Saturday, May 30, 2020

So-So Sushi - R2BC

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. The linky link-up is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum

We made sushi
DD loves the sushi from the very expensive sushi place near us. It's the equivalent of £10 for six little sushi rolls. So we decided to make it ourselves.

I bought the rolling mat, the nori sheets, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. We have rice and we have cucumbers. I'm nervous about using raw fish from the supermarket frozen section so I didn't defrost the salmon we have in the freezer. Nor did a buy very expensive fresh salmon or tuna for this experiment. Instead I bought the mock-crab sticks that one of the sushi-making videos on You Tube used.

I cooked the rice. DD was offended by the smell of the rice vinegar that you're supposed to add to it. Honestly, I only added a bit. She refused to even taste the mock-crab let alone put it in her sushi. I made mine first with the mock-crab. I took a nice photo and ate it. It was ok.

Then DD made hers with just cucumber and rice inside. First she rejected the soy sauce. Then she rejected her sushi rolls. She ate the leftover cucumber, took a packet of crisps, and that was lunch.

I ate my sushi, DD's sushi except for one roll, some of the leftover rice, and a couple more mock-crab sticks. Then I threw away all the leftovers including the rest of the mock-crab sticks which have the texture of the cheapest vegetarian hot-dogs with a slight fishy taste. Ugh.

You might wonder why I'm so cheerful about all this? Well, we tried making shushi and we can do it. It's easy. I now have the equipment and most of the ingredients. I'll try making it again with more vegetables inside including avocado when they're back in season. Or not.

DD has crossed this expensive (when bought ready made) item off her limited menu of acceptable meals. I think I've gone off it a bit too.

Meals with friends
It was the festival of Shavuot (Weeks, Pentecost, The Giving of the Torah) on Thursday night and Friday. Thursday night was dinner with friends. It was a small gathering as a nod to the restricted socializing guidelines. This was the first time I'd been anywhere besides the mini supermarket around the corner for 2.5 months. I am now so unfit that after walking home and up the three flights of stairs to my apartment I was totally puffed. This was probably also due to the amount of delicious food consumed and alcohol for the first time since March.

Yesterday we went to another friend for lunch. More good company and more delicious food.

After today's sushi, that's it. I'm not eating until Rosh Hashana (New Year) in September.

We love the game Catan. My nephews in London play it every Friday night after dinner with the whole family including Grandma. I wanted to get it for us here in Israel. I hesitated because to bring the English version back with us might limit the enjoyment for DD's Israeli friends. Even though the reading is minimal - just the knight cards and the development cards and you can get away with not even using them. Otoh, I'm not comfortable with the Hebrew version. Unless we don't bother with the knights or the development cards, but that limits the depth of the game.

Yesterday after lunch we played Catan at our friends' house. It was the Hebrew version and I was delighted to see that it has both English and Hebrew on all the cards and instructions. We are so getting Catan.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

R2BC - Memory Lane

The once private fields behind my Mum's place,
 although we always went there for walks,
has become an official Country Park.
It's on my list of first places to go when we can travel again. 
I wasn't going to write a Reasons 2B Cheerful post this week as I couldn't think of anything to write. We're cheerful enough but there's nothing happening. And then, suddenly, a few things happened.

Childhood Memories
I got a message from an old friend from my childhood community, telling me about some members who have sadly passed away from the coronavirus. I was particulalry shocked and upset by one of the names - a man not much younger than me who I remember as a young boy.

I wrote a facebook message including a number friends from the old days and we reminisced for a bit. Then Daniel came up with the idea of opening a facebook group for anyone who grew up in our synagogue in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Within a few hours we had over 100 members.

Stanmore Synagogue was the heart of our lives back then. We went there for services on Saturday, Hebrew classes on Sunday morning and after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Mondays we went there for Brownies and then Girl Guides. The only day I wasn't in the building was Wednesdays and Fridays (and I sometimes did go to the Friday night service). During the week more than half the children from synagogue went with us to the local primary school and after we left, my mother taught there for 20 years.

It's been a blast catching up and awakening old memories, remembering names and events. Turns out that every single one of us hated those Hebrew classes three times a week. But hey, we can all read Hebrew and sing the Hebrew prayers in synagogue.

Thank you Daniel.

I am going back to school next week.
Not only am I returning to school but the school year and my contract has been extended until July 13th (instead of June 30th) so I will be paid for six weeks that I had assumed wouldn't happen. I spoke to my head of department and some teachers are back, some are not, some children are not coming back because school is not compulsory atm, the original timetable doesn't exist as each class is working in a bubble scheduling their own breaks, etc... it's all a bit of a mess and very difficult for the subject teachers to schedule lessons. I'll fit in wherever needed and play it by ear. I'm glad to be going back though. I've missed them.

