Saturday, June 22, 2019

R2BC - The DD Edition

Stretching by the pond at the top of my Mum's road. 
Lots of milestone events for DD this week and these are my Reasons 2B Cheerful. The linky is back with Mich on Mummy from the Heart

Competition Squad
DD's biggest dream this year has been to be in the Competition Squad (henceforth known as CS) at gymnastics. She was mortally offended when one of the other girls was invited to join last winter as DD felt she was just as good.

On Monday she was given the official letter inviting her to join CS in September. To say she was thrilled and proud of herself wouldn't do it justice. She's been on cloud nine and mentioning it every few hours since.

Turns out CS for her age group meets two neighbourhoods away. We already take a taxi one neighbourhood away for gymnastics and then I sit waiting for an hour until we walk home afterwards. (Home is downhill so we walk it.) CS is two hours twice a week. With the added fee, the added taxi fare, and three hours out of my evening twice a week - this was not so amazing for me.

So we looked into the gymnastics class in our neighbourhood. The class is around the corner, three minutes walk from home, in a fantastic, purpose built high school sports hall. The only reason we didn't go there from September was because it clashed with orchestra and that's no longer relevant.

Turns out the same teachers from DD's class also teach at our local class - which is why the days are different. They invited her to join the new class in July so that she can settle in before September, August being holiday. And as we've already paid for July in the other place - there'll be gymnastics four times a week for a month. DD is overjoyed.

And I'm overjoyed as from September, she'll be going there by herself so I'll have two more free evenings and what we won't be paying in taxis covers the extra cost of CS. Win-win.

Shopping With A Friend
DD's friend wanted to go clothes shopping after school on Tuesday, in Malcha Mall - the biggest mall in Jerusalem. Her mother was going to come from work and meet them there. I had an appointment so I couldn't take them. The only solution was for the two girls to go on the bus by themselves.

In Israel, 10 years old is plenty old enough to go on the bus alone. Kids who travel to school do it all the time from 2nd or 3rd grade (and from 1st grade with older siblings).

DD was nervous. I downloaded Moovit onto her phone so she could follow the route and the app would tell them where to get off the bus. It even shows you which way to walk from the bus stop. But her friend knew the route anyway so she didn't really need it.

I waited at the bus stop with them and saw they got onto the right bus. DD's friend's mum called to tell me to tell them to ask the driver where to get off but apparently they didn't. Friend was confident that she knew.

I must admit I was nervous as I watched the bus drive off with my little girl unaccompanied by an adult. I called her when they'd disembarked but were still walking to the mall. I called 10 minutes later to make sure they'd got to the mall. I called 15 minutes after that to make sure they'd met up with Friend's mother. No reply.

I called Friend's mother. "Yes they're already trying on clothes. I'm beginning to regret this."

DD called me a couple of times to tell me that she was buying a gift for another friend's birthday at the weekend and then to ask if she could buy short leggings for gymnastics. She called to tell me she'd left her water bottle in a changing room and they couldn't find it. But while we were on the phone they found it in a drawer in the changing room. And every time I could hear the pride and satisfaction in her voice that she was out shopping with a friend. I schepped naches.*

Notes. The phrase "shep nachas" / "shepp naches" / "schep naches" - to derive pride and joy. From Yiddish שעפּן נחת shepn nakhes - 'derive pride'.

DD's friend had an overnight camping party in her garden, complete with the new standing pool they've got for the summer. It started with a birthday tea/supper at 5 pm Friday night and finished at 2 pm the next afternoon after lunch.

Just as I was wondering what to do with my free Shabbat, the universe stepped in and I was invited to lunch with friends where there would be no other children. It's the kind of lunch I have to bribe DD into attending and I often just decline the invitation because it's easier not to go.

On Friday evening I got into my pyjamas at 5.30 pm and hung out with myself, a good book, and a cheese sandwich. I should have had some wine but I didn't think far enough ahead. Still, it was bliss. Although I did miss DD, a bit.

And today I went to lunch with my adult friends, had a great time, and on the way back I swung by the party to pick up DD. She came home very happy and very exhausted, fell asleep for three hours, and then we watched Journey to the Centre of the Earth together on Netflix. The perfect end to a perfect day.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Dale Chihuly And Me

I'd said I'd come back and give Chihuly a post of his own so here it is. 

We were in London in April and my cousin offered to take us to Kew to see the Chihuly exhibition.

I once had a long and sometimes traumatic relationship with Dale Chihuly. Let me explain.

About 17 years ago there was a Chihuly exhibition in Jerusalem. At the time I was working for one of the sponsors of the event. I worked from her home. One day an enormous box was delivered - a thank you gift from Chihuly himself.
The box wasn't heavy, just huge, and I was asked to unpack it.

