Category Archives: celebrations

What a difference a decade makes

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Ten years ago today I said good-bye to my family and friends and boarded a plane for the Holy Land. I was about to embark on a journey of life, of discovery, of fear, loathing and love. Ten years on, 3 children, 3 conflicts, 3 homes and a lot poorer I can honestly say that I have some of the best friends I could have ever imagined, I have tasted a life I never would have imagined and I am certainly not the naive small town girl I was back then.

In December 2004 I had been married just 4 months and had lived as a married woman with my husband for 1 week before his visa required he returned to his native land. We had spent the 7 years previous working towards the end goal; marriage, family and a life together in one of our countries.

I arrived to blue skies and bright sunshine, a far cry from the grey, damp, drizzle of the UK and was filled with hope and dreams for our new life together. I was still at the stages of checking my wedding ring finger and admiring the shiny rings. I was excited, but also I was scared. What if I never spoke the language, what if I couldn’t find a job? What if this place was just. too. foreign? It was, not so much now.

Our first few weeks were spent at the apartment of very generous and welcoming friends, sleeping in their spare room and seeing each other every now and then. Husband was, at the time, working as a pastry chef in a newly opened restaurant and that meant long hours, day and night. I was on my own. Luckily our friends lived near Tel Aviv’s large and luscious park and I spent many an afternoon with a book or a journal, marvelling at the sunshine and the parrots and acclimatizing myself to the Middle East. Each morning I rode our friend’s bike to the Ulpan, the Hebrew school for new immigrants (you may remember the comedy of errors that experience was). I met people from around the globe, 1 of which has become a great friend and ally here.

In lieu of my husband the weekends were spent with his friends, one in particular who became my regular date for nights out, coffee shop meetings and cinema trips. Seems like as good a time as any to say thank you, your friendship was and still is invaluable.

We finally found an apartment to rent, close to my newly beloved park and I set about setting up home as a not so smug married. We got a dog, my adored Jesse. We bought furniture and unpacked our belongings from their shipping crates and the first of our UK visitors came to see us in our new life. Once Husband changed jobs his hours became easier and we spent time exploring Tel Aviv, the beach and the benefits of year round sunshine.

There were ups and downs. The language was so hard and the people so aggressive. Many a visit to the supermarket or post office saw me seeking refuge on our balcony, sobbing into Jesse’s fur. But on the up side, Husband and I were finally together, permanently, after our long and international journey. We had a ready-made set of friends from his early army days and I could manage one or two words in Hebrew. We had money in the bank and we wanted to start a family.

A long period of ill-health put paid to the family for a few years but eventually and due to the incredible health system and amazing Doctors here, 4 years later at full health, we welcomed our first child. By this time I was working back in television where I had worked for many years in the UK. Things were on the up. We had a bigger apartment and a wider network of friends including my gorgeous British girlfriends who continue to provide me with laughter and wine and a shoulder to cry on.

By 2010 we were a family of 5. The arrival of twins sent us packing to the suburbs and a child friendly home which is where we reside now. The TV career took a back seat as I faced the challenges of motherhood and three very small people. So now what?

As 2014 comes to a close and I look back on this year and the ten years I have spent here I see that we are on the edge of a new chapter. What that will be, we still don’t know but it seems a fitting time to take stock and count our blessings; our friends, our children, our health and our love for each other that has carried us through the upheaval of moving countries and facing the challenges that a life in Israel brings.

Thank you for your loyal following of my ramblings through 2014 and I’ll see you on the other side, hungover and ready to begin the next stage of the journey.

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Yum, Treats for Purim

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For the third year running hubby’s bakery has come up top for their hamentaschen. Just in case you didn’t see this last year, here is my post about Purim and the award winning recipe.

39 and Counting

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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…

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What I have learnt this Christmas

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IMG_30521.  People are grumpy.

In recent months I have been adding a little extra to the family coffers by working in customer services for online stores in the States.  Usually at about 2 or 3 hours a day this has added a little pocket-money during the quieter months of my new business venture.  During the run up to Christmas people went wild  with their credit cards and my hours grew tenfold, literally meaning I was spending more time with American shoppers than my own family.  Luckily there is no Christmas in Israel (at least not in my part) so my own Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve and even on Christmas morning was stress free.  Not so much the onliners.  Oh. my. goodness.  Talk about first world problems.