I found this detective series set in rural North Wales, on Netflix. I'm enjoying it very much and learning some Welsh along the way.

The Weather
After a week of 37-38C temperatures, the weather broke and today there was rain (not in my neighbourhood but close) and a massive wind storm. Loving the cold weather. (FYI it's 20C. In Israel in May we call this cold weather.)

That's it folks. The R2BC linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum, as usual. 
Have a good week and stay safe.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Is It Over? - R2BC

One single poppy
(There was a live concert in the street below.
Not much social distancing.
Israelis are largely voting with their feet on that.)
Here are this week's Reasons 2B Cheerful. It's an interesting exercise to come up with things when you only venture outside twice a week to go to the supermarket. Thank goodness for facebook and zoom. And You Tube and Netflix of course. The Linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum if you want to see what other cheerful bloggers have been getting up to.

Schools Return
All schools go back this week. DD starts on Monday. So no splitting classes but there will be staggered playtimes, personal distancing as much as possible, no sharing food or touching, and masks worn all day. It's going to be 37C for most of this week but the classrooms do have A/C.

Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I know three people who died of covid-19. And another seven people who are immediate relatives of friends. But not in Israel. Otoh, we still have over 3,000 active cases in Israel and the whole pandemic started from one person.

DD is more than excited so this is a reasons 2B cheerful for her.

I don't return to school because the foundation that pays me isn't reinstating their teachers yet. I teach the native English speakers so I'm considered extra-curricula. I'm wondering if they will take us back at all this year as their academic year stops with the colleges at the beginning of June (I don't usually finish the school year). It's a big cut in money but, otoh, we're spending very little atm. I don't really mind. I take a 40 minute bus ride to school and work closely with young children. I'd rather feel safe. But obviously I'll do as I'm told.

Family Quiz Night
My nephews organized a family quiz night on Thursday. We were five teams in four locations and each team made a round of five questions. There ended up being a couple of extra rounds and up to 10 questions were accepted. It was fun. DD and I came bottom.

One Poppy
Over a month after the official poppy season in Israel, one single poppy appeared in my meadow (planting box). It was beautiful. It was only there for a week and now it's gone. Such is life.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mothers' Day On Social Media

Mothers' Day a million years ago
Today is the American (some say Hallmark) holiday of Mothers' Day. Several of my friends on facebook felt the need to acknowledge that Mothers' Day can be a difficult day for many. The childless, those who have lost children, are estranged from their child, or estranged from their mother, those who have lost their mother...

I get it. It sometimes feels awkward to be happy in the face of others who are suffering over this very issue that we are celebrating. This is one of the reasons why Israel changed its Mothers Day
to Family Day. But this also isn't 100% comfortable. Why shouldn't mothers, in the one job with no days off during the year, have a special day to celebrate their unique role?

When we post photos of a fabulous wedding, do we feel the need to acknowledge singles who are lonely and desperately searching for their soul-mate or secretly wistful over the wedding they never had?

New baby photos, Bar and Bat Mitzva photos, wedding anniversaries. These are all events that will pass some people by and cause them pain.

I once wrote a blog post about how it took me time to work out how to live in my apartment and arrange it comfortably. I received a comment telling me not to be so spoilt as there are many people who would love to be home owners but can't see any way of making that ever happen. It was a fair point but does that mean I can never write anything about how I love my home? I don't believe this. I think I just caught her on a sensitive day.

However, during this lockdown I began to feel funny about people posting their children playing in their gardens or of taking walks in nearby country locations. Even a photo of us enjoying lunch on our balcony seemed like a poke in the eye to all the city folk in flats without any outside space.

I admitted a couple of times that I've enjoyed this time at home with DD. Woops. Sorry sorry sorry. I know there are whole large families in smaller apartments than ours. I know others have lost their jobs and are worried about paying the rent or mortgage, or cannot even pay for food. I know that more than a quarter of a million people have lost loved ones. I know all this. So should I just keep my mouth shut rather than admit that I've enjoyed this extreme slowness of pace?

When I wrote a blog post about amazing things people have done during lockdown, there was a reminder to spare a thought for those who couldn't. I was told that some people were struggling. Gosh it's exhausting to consider the whole of humanity every time you write a comment. And yet, I wasn't being asked to consider the whole of humanity, just those who started in similar situations to myself but are now struggling. But why only them?