It was filled with shredded paper and polystyrene bits. I had to dig around and eventually I found a large glass plate and eight long and twisty glass fronds with flowering glass ends. I searched and searched for the stand, or the instructions to put it together but there was no stand and no instructions. In the end I left all the pieces on the dining-room table and didn't dare throw out the box in case I'd missed a piece of priceless glass art.

On my next visit to the house I saw all the pieces artfully arranged on the table. There was no stand and no instruction sheet - you could arrange it how you liked. I largely left it alone but I was asked, as a special favour, to dust it during my visits as the cleaner was too scared to touch it. I didn't mind dusting the Chihuly and I even sometimes arranged it differently.

The trauma arose when the lady of the house had a dinner party, or any type of gathering that involved lots of food on the dining table. The Chihuly had to be moved. The only other place large enough to display it was a large window shelf half way down the staircase. Reaching it necessitated a step ladder on the half landing, bringing each piece of glass down the stairs, climbing the ladder, and arranging it whilst still on the ladder.

People who know me will confirm that I'm not a climber. Not even without carrying thousands of dollars of glass. I never had to move the Chihuly myself but as the other responsible adult in the house, I was always asked to help. I didn't sleep the night before the moving of the Chihuly, nor the night before putting it back. I was so traumatized by the whole double operation that I didn't even go to see the exhibition in Jerusalem.

Fast forward almost two decades and I jumped at the offer to go to Kew Gardens by car on a mild spring day. What could be better? I love Kew Gardens. The Chihuly - meh? I'd 'lived' with his bits of glass for long enough way back when.

Reader I was wrong. We spent about six hours walking around Kew Gardens and I could have stayed for more but for the fact that DD was tiring and we wanted to miss the London rush hour. Kew was spectacular, as always, but the Chihuly was magical. Every time we turned a corner we all three of us gasped in wonder at the sheer beauty and magnitude of the glass glittering in the sun (and sometimes rain). It was a truly cathartic experience, giving me closure on all my Chihuly trauma. Dale I forgive you and worship your amazing vision.

The exhibition is open until October I believe. I would definitely go again and again. Plan to stay all day - we didn't get to see a number of things on our list. I hope you enjoy the photos - they represent just a few of the hundreds we took. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Lag B'Omer Beyond The Fire

It was already a month ago but I wanted to write about Lag B'Omer this year because our traditional class bonfire was different and it gave all of us parents pause for thought. But before I get to that I have to re-frame Lag B'Omer as a rational holiday.

The mini festival marks the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. The Omer is the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot (Passover and the Feast of Weeks). In religious terms those seven weeks count the time between the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. In practical terms, they were the seven weeks of the grain harvest (barley first and then wheat) that called for a celebratory feast at the end. It's no coincidence that Christians count seven weeks from Easter Sunday till Pentecost (or Whit Sunday).

In the Jewish Year, the Omer is a time when we don't celebrate weddings, cut our hair or do any frivolous partying. Obviously, there was no time for any of this when everyone had to help with the grain harvest. So of course the rabbis had to come up with a reason for this period of semi-mourning, which wasn't mourning at all but rather a time of concerted and focused effort on one project - the harvest.

Its all a bit silly really. They say that 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students died of a plague during this time because they didn't show enough respect to one another. You couldn't make it up. Oh, they did make it up. And on the 33rd day of the Omer, the plague stopped. Hooray! What probably happened was that 24,000 students fell in the battles against the Romans and on the day that happened to be the 33rd day of the Omer, either they had some minor victory or the war ended. That would tie in with the fact that traditionally children used to play with bows and arrows on Lag B'Omer.

It's also supposed to be the deathday of another great Rabbi. But we don't celebrate the births or deaths of any of the real central figures to Judaism - Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Kings Solomon and David, or even any of the prophets, or, in fact, any of the revered characters to whom God actually spoke (Samson, Daniel). So 1. Bonfires and parties are a funny way to mark someone's death, unless it's Guy Fawkes or Hitler. And 2. If we're celebrating someone's life I'd rather it be Theodor Herzl who paved the way for a Jewish State and so saved thousands of Jews who moved to Palestine from being murdered by the Nazis. Or Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain who together discovered penicillin thereby saving millions of people from previously fatal infections and infectious diseases.

I can't find any reference to a natural or agricultural phenomenon linking Lag B'Omer to bonfires so I'm thinking that maybe at the end of the grain harvests they started to burn the stubble in the fields around this date? It could be. It's a theory.

So we have bonfires and parties to celebrate Lag B'Omer. It's huge in Israel. Every school class and youth club have an enormous bonfire and the older kids often stay up all night. I've written about it before.  

Back to our class bonfire. We've had one every year with DD's class since they were four years old in nursery school. When they were very young the children largely ignored the bonfire and we kept them busy with some sort of activity. In 2nd grade the school had one large bonfire for everyone and a fair in the playground. No one was really satisfied with that and anyway, by the next year the open space next to the school had been turned into a proper football pitch with expensive astroturf. So no place for a fire there.

