Monthly Archives: February 2013

System Failure 651

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As a self confessed luddite I thought nothing of it when my home internet went down last week.  Little did I know the knock on effect after 5 days internet free.  Handily at the same time no.2 son got hold of my iphone and dropped it, duly smashing the screen so I have been 100% disconnected.

My major upsets so far;

I miss my daily Facebook updates from friends and family overseas.  I may have mentioned before the importance of hearing the mundane from your home country when you live overseas.  Little Charlie went to the zoo today, John and Jill had pizza for dinner and Gareth doesn’t like his neighbours.  Important information I think.

I rely wholly on skype to chat to family and friends; no internet = no contact.  (obviously picking up the phone or texting is out of the question)

As a newly converted kindle fanatic I can’t buy new reading material without internet access. As my husband remarked as I was flicking through an old paperback “what’s that you’re holding?”

I am relying on Sky and BBC international TV for my news, not the numerous online newspapers I usually headline read – makes for an interesting outlook on world events

I found myself more than a little concerned that I couldn’t check out the Oscar winners and the fashion choices of the stars. (Does that make me shallow?)

My work is obviously suffering, I am well and truly behind on a deadline and my new business venture is being set back; trying to decide how a website looks through the cracked screen of an iphone is not terribly beneficial.

I feel cut off, a little jumpy, perhaps I am missing something, perhaps someone is looking for me.  Probably not.  When I choose to be offline I don’t miss it, but as this cyber exile is not self imposed it’s suprising the effect it’s having on me.

Luckily today the iphone is fixed and I am tapping away on a borrowed pc. I feel calmer and more in control.  Seriously, how did I manage before the internet, or rather look how addicted I have become to the internet.  Is this an addiction or just reliance and is it something I should try to work on along with the other 50 million self improvements I have been promising myself? Sod it.  Someone just help me fix the thing and let me get on with my cyber life. Please, I may go out and I need the internet to tell me what I should wear.

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Have a little patience

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Savlanoot, one of the first words they teach you in the Ulpan – the first stop for all keen new arrivals to Israel’s fair shores.  Savlanoot means patience and as most Israelis will admit, is something you don’t see much evidence of on the streets here.  Remember the driving post?  Why wait patiently when you can lean on your horn, shout, ram into the back of someone, why go the correct but long way round when you can drive the wrong way up a one way street?  Same applies in supermarket lines (the supermarket being just about the only place you will see a line), I have been crushed by an old lady’s trolley in her haste to make it to the check out first, what did I say to her? “savlanoot”.

Recently they have installed self check outs in some of the big supermarkets here.  More fool the supermarkets.  Trolleys full of weekly shops bumping and grinding into one another whilst impatient shoppers try to figure out why the machines won’t work – you can’t fit a trolley full of shopping on a small shelf “unexpected item in the bagging area” – yes that’s the shopper’s bored small child trying to get into the bag. There is a sign saying no more than 15 items but is basically ignored.  A self check out requires patience at the best of times; the computer gets confused, the user gets confused, how do you delete something youscanned twice by accident ?- add a dash of I know better than the check out girl (or boy), a sprinkling of disregard for those queuing behind them and a gigantic dollop of impatience and you have supermarket meltdown.  Wish I would remember this and just go to the regular check out.

Unlike the word patience in English, savlanoot is most often used as an instruction eg all 3 kids want to be first out/in the car/house/bath/fridge so yelling “savlanoot” is rather like “hang on” or “wait” in English.  Obviously I never yell at my 3 childers, I tell them calmly, whilst at their level, in even tones.

On arrival in Israel I had bags of savlanoot, I could have shared it around I was so well endowed with savlanoot.  Not so much 8 years on.  Obviously I can’t lay the blame entirely on Israeli culture, 3 very small childers stretches anyones patience.  Mix the two together and you have me as I am today.  Not an ounce of savlanoot, in fact I wonder if anger management classes would be of benefit.  My new look blog site is the case in point of my new-found impatience.  Having fiddled around for at least an hour trying to change the site’s background, font colour etc I basically got annoyed with it (myself) for not being able to do what I wanted, I ran out of patience and what you see is how it turned out.    Comments/advice gratefully received.

