the left over ordinary tomatoes at the bottom of my fridge. (Btw, I peeled them even though the recipe doesn't say to do that as I hate the plasticky bits of peel you get when you cook tomatoes with the peel on.) There was feta cheese in the supermarket but at a cost I decided I wasn't willing to go to for one dish so I substituted goat cheese lebane instead, seeing as the feta was to be creamed anyway.

The slippery slope of altering the recipe had began before I'd even paid for the ingredients but that's me. I can't change my cooking style of over 40 years and that's why I don't bake.

On my way home from work on the bus on the evening of the dinner, I suddenly panicked that the recipe would tell me to salt the aubergine and leave it to stand for several hours. If so I was screwed as I only had two hours to collect my daughter from school, cook, supervise homework, shower and change, make a few phonecalls, put on a wash... Did I remember to say cook?

The Aubergine Cheesecake was surprisingly easy to make. The aubergine slices didn't need prepping hours in advance and I cut out the step where you roast them on a baking tray and then tranfer them to the oven dish. I roasted straight in the oven dish. At the end you are supposed to brush it with more olive oil and sprinkle with za'atar. I decided that roasting the aubergine had taken in quite enough olive oil thank you and we didn't need any more. I sprinkled with za'atar and called it a day. The ladies thanked me for this later.

Aubergine Cake
Basically the Aubergine Cake is roast aubergine slices and tomatoes covered in a cream, feta, and cream cheese custard (3 eggs added) and baked in the oven. I thought it looked a bit anemic when it came out the oven but maybe if you do brush with more olive oil it won't.

We had a rule that we made the recipe from the book with no doubling or trebling the amounts. This turned out to be a good rule as the recipe says it feeds 4, or 6 for a starter. Mine fed 12 and I brought half of it home with me. Even with generous portions, and I admit that we were taking small portions of each dish as we had over 12 different dishes to sample, this was for way more than 4 - 6 people. Also it's very rich so you wouldn't want to eat big portions.

And so we convened in Jerusalem on a mild November evening to celebrate Jerusalem Cookbook Club and Yotam Ottolenghi. The table looked amazing. Positively groaning with fabulous dishes.

More dishes arrived after this photo!
It was a great success with each diner introducing her dish as it was passed around. There was wine to keep it all flowing and conversation during which we got to know each other better and discover mutual friends, shared histories, and a common love of good food and fine dining (although some of us don't get to do the last one so often :~P ).

My personal favourite was the cauliflower cake and I will definitely be trying this one at home. We also had roast fennel salad, rice with red currants, a noodle and soy bean dish, majadara, shakshuka, sweet potato salad, and, and, and.... it seemed to go on forever. It took us over two hours to even get to the delicious desserts which were a cherry in cream syllabub (although Ottolenghi doesn't call it syllabub as that would be very 1970s) and tiramisu (also very 1970s strangely enough).

We enjoyed it all so much we're doing it again in January when we will cook Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I'd not heard of her before so it'll be a culninary adventure for me. Jerusalem/Israel people (we already have one member from Carmiel) you can find us on facebook here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits #36

DD (playing with plasticine): Whats your most favourite thing in the world?
Me: Sandwiches.
DD: Hmmm I don't think I can make a sandwich. What's your second most favourite thing in the word?
Me: You are.
DD: Well I can't make me, I'm too hard. HEY! Aren't I supposed to be your first most favourite thing?

DD went to play with her friend whose 2yo brother kept hitting them.
DD: It's exhausting at x's house.
Me: Why?
DD: You know, because of... what's it called?
Me: What?
DD: You know, that hitting thing.

After hearing Jon Pritikin speaking at school
Me (thinking about Jon's inpsiring message): Wasn't he fantastic?
DD: Yes. Were all those things that he broke in half real?
Me: Yes, but what about the important message he told you?
DD: Yes I remember it: You must never do these things at home!
Me: Not that message. What about no child eats alone or plays by herself in the breaks?
DD; Oh yes he did say that but the most important message was never never never do those things at home.