In 3rd and 4th grades the activity was the fire. The kids collected the wood and were fascinated by watching it burn - as we all are to some extent, let's be honest. The game was to build as big a fire as possible and to keep feeding it with more and more wood. However, this year was entirely different.

They built a moderate fire and the obligatory tiny hearth nearby on which to roast marshmallows. Then they spent the rest of the evening playing dodge ball (or king ball, or two camps, or whatever variation they play). Another group sat and sang songs. The parents provided far too much food as usual but we're the same as we we've been for years. It's the children who are noticeably growing up. It was a wonderful thing to see the difference between 9-10 years old and 10-11 years old.

In times of heightened awareness about air pollution and the environment, in which groups are being encouraged to attend central or shared bonfires, and forest fires meant that size and other restrictions were imposed countrywide, it was a good to see that our children have moved beyond the fire.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Slimming Sunday - OMAD

Yes, a stroopwafel on my coffee is allowed.
I waited a day before writing this post (you may have noticed that it's Monday) because I wanted to see the effect of eating an enormous falafel in laffa (a large chewy flat bread) with all the trimmings (8 falafel balls, humus, salad, fried aubergine, pickles, and chips) for my one meal a day.

Here's the story so far. I did intermittent fasting for the five weeks between April 28th and June 2nd. I aimed for 20 hours of fasting a day and, with the help of a motivating phone app (Fasti), I managed it on most days. There were at least five days when I went over 24 hours without food but it averaged out to about 20 hours a day throughout the month. Even with a couple of days not doing it at all and about 6 days of only managing between 14 and 19 hours of fasting, I lost 12 lbs (5.5 kg).

Then came summer. The first week of June I was doing great until Wednesday. On Thursday I went to a wedding and the following weekend was the festival of Shavuot which, being a Jewish Holiday, involved a number of festive meals. I dreaded standing on the scales after all that, but in fact I only put back on 2 lbs.

If you read/watch all the all the information on IT (Intermittent Fasting) it seems that doing intermittent fasting just intermittently can be beneficial. Reducing your insulin levels drastically a few times a week has a good effect. Hence the success of the 15:2 diet. However, I read that even fasting for a day once a month is good for you. I'm purposely staying clear of any scientific explanations here as I'm bound to get it wrong, I'm not a doctor or a scientist, and you can find out everything you need to know online.

Anyway, back to my experience. It was June 9th and I'd put back 2 lbs of the 12 I'd lost. I'd lost the momentum of fasting for most of the day because the wedding and some festival meals are served late at night and then there were the festival lunches...

There was also a slight problem with the 20 hour goal with no time constraints. If you eat after 20 hours every day, your eating window gets earlier and earlier. I managed to adjust it by going for a full 24 hours every few days but that was when I was in school till 3 pm four days a week. Now I'm mostly working from home so it's a lot harder to hold out. (I can see the fridge from where I'm sitting now.)

Thus, I decided to fine tune the IT and say no eating until 4 pm. And then I have OMAD (one meal a day.) I don't have to eat that meal at 4 pm and I usually don't eat until 5.30 or 6. If I'm going out on a Friday night the meal is usually a bit later. If I get an invitation to a Shabbat lunch I'll make an exception. Luckily there are no festivals coming up.

So far, only a week following this new (new for me) patent, I've been eating mostly a big salad for my one meal. However, I have been known to finish off the pasta I made for DD or eat the leftover slice(s) of pizza. I had some hesitation about a spot of dessert after the salad but I often went for it. It was usually a Danish pastry or a Stroopwafel with my coffee. The point is to make the one meal big and filling enough (without stuffing yourself to the gills) to get you through the evening without craving more food. However, if I do need to finish off some pasta or pizza (because it would be rude not to) I make sure I do it before 8 pm.

The scales have been going down slowly but steadily all week.

Yesterday evening I had a school event so I told DD I'd bring falafel home for supper. Mine was the enormous laffa described above. It must be 1,500 calories. I didn't have any dessert. And this morning the scales were down again.

It takes a leap of faith to allow yourself all the foods that have been forbidden on traditional weight-loss diets for the past 40 years. But it seems that it works. I won't be eating laffas every day. I shall return to my salads for the most part and only have dessert when it's there, which is occasionally.

Two weeks into June I'm still on track.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

R2BC - End Of Year Events

DD's Monsters. Everyone liked them except DD.
DD's story is on the left but it's in Hebrew.
Here are my reasons to be cheerful for last week. The linky is back with Becky on Lakes Single Mum this week as Mich is busy with guests and family.