In Israel we are in a transitional period in which immediate families are allowed to get together. It means that children and grandchildren can now go to Grandma's house. I saw photos of family gatherings with the grandparents, adult siblings, and cousins all having a whale of a time together. We have no immediate family in Israel and I felt it. For us there is no transitional period, either we can socialise with friends or we're in the same isolation as we've been in for the past two months.

Is it the responsibility of social media not to cause distress in these ways? Every time we post a comment from a position of happiness, good luck, thankfulness, or celebration, should we temper it with an acknowledgement that others don't have what we have? In some ways that's worse. Patronizing even. Should we not post happy things at all? That would make social media a pretty depressing place to be. Unless we took out the social bit altogether and just called it media for information and discussion. 

When we celebrated VE Day on Friday, there was a two minute silence for those who gave their lives to fight for our freedom and for those who lost their lives during that fight. Then we partied without guilt because it happened three generations ago. I wonder if everyone celebrated to the same extent on that first VE Day 75 years ago. I imagine not.

So it's not social media, it's the human experience. Or rather the human experiences. Everyone's experience is different. Some people have truly wretched lives. More often than not life's not fair. We know this and I have no empty platitudes to attempt making it seem otherwise.

I say celebrate at every opportunity. If your child pampers you on Mothers Day, enjoy it and thank him or her with a hug and a smile. If you do Mothers' Day (our family never has) call your mother and tell her personally. Does it mean more if you announce it to your 500 followers and friends on social media? Personally I think not, but if it does, then put it out there. I'm not the social media police, just offering some food for thought.

Friday, May 8, 2020

VE Day (Victory and Vegetables) - R2BC

Potatoes, tomatoes, oranges and lemons! Thanks Esther!
The biggest Reason 2B Cheerful today is that it's VE Day - Victory in Europe. If VE had not been won our lives would have been very different. And as a Jew, I might not have even been born. I'm sorry that all the street parties and public celebrations in the UK were canceled, although rightly so. No nation does street parties like the British!

A few weeks ago I ordered a vegetable box delivery  from Kibbutz Alumim, where my friends live. It was fabulous and very reasonably priced. Since then they've been continuing the box deliveries but as a family of two, we really didn't need a whole box of vegetables every week. Yesterday there was a knock on the door and my friend Esther, who lives on the kibbutz, was standing there, in a mask,  with a box of fruit and veg.

They are discontinuing the service now that the schools are going back (the surplus was from the dormant school lunch contracts) but they had some produce left over in Jerusalem. Esther took a box, divided it up between some of her Jerusalem friends, and made personal deliveries. Thanks Esther! (Note to self: Don't think you can not clean the bathroom because no one is coming to visit.)

In other news. I really enjoyed the enormous storm we had on Wednesday. Sheets of rain, thunder and lightning and heavy winds into the night. It might have been the last big storm of the year and was certainly very unusual for May. But what is usual these days? (Update: I just looked at the weather app and scattered thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow. Here's hoping.)

Another of my daily app checks is the level of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). It's only 11 cm below the upper red line. So exciting when you live in a desert.

Last but not least. Having put on loads of weight during the first six weeks of lockdown, I finally brought myself under control and went back to Intermittent Fasting. So fast so good.

Have a good week yourself and check out the linky on Becky's Lakes Single Mum for more cheerful blog posts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Eight Lockdown Initiatives

Angie Bunny ready for Independence Day
We hear about the selfless work of those in caring professions and medical professions. We know the teachers are working hard, people in essential services have never stopped going into work, people are working from home, students are studying, and parents are providing non-stop support (and food) for their families.

What of those who found time on their hands at home during the lockdown? Many of us have watched far too much tv, eaten far too much, maybe cleaned our homes, maybe read a few books, indulged in loads of social media. However, I am impressed and inspired by others who have used the time to do something different.

Here are eight lockdown initiatives that have crossed my facebook feed.

Funky Face Masks by Yael Katz
1. Yael Katz is a kindergaten teacher in Jerusalem who right from the beginning was making crafting videos and storytime videos for young children. Then she started using her sewing skills to make fun and fancy face masks. People started donating material and so far she's made hundreds.

2. Charlotte got her paints out and is creating a set of portraits of each of her four children. It's a hobby but she's really good. And what a great gift to herself to keep forever.

3. Annabelle Landgarten is a professional story teller in Jerusalem. During lockdown she has been Telling Tales for adults on a weekly facebook video. There's one tonight, Wednesday 6th May, at 9pm Israel time (GMT+3) on Face Book Live. Check it out.
Lemon Macarons by Yael Stekel Gabbai
Sweet Art Creations

4. Yael Stekel Gabbai had a cake making business before Corona, Sweet Art Creations. She's used this time to perfect new skills and increase her repertoire. Yael has posted her new creations daily and her daughters have got into the act too. She'll be ready to hit the ground running with a family enterprise as soon as we're allowed out.