Mine’s a G & T thanks Kate

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Kate Middleton, Princess, Duchess, whatever you want to call her, I love her.  She seems like a nice grl, she wears nude tights which is weird and her shoe collection should be more Princess worthy but no need to attack her.  I don’t understand why she deserves such negative press.  Leave her alone.  Luckily for me it appears that someone in Israel is just as fond of her as I am.  I wonder if I’ll bump into her if I become a member?

Middleton bar Petach Tikva

Yum, Treats for Purim

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Continuing on with the Purim theme I feel the need to introduce those of you not familiar with the treat that fills my local bakeries and coffee shops at this time of year; Oznei Haman or Hamantaschen.   Hamantaschen is Yiddish for Haman’s pockets and Oznei Haman in Hebrew literally translated means Haman’s ears.   Google it and there are a number of explanations as to why these delish biscuits are called this, none of which is the one I heard first and has stuck in my head – Haman (the baddy in yesterday’s story) was punished for his treachery towards the Jews by being hung from a tree by his ears.  This explanation doesn’t actually explain why the biscuits have 3 corners (maybe he had 3 ears?) and so obviously I heard it from someone even less informed than myself.  The real reason is either to do with the 3 cornered hat he wore, the 3 corners representing the 3 founders of Judaism, or more gruesomely because the tradition at the time was to chop off one’s ears before hanging (still not sure why 3).  Nice.

So to the biscuits.  Husband is a pastry chef and a pretty good one at that, so he is a reliable source for a recipe.  This morning he duly trooped number 1 son and his baking equipment to the nursery to demonstrate the making of said biscuits.  Poor man has had some worries about the demo, not least because there are 35 4 year olds in the nursery but also because there were nut allergies, milk allergies, gluten allergies a-plenty and he was convinced just a sniff of flour, butter or milk could have disastrous consequences.  Once the recipe had been altered to cater for all, he reported that it was a great success with no. 1 son on a high (not from the sugar but from the kudos of having his Dad at the nursery), and all the kids joining in with no casualties.  Judging by the state of his chef’s clothes it was a pretty messy affair.

I am assured they are pretty easy to make (so kid friendly) although I cannot attest to this – why bake when your husband’s a pastry chef? – what I can 100% verify is that they are yummy and once you start munching it’s difficult to stop – but you should because they are chock full of all the stuff that’s bad for you.  Here is the recipe (the original), courtesy of husband.

oznei haman

photo:Tali Schiffer

Award winning Oznei Haman:

For the biscuit (makes 25):-
  • 500g plain white flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 180g icing sugar
  • 350g butter
  • 2 medium eggs (120 grams)

Preparing the dough:-

Blend the dry ingredients in a mixer and add the cold butter gradually until mixture has a sandy texture.  Add the eggs and blend until a dough begins to form.  Take the dough and wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Filling suggestions:-

Traditional poppy seed filling:-

  • 200g of ground poppy seeds
  • 180ml milk
  • 125ml cream
  • 200g sugar

Preparing poppy seed filling:- Bring milk cream and sugar to the boil, add poppy seeds and re-boil, simmer until poppy seeds are completely soft.  Cool thoroughly before putting on dough.

Chocolate cream filling:-

  • 420ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 60g cornflour
  • 35g butter
  • 250g bitter chocolate

Preparing choc cream filling:- Bring vanilla extract, half the milk and sugar to boil and aset aside,  whisk egg yolks with other half of sugar till pale, seive in cornflour and whisk, add hot liquid to eggs gradually until 1/3 liquid is in egg mixture, pour all mixture back into pan and heat whisking all the time until it comes to boil (like custard).  Take off heat, add butter and whisk. Pour into bowl with chocolate in it, whisk choc into custard.  Cool with cling film on the top.  This mixture can be kept up to 3 days.

Assembling the biscuits:- Roll out refrigerated dough and cut out circles of about 7 cms in diameter. Add 2 teaspoons of the filling of choice and fold over the outside edges of the circle to form a triangle pocket, squeezing the three corners of dough to hold the shape. You should be able to see a little of the filling in the centre of the triangle (see picture).

For best results refrigerate the unbaked biscuits for 2 – 3 hours before baking for 12 – 15 minutes in 170 deg oven until golden brown

Enjoy!