No End Of Year Parties
End of year parties are a big thing in Israel. Some teachers have an end of year party for every class they teach. I spared my students and pupils yet another party and more sugar overload. For my last week of teaching we had relaxed lessons, I wished the students good luck in their exam next week and my young pupils a wonderful summer.

DD's original drawing.
Of course I'll be seeing them all again this coming week for the exam in college and I have to wrap up the library and attend a training session in school. Remember how I was laughing as I finished teaching on Wednesday? Well I did finish teaching but I have teaching related work to do for at least another week - if not more. My laughing has been reduced to a wry smile as I don't have to get both me and DD out of the house by 7.30 am. Small gains.

New Beds
My mattress was 30 years old, it had come through half a decade of children using it as a trampoline - it was that type of old fashioned, fully sprung, bouncy mattress - and it was sagging in all sorts of places. More importantly, it was no longer comfortable. So I went to buy a new one.

Ready for children's television. 
I know things are more expensive in Israel but I was shocked when the man in the bed shop told me the prices. I could probably have got something cheaper in IKEA, however, this is my local bed shop. They made my bed frame and a few years later they added a headboard to it when I realized that no headboard is not at all sophisticated. They provided a new mattress for the child's bed that used to be DD's but then got moved to the spudy. It originally came with a thin sponge mattress and needed upgrading for guests.

The price of the simple mattress (not sponge obviously but nothing amazing) was the price I wanted to pay for something in the middle range. The man told me to lie on the most expensive mattress and feel the difference. Then he offered me the most expensive mattress that had been on a bed in the shop for six months, for less than the simple mattress. Sold.

While I was at it I bought a new bed for DD too. Her 1.2 m. wide box bed took up too much space in the bedroom, we don't need the storage in the box, and I wanted to make her room lighter and airier.

The beds came on Thursday. Mine is amazing. I am now about 20 cm higher up, I can't sit on my bed anymore as it's too high, and I have slept through the night since it arrived.

Here's one by Natan that everyone loved. 
We enjoyed the Artists' Class Finale at the museum on Thursday evening.

Monster Exhibition
DD's year at school all drew monsters and wrote stories about them. They were then paired up with Art Students from The Hebrew University Bezalel Art School. The students produced professional drawings or models of the monsters as if they were to be made into cartoons or books. On Friday all the students came in to school and we had an exhibition of the finished works alongside the original drawings and stories. It was very good.

(Aside: I must confess that DD didn't have such a great experience. Her name plate fell of the wall so at first we couldn't find her work. Eventually we found it on the floor and managed to stick it back up for the photo. Her illustrator couldn't come so she didn't get that experience. But turns out maybe that was a good thing. DD took one look the way her monsters had been interpreted and burst into tears because she didn't like it. We slipped away and came home were she was inconsolable until she accidently dropped a glass dish and cut her foot. That took her mind off the monster at least. We were both glad that it was Friday afternoon.)

That's my blogging score for this week. Not quite the bogging every day that I was aiming for but at least this month has the most posts so far this year. Today starts another week...

Have a great weekend! xxx

Friday, June 14, 2019

Artists' Class Finale 2019

Yesterday we had the closing even of the Artists' Classes. I wrote about last year's fabulous event here.

To remind you, this is a small class of up to 15 pupils who have a passion for art. They do weekly art sessions in school and every couple of months they go to the Israel Museum for a special tour or project. There are about 50 primary schools in Jerusalem who take part. Contrary to folk 'wisdom' in the rest of the world, the programme includes Jewish, Arab, and 'Other' schools; secular and religious. We don't need Madonna to tell us how to work together.

There were about 500 dioramas.
This was the best one. 😜
Yesterday we went to the Israel Museum well prepared with our own bottles of water and summer clothing but the weather was mild, even a bit chilly. We already knew the drill. Daphna from the Museum made a short opening speech in Hebrew and in Arabic. She welcomed 43 schools and reminded the children that there is no 'right' or 'wrong' in art. Whatever you create is your truth.

Each school had an area of the sculpture garden. We had a tree-top previously painted by our wonderful art teacher, Moriya. And each child had a box in which to draw a background and then make a sort of diorama. The boxes would then be stuck onto the tree and displayed with all the other trees in a forest of artistic creativity.

This was our school's finished tree. 
The backgrounds were supposed to be a view or sculpture from the museum but our children mostly opted for sunsets or country scenes. DD did a beach. But by the time all the diorama's had been completed with all sorts of incongruent additions, very few of them were specifically identifiable as Israel Museum based.

Unlike last year, the children really didn't need our help. I gave DD a couple of ideas at the end and helped her cut out the birds and the boat. Mostly I walked around spying taking an interest in other schools. The school where I teach was there with three of my own pupils so I hung out with them for a while and chatted with the parents. Like last year there were loads of people I knew who have children on the programme from other schools. Jerusalem is like that. Still small enough to know people.