We were asked to bring all our vegetable waste into school for the new composter. There were two 6th Grade girls taking the names of everyone who brought a bag of waste. 
DD: Why do they need our names?
Me: Everyone who brings some waste for the composter gets a baby lettuce to plant and gets to take part in a prize draw.
DD: Really? We give them our stinky rubbish and they give us prizes? Hilarious.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Reasons 2B Cheerful 21/11/15

As has been said, there's not much to be cheerful about in the world this week. However, we are all trying to keep our own little corner of it comfortable and safe. There are more Reasons 2B cheerful posts on the linky over at Ojo's World. In that vein here are my reasons to be cheerful this week.

1. I got so into repurposing pretty dishes that live year in year out at the back of a cupboard, that I did some more.

2. It was International Compost Day on Friday (apparently although I can't find anything about it online). There were posters about it all over our neighbourhood and DD's school officially opened its new composter. The idea is to use the compost on the school vegetable garden next spring. We all collected our pips and peelings for a week and took them into school. In return we were given a baby lettuce to plant. So we did.

Looking a bit sorry but we're keeping it well watered and the sun's out...
3. Also at the school they had their annual Heath Robinson style flyng egg competition. Children build contraptions that are supposed to gently float an uncooked egg down to the ground when it's thrown off the roof (by a few parents and teachers - no children on the roof). Obvioulsy there are rules e.g. it has to be a flying machine or parachute style, not an egg so embedded in bubble wrap that it could survive anything. Lots of fun.

4. My shy daughter who won't speak to anyone until she's been in the same room as them for about a day, told me how you get up on the roof. "Do you know how I know that? I asked Etti." Etti is the Headmistress. I was astonished. "What, you just went up to her and asked her?" I never spoke to my Headmistress when I was in primary school unless she spoke to me first. I'm delighted that our Head is so approachable and that DD feels comfortable to go and ask her a question.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Every School Should Hear This

Today Jon Pritikin spoke to the children at DD's school.

As an imspirational speaker, Jon is indeed inspirational. He spoke in English to about 200 1st - 3rd Grade pupils who mostly don't understand English and you could have heard a pin drop. Obviously we had a translater who said everything in Hebrew sentence by sentence. I was wondering if this would work as kids get bored waiting sometimes. But honestly, they were enthralled throughout the whole assembly.

Jon starts by doing stunts of tremendous strength and telling us how he's in the Guiness Book of records (2009 edition, page 12). He's funny and engaging and the kids loved it.

For each stunt he asked for volunteers and the first boy he chose happened to be an English speaker which was funny as this little boy answered the questions before the interpreter could translate. After that the kids were all putting up their hands and shouting out, "I speak English! I speak English!"

Once all the children are lapping it up and totaly engrossed in the performance, Jon tells the story of a kid in America who couldn't speak, couldn't read, had no friends, was teased, bullied and laughed at.... you get the picture. A kid who everyone gave up on, even the teachers. And most tragic of all, a kid who believed them. A kid who accepted that he couldn't have any friends, he couldn't play with the other kids, he was stupid, and everyone hated him.

Right at the end Jon reveals that the poor kid with 'no future' is himself. By that time the teachers and parents who attended all had tears in their eyes. The children were wide eyed and opened mouthed.

Then came the messages and a pact. The first strong message was to not let anyone tell you that you can't succeed in life, or that you are not special. "Everyone here is special and you all have your special reason for being on this earth."

Then came the pact. Jon said, "let's make a promise together that for the rest of this year we won't let anyone eat lunch alone and we won't let anyone sit alone during playtime."

Simple messages but so cleverly delivered and so poignant because of who delivered them. I know this will stay with the children for a long time. As a teacher myself (although not in this school), I will also carry his messages with me and I wished every school child could see and hear Jon Pritikin.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Repurposing Your Dishes

Over the years I've amassed enough dishes of all shapes and sizes to allow for any possible entertaining event. I could feed 100 people out of the serving dishes I own. The plates would have to be disposable but the serving bowls and decorative dishes would suffice.

There are pieces remaining from sets long gone, inherited pieces, dishes that came as a gift filled with homemade biscuits, dishes bought at craft fairs or on holiday, the discounted last of lines, the pretty dish in the supermarket or IKEA that was so cheap it would have been rude not to buy it....