“My dogs special Christmas biscuits haven’t arrived yet and I ordered them a week ago” “I’m sorry the postal service is delayed due to the season” ” You have ruined our Christmas, what do I give the dog now?” A bone?  Purlease.

“I am really tired of dealing with you, your labels don’t print out straight and I need to return the water bottle I bought from you.  I wanted blue and you sent me green, I HATE green”

“I bought this [can of spicy salsa] from you and I don’t like it, it’s too spicy.  Can I return it?” Umm, you opened it?  Ate from it? Then NO.

“If my order was broken in transit why should I use my printer ink to print your [prepaid] return labels?  I am not wasting my ink or electricity printing, you need to send them by mail immediately”

“Call this a skateboard?  I have been skateboarding for 8 years and I have never come across such a s**t board.  I carn’t [sic] do my trix [sic].  It’s too heavy.  Send me money back now”

I could go on, and on, and on, and on.  The word I seldom came across was ‘please’.  The punctuation and grammar, never mind the spelling and most of all the anger has been just, well, shocking.  Why do people get so upset about such tiny things.  One man who did write a very rude and angry message to me did apologise after I was super nice and kind to him in my reply.  He told me his wife had just been laid off and he’d had forced early retirement.  Now that’s a real problem (albeit not mine so why are you YELLING AT ME).  The colour of your water bottle, that, is not.

2. Christmas is not for everyone.

As I have mentioned in previous posts the delicate balance between keeping Christmas in my life whilst bringing the children up in a Jewish country with a husband who has trouble being in the same room as a Christmas tree has its own challenges.  This year my husband explained his slow but sure acceptance of the holiday as part of my culture and therefore part of our children’s and for that I am extremely grateful.

Christmas is always a time of reflection and memories, something about the age-old family traditions; where the stockings are hung, what goes on the top of the tree, whether to finish all the chocolate coins before or after breakfast, brings back bygone Christmases and those no longer with us to share them.  Those hit by tragedy this past year in particular have had it tough and I have to tell you that if avoidance is your thing then Israel is the right place to come (and it’s sunny in December).

3. The best Christmas parties are when a group people get together with one aim to have fun.

We have been at two Christmas gatherings this holiday season.  The first at a friend’s house where, like last year, I was the only Christian but who doesn’t like an enormous dinner, sparkly lights and mulled wine right?  The second we had at our house with our Israeli friends who quite possibly didn’t know it was Christmas save for the small tree in the corner of the room (which by the way fell off its stand by the end of the evening).  Both gatherings were fantastic.  Fun for the kids, fun for the adults, fun for our stomachs.  If the message of Christmas is goodwill to all men no matter what their faith then we are on a winning streak.

4. Presents are nice

I love getting presents and the fact that I didn’t expect even one under the tree for myself this year meant I was stupendously pleased when a bumper bottle of Chanel arrived from Ma & Pa plus two bottles of gin and a much-needed winter coat from husband (I am off to Switzerland soon) were my loot.  I went shopping, uhum Santa went shopping, for the childers’ presents in a $ store and for the bargain price of 20 quid I filled their stockings with all the beads, toy cars, crayons and puzzles they could wish for.  Our lovely relatives from the UK provided the main presents and so far, 5 days later every single toy is being played with, every book read and every puzzle built, underlining my philosophy that a few of the right stuff, no matter the price goes a long way.

5. I miss Christmas but this year not as much

Perhaps because my sister was here, perhaps because I knew my parents were with my brother and his family, perhaps because I didn’t dwell too much and I was simply so busy this Christmas I had no sad moments longing for Christmas in the UK.  I miss my family and friends on a daily basis and although its more poignant during the festive season and I want to have a ‘proper’ Christmas again I think I can safely admit that this Christmas has been fun.

I hope all of you enjoyed your holiday season, whatever you celebrated or even if you didn’t.  I want to wish everyone a Happy 2014.  Thanks for reading and supporting my mutterings this year.  Onwards and upwards!