Here are some of the other trees from other schools You can click on the photos for a bigger picture:

I loved this background on the tree.

I liked the way this school used real branches and leaves.

These guys decorated the outsides of the boxes to great effect.
This school really used the Museum sculptures.

The most tree-like.

We didn't stay for all the speeches at the end. We learned something from last year. We slipped away and came home on the bus. On the way from the bus stop we stopped to buy half a watermelon for today's event in school. It never ends. It's that time of year.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Slimming Sunday - IF Only Revisited

Two years ago I wrote this post. I'd lost 10 lbs with intermittent fasting for one month and I laid out my plans for the following month. The following month's plans never happened. I managed to keep some of the benefits of IF because even a short period of fasting has longer term benefits, but I lost the momentum.

So last week I was actually in almost the exact same position I'd been in two years ago. If you follow the link, most of what I said then remains true today. This time I added a couple of tweaks and of course the motivation has increased due to my brother's wedding in the Autumn.

I'm not going to explain IF again -  you can read and watch videos about it all day online and I urge you to at least dip into that body of information, especially Dr, Jason Fung and his book: The Obesity Code. Like two years ago, I aimed for one meal a day (OMAD) and this time I aimed to increase my fasting to 20 hours a day. (By fasting I mean not eating. I drink tea, coffee, and lots of water.)

I downloaded an app which times your fasts (Fasti - fasting tracker). There are many many IF apps. You can browse them and choose for yourself. Mine is a simple stop watch that saves the times so you can look back on the week and even the month in various graphic representations (a list, a bar graph a weight loss graph if you put in your weight).

The app doesn't tell you what to do, it only records what you've done. However, I did find it motivating in that when I started to think about eating and I saw the clock on 18 hrs 55 mins and counting, I tended to hold off for the sake of one more hour. Even in the middle of the day, when I saw e.g. 14 hours, I'd think why spoil it? I'd be less likely to throw away 14 hrs of fasting to eat something I didn't need than if I didn't have that clock keeping track for me.

As I said, I set my goal for 20 hour a day. I didn't always get there and there is one 14 hour fast, a few between 15 and 19 hours. There was one full weekend where I didn't do it at all. Otoh, there were many days (at least two a week) where I went over 24 hours without eating. If the 20 hours was up in the afternoon and I was still running around, taking DD to gymnastics or shopping, I often didn't get to sit down and eat till 8 pm. And sometimes, having broken the 24 hours barrier, I'd be motivated to go for longer. Even going to bed in order to add another 10 hours.

On the whole I averaged about 20 hours a day fasting. It's easier for me to fast than to eat in moderation. Better not to open the flood gates even a crack. And I actually enjoy feeling hungry. It's not starving but rather feeling light and knowing that I must be running on stored energy. A mixture of physical and psychological well-being.

I've put the suffering of the cows and chickens on hold for now. I'm not proud of it but I need to concentrate on my own health atm. I've ditched calorie counting and low fat mania completely. I try to eat fewer carbs but I don't forbid myself potatoes, bread or pasta.

I lost 12 lbs in the first 5 weeks (5.5 kg). This past week I, week 6, I'd kept it all off by Wednesday but then I went to a wedding and was invited to two festival meals this weekend. I didn't even weigh myself this morning. I have noticed though, that I am eating much less when sitting down to a big meal served buffet or family style. I pay attention to when I'm full and I stop.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

R2BC - Festival of Weeks

Anticipating the wheat harvest.
Or perhaps just thinking about the pizza we ordered for them.
For all my excitement last week about coming to the end of the academic year and having more time on my hands... turns out it was a bit premature and it has been another busy week. Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful. There's a linky over at Mich's Mummy from the Heart, where us cheerful bloggers hang out.

On Thursday night I went to a wedding of the son of old friends from my teenage years. The parents and I had loads of adventures together in England in the 1970s - early 80s, from camping in the Wye Valley to campaigning for the freedom of Jews in Soviet Russia. We moved to Israel around the same time. We spent Shabbatot (pl. of Shabbat) together, I celebrated with them the births and Bar/Bat Mitzvas of each of their four children, I worked with the wife for a few years in educational publishing where we wrote maths textbooks together, and they offered me their garden for a baby blessing party for DD.

More about weddings in Israel in another post, but suffice to say this one was lots of fun. Lots of old friends from those early years, lots of catching up and lots of great dancing to music from our era. Perhaps belting out the words to 'I Will Survive!' which aren't the most appropriate lyrics for a wedding, was a bit strange but we went with the flow.

Going to a wedding requires extensive pre-planning on my part. I have to rush home from work, shower and change, if it's a day that DD has gymnastics - take DD to gymnastics, arrange for her to get from Gymnastics to my friend Sarit who graciously has her to stay for the night*, organize how DD will get from Sarit's to school in the morning**, find my way to the agreed meeting point to get a ride to the wedding, make sure my ride is also willing to bring me home again afterwards, and only then relax and enjoy.