Just a brilliant disguise

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IMG_0156It’s Purim next Sunday and in Israel it is Purim week.  Purim is actually only one day, but as any parent of young children in Israel knows, the party starts now.  You could also ask any parent of a young child in Israel how they are feeling about Purim by Wednesday and they might possibly admit that they are a bit tired of it.  The reason?  Costumes.

Purim is a celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree by Haman, Prime Minister to King Ahaseurus to destroy them.  The story is from the Book Of Esther, where it tells of the plot by Haman against the Jews which was thwarted by Mordechai and his adopted daughter, Esther.  The full story should be told by someone far more knowledgeable than I so I will jump to the end of the story where the King discovers Mordechai has saved his life by foiling a plot to kill him, Haman’s true colours are revealed and is duly executed and Esther is the girl of the King’s dreams. In gratitude to Mordechai the King allows him to write a new decree which allows the Jewish people to preemptively destroy those who were going to attack them, thereby saving the Jews. Please don’t complain about my simplistic story telling – it is in a nutshell and I am no expert. (Follow the red highlighted links above to websites who are better informed than I)

The idea behind the costume is that the story contains many elements of disguise: The belief that God was disguised in the forces that brought about the safety of the Jews and the non-Jews disguised themselves as Jews when the new decree was made in order to save themselves.  As with most religious festivals the real reasons behind the customs are somewhat forgotten over time (Christmas anyone?) but the customs remain, so at Purim people dress up.  Or, if you are between the age of 2 and 10 you dress up for a week, in a different costume, every day, for a week, causing your parents aggravation and stress, for a week …for a week.

I had never heard of Purim when I first arrived in Israel and my first experience of it was seeing children in fancy dress on their way to school.  To see an 8-year-old dressed as Santa Claus in Israel in February was quite a surprise.  Before the children we celebrated Purim by going out in the evening dressed up in lame costumes.  I went to a party one year as Mary Quant.  I thought it was a great costume – but no-one knew who I was supposed to be.  They possibly presumed I was a hospital patient, pale pink lipstick is not for everyone’s complexion.

Purim is also celebrated with alcohol, in fact over indulgence is encouraged, apparently it is the only Jewish festival where you should drink  -until you forget who you are (there’s that disguise thing again).  Not one to be short of an excuse for alcohol I embraced this part of the celebration.  Now that I have to source multiple costumes for multiple children I will curtail my alcohol intake.

So costumes for today, number 1 son is costume-less and the twins have gone to nursery in their pyjamas.  Not as easy as you may  think, wake them up, wash, breakfast and out the door?  No, unfortunately due to rubbish nappies, yes Huggies I am talking to you, that meant full strip, full wash, full change into another pair of pjs.  Of course being the bad mama that I am I didn’t have the favourite pjs freshly laundered so no.2 son has gone in his brother’s dirty Thomas the Tank engine top (fresh from the bottom of the dirty washing basket)  and Princess no.1 daughter is sporting leggings and a too small pj top with fairies on it.  Of course they both took their sleep companions, teddy and dolly so God help us all come 7.30pm if bad mama has left them at nursery by mistake.

I am reliably informed that each day at nursery has a different theme but as my Hebrew reading is abysmal my little ones could well turn up as King and Queen on the wrong day.  Oh well, they won’t remember when they are 15, or will they?  The culmination of this dressing up frenzy is Friday when they will all wear their official Purim costumes, that’s 2 Spidermen and a princess for us.  We only have 1 Spiderman mask so I am gearing myself up for Friday’s meltdown already.  It will also finally make sense for no.2 son to run up to random people at bus stops and minding their own business walking down the street, shouting, ‘I’m Spiderman’, it’s been a bit difficult explaining to confused (and scared) people for the last month.

Happy Purim everyone.015

Jiggety Jog

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As the plane touches down in Israel, especially if you fly with Israel’s airline, the passengers applaud.  The first time I heard it was the first time I visited in Israel way back in the late 90’s and I figured I’d missed something – we were about to crash and the pilot had saved us? – in fact it’s for a much more heart warming reason.  People are just happy to be here.  For many, coming to Israel is a homecoming in the spiritual and the literal sense.  Not only for the Israelis coming home but for the thousands of Jews visiting the Jewish homeland, the Christians coming on a pilgrimage and the tourists who come to visit one of the most hotly debated yet arguably one of the most religious country in the world – for the 3 largest religions.