What happens to this vast collection of lovely bowls and dishes? Nothing. They sit in the display cabinet or in kitchen cupboards and waste their infinite lives waiting for their big moment that rarely arrives. And though I do try to rotate the dishes I use on the odd occasion when I do entertain, I usually end up using the same dishes every time.

So I'm giving some of my dishes a career change.

The space on the bookcase next to the door where I throw my keys and therefore has become the official key place (even for keys I've forgotten what they were for) now has a pretty dish in which to keep the keys. This dish was always problematic as it was a gift and I never knew if it was ovenproof or not. I'd have liked to bake small pies in it but ended up only using it to serve the humus. Now it's used and seen all the time and has an altogether more fulfilling life.

Who doesn't have a corner where counters from boxed games or Lego/Playmobil bits get deposited until you have the time to put them away properly? And how many times do those things get lost again before you've got around to taking them to where they really belong? Most of the times in our house. So now a little crystal glass bowl that my parents bought for me in Malta sits in that corner in front of the television and collects Lego pieces, lone beads, buttons, counters, and any other small item making the long journey home.

Of course everything should be put away completely the moment you touch it. But we're not like that. Realistically we need the dish for lost things. In it's previous life this dish sometimes came out after dessert filled with squares of chocolate or nuts to nibble while we drank our coffee. Unfortunately, by that time in the meal I was so exhausted that I'd usually forget about the coffee completely. Now I get to appreciate the beauty of the Maltese crystal glass all the time.

A pretty dish to hold trinkets on my dressing table. I had an old wooden ring-holder and small wooden bowl but a decorative china dish is so much more sophisticated don't you think?

The thick candle in the bathroom that stood on a black candle-holder plate is now prettily dished in Armenian pottery. We almost had a disaster last week when a candle dripped off its stand and all over the toilet below the shelf it was standing on. Had it been in a dish the wax would have been contained.

Who says that pencils and paperclips have to be stood in faded cardboard pencil holders? I'm thinking of a small cream jug of the right size and shape that would look great on my desk (when I get my desk back from being the temporary dining table).

Toothbrushes and toothpaste in a china cup. Why did I buy these? Because they were in a closing down sale, they cost next to nothing and they are pretty. I have four of them but the thought of drinking water out of them is not appealing. So now DD and I use one each in the bathroom and I have spares for guests.

And finally (for now because I'm on a roll with this) what could this possibly be (below)? I received it as a gift from work about eight years ago. It's glass and they got a box of them very cheaply so they gave them out as Rosh Hashana gifts, because you have to give your employees a gift on Rosh Hashana. It's meant to be a wine cooler and was so irrelevant to the people it was given to that it was almost insulting. No one I know puts wine on ice. We take it out of the fridge and put it on the table for goodness sake.

But it's sort of attractive. I thought of putting a plant in it but you need to find a plant in a pot that's tall enough and I never got around to it. So it's been sitting around for eight years taking up space and being useless.

This week DD's school announced the grand opening of their new composter to feed their own vegetable garden. We were asked to keep our vegetable waste and bring it in to school for the composter. So inside that wine cooler is a plastic bag filling up with our vegetable peels, pips and cores. I close the bag when it's not in use to avoid any smell in the kitchen. I like composting, it makes me feel virtuous.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Little Things, Bigger Things, And Loose Ends

On our way home yesterday we saw this placed on the shelf next to the door to our lobby. DD and her friend made me take a photo of it as it was so lovely. I said we should make some but we probably won't.

The college course that I tried to close a few weeks ago, of course has been re-opened. I even opened it voluntarily, after some of the students went to the top and complained bitterly. In fairness, 'the top' backed me up and only asked me very nicely if I might reconsider for select students. I had to admit to myself that I'd rather the students who'd almost finished just finished rather than have them back next year to do the whole thing again. As there's no point giving them extra time (again) unless they can use it, I've given them until after Hanuka to finish. And then I'm really really definitely and finally closing the Summer Course! We'll see. On the flip side, those students love me now. *sigh*