*Think about it. If I get home some time after midnight, apart from the enormous cost of a babysitter, what would I then do with the babysitter? I wouldn't expect someone to walk home at that time of night and I don't have a car to take her, nor would I put a teenage girl in a taxi on her own at that time of night.

**On this occasion I let DD miss Stupid Friday at school - stupid because it finishes at 11.45 - and Sarit dropped her off here on her way out.

This is actually the second wedding I've been to in two weeks. It's wedding season. Sarit had DD both times so big big thank you. xxx

63 Up
There was much talk about the long awaited 63 Up which was screened in the UK over three nights this week. Again, I want to write a whole post about it, but I found all the amazing episodes, even 63 Up, on You Tube and binge-watched the whole lot. Coupled with the wedding I went to, the program makes you assess your own life as well as watching the lives of the Up 'children'. The series is charming and alarming and I can see why the participants dread it coming around every seven years. Anyway, more about that in a different blog.

Blogging Along
Last week I committed to blogging every day in June. I managed four days out of seven this week. This was largely due to binge-watching Up on Wednesday, work and the wedding on Thursday and a final push to finish report writing on Friday followed by conking out in the early evening. But hey, I'm fine with 4/7. It's better than 4/31 which is about what I managed last month - not even four I think. I'm still up for it and hope to do better from now on.

Tonight and tomorrow is the festival of Shavuot (lit. Weeks). Traditionally we're celebrating the end of the seven-week grain harvest that started with the barley harvest on Pesach (Passover) and continued with the wheat harvest. Later they tagged celebrating the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai, onto this harvest festival. Lots of eating, especially cheesecake. Again, more about this in its own blog post.

Have a good week y'all.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Paradise On Earth

The view from our hike stroll.

In the Bible, King Saul, Israel's first King, led a charge against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4). The battle ends with the king falling on his own sword and Saul's sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Melchishua being killed in battle (1 Samuel 31:1-4). Wikipedia

At Gan HaMa'ayanot
I call this one "10" 😋
Our Independence Day holiday - Day 2 took us to Paradise on Earth. (See Day 1 here.)Of course you have to earn your place in Paradise - everybody knows that. So before trying to go there we went on a short hike. Normally I hate hiking in Israel because it invariably involves climbing or walking over rocks. Remember this disastrous outing? But this time we walked on a smooth path towards the enchanted natural pools of Gan HaMa'ayanot (Spring Park - as in natural springs).

Entrance is free. You only start paying for things if you visit the shop, the cafe, hire bikes, or pay for a cart to drive you to the springs.

We frolicked in the first pool on the route. DD was't too sure about the tiny fish that come to nibble your feet but you pay a fortune for this treatment at a spa so I was up for it.

You can choose from several routes of varying degrees of length and wetness. You can opt to take the paths between the pools or walk through the streams that connect them. After the first pool we opted to walk straight back to the car and head for the real jewel in the crown.

Sakhne to my left....
Gan Hashlosha (Park of Three, I think it means three pools), also called Sakhne, is a place dear to my heart. When we arrived on our kibbutz in September 1981 for our gap year, one of the very first places they took us to was Sakhne. I have a very clear memory of my future b-i-l and another boy throwing me off the bridge and into the water head first. I was terrified as I fell but then it was fine of course. And though it's one of the most beautiful places in Israel, I've not been back in almost 38 years.

... and Sakhne to my right. 
We were lucky on two accounts. Firstly it was still April so not too hot. And secondly it was the first Friday of Ramadan so it was much less crowded than on a normal Friday. Oh and a third lucky thing - we didn't arrive on the same day that the Azerbaijani contestants recorded their intro video for Eurovision. (Ahh so that's why you recognize it. Yup).

It cost something to get in - I think about 65 shekels per family of two.

And, unlike God, on the third day we rested. except that it was like God because our third day was His seventh ifyswim.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Gan Garoo

The photo on the Reasons 2B Cheerful post on Saturday, mentioned Gan Garoo in the Beit She'an Valley. The valley is part of the Jordan Rift Valley that runs all the way down the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. Beit She'an is just south of the Sea of Galilee.

I love this area of Israel. It's where I spent a year on a kibbutz for my gap year and it's absolutely beautiful in the spring. Luckily our Independence Day was just at the end of springtime, and this is when we have a tradition (of two years standing, lol) to go away for the whole weekend - even if Independence Day doesn't actually fall on or near a weekend. (We take Fridays off school when necessary and it's allowed because Friday school is only until 11.45, the children are in school six days a week, and their only day off is Shabbat when many people don't travel or spend money. And anyway there is no public transport on Shabbat. Everyone agrees that some flexibility is essential.)