Scrubs for the NHS by Amanda Phillips

5. Zia Jaffe owns the famous Sefer VeSefel (Book and [Coffee] Cup) Secondhand book shop in Jerusalem. It's open again now but during the lockdown Zia made weekly book vlogs. She told us what she's reading, recommended books, chatted about the situation, and generally entertained in her engaging and witty way. Zia, Corona should end but the vlogs should continue - you're a natural.

6. My Sister-in-law Alyson is working through a new cookery book by her favourite chef, Rukmini Iyer. The book was a gift from my brother. More than one person has pointed out that it was more of a gift for himself in the grand scheme of things. Clever man. The photos look amazing. Add a blog and we could have the next Julie&Julia effect.

7. Amanda Phillips in London, is making scrubs for the NHS out of old sheets. I understand that NHS staff have been asked to source their own scrubs, which they have to change several times a day. So this is a big help for people on the front lines. I like Amanda's scrubs better than the usual plain colours.

NHS staff grateful for new scrubs
from Amanda Phillips

8. Deborah Nathan made Angie Bunny from the designs of Mo Malron ( @crochetobjet ) . Every day she adds a new outfit for Angie, including an Independence day outfit, exercise gear, 1970s retro style, pyjamas and lots more. It's a lot of fun and we all want an Angie Bunny now.

Angie 1970s retro style
made by Deborah Nathan

Friday, May 1, 2020

Back To School On Sunday?

School - so near and yet so far
There were news reports early in the week that Kindergarten to 3rd Grade, and 11th and 12th Grades, would return to school on Sunday, 3rd May.

Facebook was full of it of course. I'd say there was about a 50-50 split of parents who were for it and those who said it was too soon. And all the parents who were for it weren't 100% convinced either. As usual, those with children in that age bracket who needed to go back to work, didn't have a choice. Those with money (either savings or with desk jobs that can be done from home) to see them through another month were able to make their own decisions. Not to mention the gap in mental health between those with outside space and those without. Bottom line - we are not all in the same boat.

On Wednesday elementary schools were told to prepare for Sunday. Kindergartens are deleted from the equation - enforcing social distancing on 3 - 7s isn't practical. The final decision was made today, Friday, and we're still on. I don't believe this is the final decision but I've been wrong before.

Apparently (I didn't hear it myself but someone posted it on Facebook so believe it or not) they felt compelled to ease restrictions because they think that if they don't, there will be serious unrest and actions against the government. It's the economy stupid.

Other news reports say social distancing is falling apart in many places and the government has lost control over it. Lifting restriction on babysitters, how many families can share childcare, opening high street shops, and easing permitted travel distance, have all helped to erode any sense of logic. Although I am sticking to the rules, I can understand others who won't not go to the park with their kids when people can go to IKEA. (News flash - a corona positive man from Jerusalem spent an hour in IKEA in Rishon on Monday. So there you go.)

A poll found that the biggest hurdle to returning to work is the lack of childcare. The classes are being split into halves (no more than 15 children in a class) so there's only room for half a school to return. They assume that 4th - 6th Graders can be left alone, or with siblings, while the parents go to work. My 6th Grader can but I didn't leave her for more than a couple of hours when she was 9.

In my school the following measures are in place. 1st Graders will enter the school via the top gate, the others by the bottom gate. No parents are allowed on the premises. The class teacher will team up with a subject teacher and teach half the class at a time. No other teachers will be with each class. (The class teachers for 4th - 6th Grades will continue with distance learning.) Only one child per table. Playtimes will be staggered and masks worn during the breaks only. There was some more about the toilets and hand washing.

Many parents are scared and not sending their children. Some children live in families with at risk members. Some teachers live with at risk family members or are at risk themselves. So it's not compulsory. Teachers can opt to take sick leave although there is a certain amount of pressure not to.

My take is that it's a national experiment, with the children as the subjects. If it were known to be safe then everyone would go back. The economy has trumped health with the safety net of restricted school so that the hospitals will be able to handle a modest spike in corona cases.

As an overweight, older mother of an only child, single parent, with no immediate family in the country, this does not reassure me. I'm glad my 11 year old is in 6th Grade (and I am on unpaid leave from school) so I don't have to decide whether to allow her (or me) to be part of the experiment. But if I did have to decide... we have a balcony, I have enough money for another month in lockdown, and we are two people in a not tiny living space. I won't judge.