My friend Stephanie has a great attitude to money. 'Money comes and money goes.' There was a delay (no one's fault) in paying me the full remuneration for the Summer Course and I'm finally getting the last installment at the end of this month. I had earmarked that money for a year of Building Committee dues, the yearly payment to DD's school, and possibly my new dining table. Then DD ate a large chunk of it by needing two crowns on her teeth. Pun intended. *sighs again*

About the crowns on DDs teeth. I take full responsibility. Over the years we've had too much sugar and not enough supervised brushing. We don't have flouride added to the water here so the flouride comes only from the toothpaste. We have been lax. Another problem is that when you open a bag of sweets for an only child - all the sweets are for her. I try put a few sweets in a bowl and the rest away for another day but that's much harder to impose than when you divide the bag between a number of children and the sweets are gone. I've fallen into the defeatest attitude of, 'when it's gone its gone.' Not anymore though. After two crowns and a significant amount of money we are brushing for Europe and restricting sugary foods considerably. Luckily we get a second chance as we've only messed up with the milk teeth.

I need to clear our balcony and plant some winter greenery. Maybe we will make some shell plants after all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Where is my phone?

On Sunday my phone died. It was a Samsung Galaxy Ace so it had had a long and productive life and I was due for an upgrade anyway. As I cannot funtion without a phone, I went out on Sunday afternoon and bought new phone. Not  an expensive super duper phone - a G4 non-Samsung does what it says on the box type of phone. I paid in two installments by cedit card, niether payment having actually left my bank account yet.

Yesterday I took my phone to school and played with it during my free period. I also got some smart-phone tuition from one of the student teachers, she being of the smart phone generation. I noticed how quickly the battery was going down and discovered that I could leave it on 'sleep' mode when not in use, which conserves the battery.

I picked up DD from her school on the way home and when we got home at 4.30 I noticed that my phone was down to 16% of battery life left. I plugged it in. It charged to 100% in about two hours. I then unplugged it and brought it from the bedroom to the shelf by the front door where it usually sits when I'm at home.

I looked at it about an hour later and noticed that while in sleep mode the battery had remained 100% full. The reason I looked at it was that a friend and her daughter were coming for supper and I wanted to check that they'd not been trying to contact me. My friend is visiting from London and we had been communicating via her daughter's phone. As I didn't have the messaging history on this new phone I had no way of contacting them.

I did a frenzied tidy up and clean of my apartment and made supper. My friend arrived at about 7.15 as we'd arranged. We had a lovely couple of hours together. During the evening both of them had their phones out and think I remember a light brown cover (my friend) and a pink phone (her daughter). So it is very unlikely that either of them picked up my phone by mistake thinking it was their own.

When they left at about 9.15, I sat at the table with DD while we finished the homework I'd not had time to help her with before. She went to bed at about 9.30, I tidied up a bit more and sat on the computer for an hour or so. Then I went to bed.

This morning I took DD across the road to school and returned home to drink a cup of coffee and pack my bag for work. I only took my keys and the rubbish bag out and I locked the door behind us.

Packing my bag for work I couldn't find my phone anywhere. I tried calling it from the landline but the call went straight to the answer-phone. I searched and I searched but I simply can't find it. I messaged my friend via fb just to check but I know the phone didn't leave the flat with them. I looked behind furniture that it might have fallen behind. I looked in piles of papers wherever I have piles.

No one came into our house last night, there is nothing else missing, nothing has been rifled through. I must have put it down somewhere and forgotten - but where? I don't live in a big apartment. I am so upset that, even though I'm at college, I can't concentrate on my work. It's a total mystery. How can a phone just disappear? And is it ominous that the calls go to the answer-phone or is that just a function of being in 'sleep' mode?

UPDATE: The secreatary at college sent me home to look for it. I live near the college and had half an hour to search before I have to return to teach. I looked in the fridge and the freezer - I'm not like that but stranger things have happened.

Anyway, I FOUND IT. It was under a cushion on the footstool. I'd been using the cushion to protect my knees from the laptop and then I'd put my laptop in my bag, throwing the cushion onto the footstool - on top of the phone. *sigh* Big thank you to Batsheva at college - you were right.

The phone was lost for 90 minutes in total during which my life fell apart. There's something not right about that.