So this year, after the Independence Day Eve fireworks and street party in Jerusalem, we traveled up the country on Thursday morning. On the way to our guest house on Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin - actually a delightful cottage in the countryside, we stopped off at Gan Garoo. It's a play on words. Gan means garden and garoo could be 'where they live.' The 'they' in this case is kangaroos, koalas*, and parakeets from Australia. (Although by now all of the animals are several generations born in Israel.)

Israel is anyway replete with eucalyptus trees that were imported over 100 years ago to help drain the swamps. So walking into Gan Garoo was not so different from the animal sanctuary I visited once near Sydney. The Gilboa stood in place of the Blue Mountains, the sky was blue, but it was only a two hour drive to get there as opposed to a 28 hour flight (or flights) to Australia.

*Okay I'm coming clean about the koalas. There weren't any. Apparently the last one died 18 months ago and they are still negotiating getting some more from Australia. But we did walk among the kangaroos. They were mostly dozing in the sun and the children could pet them. I saw one with a joey in her pouch. Who knew that they go in head first with their legs sticking out? (Someone tell E. H. Shepard. I will never trust Little Roo again.)

The children loved feeding the parakeets with bits of apple on sticks. They were very easily bought tame. You just held the food next to your shoulder or arm and there they landed for a perfect photo op. (Not for us - DD and I didn't want any birds landing on us. No thank you.)

The other attractions at the park included a Dinosaur Maze, a children's playground, a picturesque pond with black swans, and a variety of puzzle 'mazes' for the children to work out. And bats which were actually quite fascinating.

The Dinosaur Maze was amazing. (See what I did there? ☺) The paths were like walking through a forest and around every corner was a life-sized model of a dinosaur. Many of them moved and roared or quietly chewed leaves. It was very realistic and sort of thrilling. There were also lots of interesting facts to learn. Well I thought they were interesting. The kids were more interested in getting lost in the maze and trying to find their way out.

Do you know why dinosaur fossils and bones have only been found in Israel near Jerusalem, in the north, and in parts of the Negev Desert? I.e. none in the centre of the country? Here's a hint - the centre of the country is the coastal plain. Here's another hint - Jerusalem, Haifa and the Galil in the north, and parts of the Negev are mountainous. And the final hint - Dinosaurs only lived on land and not in the sea. (Answers on a postcard - the chances of the diabolical Israeli Post Office delivering them is less than 1%.)

I don't know why I don't have any photos of the dinosaurs. I thought I'd take some. Oh well, next time.

We spent a good few hours at Gan Garoo. I don't remember what it cost because a friend of a friend got us reduced tickets through some membership or other. We bought coffee and ice lollies in the shop but rather than picnic in the pretty grounds, we decided to go elsewhere for a proper lunch.

All in all, a great day out and highly recommended. (But you need to avoid it between May and September if you hate extremely hot weather, as we do.)

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Slimming Sunday - Eureka!

I've always known there must be a secret to weight loss yet to be discovered. Now I believe the secret is intermittent fasting. And here's the amazing thing - I discovered it for myself over 40 years ago and I didn't know it! I even went back to it at least twice in my life and still didn't recognize it.

Here's a potted history of my battle with weight. I was slim until the age of 10. In the 1960s there were no snacks in between meals. If I was hungry I could have an apple.

I started putting on weight after a summer camp where I met fresh bread and butter for tea. By the time I came home I was addicted to carbs and comfort eating. Then I found out that there were indeed a stock of snacks at home - I just hadn't noticed them before.

At age 14 I lost weight again through not eating all day and joining the family for supper. OMAD (one meal a day) way before its time.

By 18 and the stress of O'levels and A'levels, I'd got fat again. It wasn't that the work was too hard, it was my chronic procrastination preventing me from doing any of it. I lived with the panic monster permanently in my head. Obviously I tried to appease him with food.

I spent my gap year in Israel. At the beginning of the year I lost weight whilst on an intensive language course at a university near Tel Aviv. It was August. I couldn't bear the heat, I got shouted at in the dining room one day because I only wanted a drink and they thought I was coming back for seconds, I didn't like Israel, I was miserable. However, there was no food with which to comfort eat so I avoided going to the dining room and lost loads of weight.

I arrived at the kibbutz in September, slim and happy. I loved it. But by the end of the year I'd put on weight again. I didn't want to go home fat so for the final month I avoided the dining room again and it worked. I used to pick avocados every day and eat them like apples.

All the weight went back on during college years. I was living with my mother's kitchen again and I'd not resolved the procrastination problem. The panic monster and I ate to survive.