As I looked around the plane last night I saw just what a big deal it was for many of my fellow passengers.  Hasidic Jews alongside nuns, a couple of priests, an elderly group of Christians and a group of Jewish teenagers from the States on their first visit.  Amongst the business passengers and the visitors coming to their holiday homes there were many who were experiencing the awe you cannot help but feel when you first come here – infamous, historical, Holy; some people dream of praying at the Western Wall, attending worship on the shores of the Galilee.  To them a trip here is a lifetime goal.

Not so much for me, my emotions were somewhat mixed;  I was beyond excited about being back with my husband and children again having left them all for the first time on a trip to my particular homeland,  however,  to come back to the everyday stresses of living here after a whirlwind 4 days of ease; seeing friends and family, talking to people without concentrating, was hard.

As an ex-pat I am caught between the dream and promise of a new life and the reality of being the outsider, the dream of going home to my extended family where everything is familiar and the reality (in my case) of cold, grey weather and double dip recession.

I didn’t applaud when I landed but when my three little ones ran towards me in arrivals with I Love You balloons and screams of ‘where are our presents’ (in Hebrew) I did wipe away a little tear of happiness.  Home again, home again jiggety jog.

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Sunshine and Oranges

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IMG_0098Forget what you know about Israel, go on, try.  Just for a moment put to one side the religions and the politics and the trouble, forget the fear and the anger and the sadness.  Just for a moment picture Israel as simply a piece of land, call it by another name, ignore the borders:  The blue sky, the sparkling sea, the warm February sun.  Smell the oranges in the groves and taste the strawberries, the grapefruit and the lemons, see the flowers and breathe the warm air.  The fights, the troubles and worries can wait for a moment whilst we admire a perfect February day.

Homeward Bound

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Youth is a state of mind.  I know you know that but it’s taken me a while to see it.  It doesn’t matter how you look (although it helps), it doesn’t matter if you are married, single, divorced, have kids, not have kids.  Its all in your head, or maybe just mine.

You may not want to be 16 or 26 again but wouldn’t it be nice to have that feeling of youth?  That ‘I want to dance and even if I look stupid it doesn’t matter’ feeling.  Maybe you have it.  I categorically don’t.  Recently I was at a gig – I even feel old saying that word.  It was a small affair in a small venue and the age group was predominantly under 30.  I spotted a number of ‘I am young and I don’t care’ outfits; the patchwork flowery waistcoat (on a male) gave it away, the smell coming from some energetic dancers was also a telling sign, the fact that they were dancing at all was evidence enough;  I shuffle, if I’m pushed (literally) or sense I look more conspicuous if I keep still.

I am trying to pinpoint the time when I lost the ability to  throw shapes on a dance floor just for the madonnasheer enjoyment of it.  Once in an outdoor nightclub in Turkey I remember dancing to Beyonce with a feeling of utter joy – I was certainly crazy right then – I didn’t give a hoot who saw me or how terrible my dancing was.  I was young, I was on holiday and I simply didn’t care.  I wonder if that’s how Madonna feels all the time.  What other reason could she have for flashing her bits on stage or wearing high cut leotards at 54?  oh yes she’s Madonna.

The question therefore has to be how do I get it back – not that I am planning on wearing a leotard any time soon.  I know people older than me who act and feel young.  I know younger people than me who act and feel old.   Perhaps the responsibility that comes with age is the reason and waistcoat wearing stinky dancers at gigs just haven’t got to the stage of  responsibility yet.  

ozricI will soon be away from my usual responsibilities of life, alone in my old home town with old friends.  Will I catch a glimpse of the young me and be able to harness it and bring it back to real life? We’ll see.  Lets hope I don’t stop washing and buy some suspect Ozric Tentacles waistcoat in Camden Market whilst I am away in a flush of re(un)discovered youth.

This will be the first time in 5 years I have been back and I am getting nervous – can you tell?  I’m not sure why, apart from the obvious fear of not knowing my way around the tube or getting lost in Soho.  Possibly the real fear is that everything will have changed and I am subconsciously expecting it all to feel the same.  The UK is not the country it was 8 years ago when I left, nor is London the same city I knew and loved.  However some of the people I love are there and changed or not I can’t wait to see them.  I may feel older but I am also wiser and some reminiscing over a glass of wine (no pints of Stella for me these days) could well be just the ticket to rediscovering the feeling of youth.  London here I come.

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