In my mid-twenties I was living in Israel and worked as a tour guide for American teenagers. We spent six weeks touring the country and I made sure I was always busy during mealtimes - the bank, troubleshooting, preparing, listening to someone's problems.... And we were on the go from morning till late at night. I basically fasted for six weeks and lost loads of weight.

The happiness of feeling thin eliminated the need to comfort eat at all. Then my sister got engaged and I had a family wedding coming up. I used to walk everywhere instead of taking the bus. I got a job as tour guide in the summer and spent three months walking around Jerusalem, including hiking up to the Old City and back twice a day. I allowed myself to eat one thing a day. It could be a bag of chips, or a slice of pizza, or a whopping 1500 calorie felafel in pitta with all the trimmings. It didn't matter as long as it was only one meal a day. I was at my slimmest for my sister's wedding. Phew!

At age 34 a boyfriend who I wasn't over, married someone else. I'd order a family pizza and eat it all before going out to supper. That's how much comfort I needed. I put on weight again but managed to get back under control by my 40th birthday with a Slimming World regime. At 46 I had DD and was so happy, the weight just fell off. Then I was a single mother - back it all came and more.

About two years ago, in desperation and after a few false starts with various fads, I started researching a solution. By this time it wasn't only about weight. I knew I was on the brink of serious health issues. Apart from a blood test showing that I was pre-diabetic and high blood pressure for the first time in my life, I have no proof. But believe me, I know. And later down the road I'll write about it in more detail. It had to stop.

Last year I discovered Intermittent Fasting. I bought Dr. Jason Fung's book, The Obesity Code. I devoured the book, I watched all his You Tube videos. I believed he was right because I'd done this exact same method in the past and it always worked.

I played at it for over a year and managed to reverse some of the health issues by intermittent fasting intermittently as well as cutting way down on sugar, trying to limit carbs (not always successfully) and not worrying about natural fats (dairy, olive oil, avocado, nuts, etc...).

However, I couldn't get strictly on the programme. To some extent I was derailed by other theories and noble causes. Veganism and the ketogenic diet being diametrically opposed meant that I kept skipping between them. I believed in them both and I still do to some extent. But you need to choose one diet and stick to it.

Finally I ditched the vegans and the ketogeniuses and concentrated on the fasting. It only took one week of success and I was hooked. Spurred on by the fact that my brother got engaged and there'll be another family wedding in September, I've lost 12 lbs (5.5kg) in five weeks.   

Next Sunday I'll spell out exactly how it worked for me last month. Meanwhile I urge you to watch Dr Fung on You Tube.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

A Million Views! - R2BC

This is where we were when I passed a million views.
Gan Garoo in the Beit She'an Valley
I got stuck in May. Not for want of things to write. I can't tell you the number of times I sat on the bus mentally composing a blog post on recent events or current affairs. And then I just didn't. I could blame it on the unseasonably hot weather we've had this month. Or a work project that I couldn't seem to get going on, but which is now thankfully done and dusted. The end of the academic year demands to write exams, reports, and semester summaries whilst simultaneously planning summer courses and next semester. The students who didn't pace themselves with online courses and are now throwing 10 tasks at me for grading all at once, because they want to graduate by the end of the semester.... The list goes on. Suffice to say: All of the above.

But it's June 1st and I'm back. Not just back but really back. I missed blogging. I'd hate certain events of the past month not to be recorded on the blog. I also met a few people at a recent wedding who said they follow the blog and enjoy reading about our life. So I'm committing to a daily blog for the month of June. I know that's easy to say on a lazy Saturday morning after a good long night's sleep. However, it's what I want to do so I'm giving it a go.

Whilst I was snoozing, this blog passed the one million views mark. I'd been waiting for it for a couple of months. I was eagerly anticipating the bells and whistles when it happened. I was looking forward to blogging about it. Then it happened during the weekend we were away, and so I missed it. Oh well, I'm telling you now. And actually, so what? It's not about the numbers, it's about the words, right?

So back on topic. Here are a list of my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. I'm joining the linky, after several weeks of missing it (sorry I flaked out on you Becky). For the month of June it's over at Mich's Mummy from the Heart. 

1. I finished that big work project and sent it in, did all the editing they asked for, and hopefully I can just sit back and wait to be paid for it now.

2. I'm back blogging with enthusiasm. I lost my blogging mojo there for a while but it's back.

3. The blog passed the 1,000,000 views mark!

4. June is the final push before the Summer Holidays. I don't care that I have two degrees and earn less than a... a ... another person who left school at 16 and did something more lucrative. I have July and August. And in fact, college teaching is only from October to mid- June so I'm laughing. Now don't get me wrong - I work over the summer. I run online summer courses. But it's flexible work and most of it at home. I chose time over money and I'm good with that choice.

5. I lost almost a stone in weight in May. Final weigh-in tomorrow morning. I did intermittent fasting. More about that tomorrow.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week.
Until tomorrow...