 

 

Confessions

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Confessions

December 14th, 2013

“Would you like the same present for your birthday that I got you last year?”,

“what was it? pyjamas? yes I like new pyjamas”,

“no, sellotape*”

(*that’s scotch tape to my American friends)

And with that it all came rushing back, the trauma and turmoil of this time last year when I turned 40.  I actually thought that the set of coloured biros and coloured sellotape was a sweet, albeit interesting choice of present but as No. 1 son had obviously chosen them himself I was all the more appreciative.  It was a small highlight in an otherwise dark day.  I didn’t like turning 40.  Having started writing my mutterings on the run up to my new decade I had thought I had it well under control. Looking back I now see it was a huge rite of passage  and only now, as I turn 41 do I think I am really OK with being ‘old’.

This time last year I was stricken with  a throat infection and determined not to miss out on the surprise gathering my husband had planned for that evening (yes, sorry I did know) I stuffed myself full of every over-the-counter remedy possible, plus a healthy dose of my 2-year-old’s antibiotics.  Yes, that was a secret too, which one year on I am not ashamed (well only partially) to admit.  I figured that if antibiotics started working in 24 hours then 1 dose the night before and 1 the next morning should do the trick.  I hadn’t counted on the enormous amount of sugar in an adult size dose of children’s antibiotics.  My kidneys ached for days and I worried silently of the permanent damage.  That’s how desperate I was to celebrate my big 4-0, I know, I know, sad and shameful. I also drank a lot of water – I mean a lot for weeks afterwards.  Rather goes to show that with age does not come sense.

The good news is I made it out that evening and my drama training stood me well as I don’t think anyone suspected I knew what was in store (least of all my darling husband who was v proud of himself).  By that time, slightly high on medication and a couple of glasses of cava I had a lovely time.  Not so much the next day.  Then the hangover and realisation that I could no longer consider myself ‘young’ really kicked in.  Goodness knows how I’ll be at 50.

I spent yesterday thinking about the ‘must do’ list I created pre-40 and thought about what I had achieved in my 41st year.  I have finally taken up exercise and have surprised myself by enjoying it.  It has meant I have gained weight which I am reassured is muscle but I’m not so sure.  I have worn shoes with heels much more than I did.  I have tried to be less sensitive about other’s opinions (still trying) and I have gone from 1/4 time job plus full time parenting to 3 jobs and only partial full time parenting (hooray for kindergarten).

December 15th, 2013

So what about today I hear you ask, how is the birthday so far.  Well, I have had 2 cards and one happy birthday.  I am not sick, not stressed about my age – 41 somehow sounds younger than 40 – go figure. I have not taken any medication, mine or the children’s and I am 100% sure that no surprise gathering is being planned. I am in fact quite calm. No doubt I shall be receiving colourful sellotape, or some other comedy present from the childers this afternoon (it’s actually very useful), I am presuming cake and candles will make an appearance and I am happy to report that I am in a far better place on December 15th 2013 than I was on the same date in 2012.

Happy birthday to me.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

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December has always been a good month for me.  It’s the month that as a kid we had 2 weeks off school, the Christmas disco, the Christmas production, Santa would appear in the streets just before bed time on a sleigh on wheels courtesy of the local Round Table, carol concerts, a trip to Manchester to see the Christmas lights, Christmas itself and of course the highlight, my birthday, complete with birthday treat trip to the ballet/pantomime/ice skating rink.  Ah, December.

These days December has taken on a whole new meaning, not least because I am no longer in school.  The only part of my past Decembers that really remains is my birthday, although I don’t ice skate these days.

So what is December now?  Well it’s doughnuts and fire hazards, spinning tops and latkes, 5 advent calendars counting down to the day my sister arrives (aka Santa), a small apology for a Christmas tree and of late, some explanations to number one son about what Christmas is (“when is the winter holiday” he asked his father the other day – oy vay), what are Christians and Jews are and why do some celebrate one holiday, another celebrate another and we celebrate (of a fashion), both.

December is also a smell, not pine needles and mulled wine (mmm I love mulled wine), it is the smell of frying.  I might have mentioned before (a trillion times) that my husband is a pastry chef and as such spends 2 weeks of December frying doughnuts.  In Israel people go mad for doughnuts at Hannukah.  You have to see the varieties and queues to buy them to believe it.  I have heard a rumour that one bakery chain makes more money during Hannukah than the rest of the year put together.  The more elaborate the doughnut, the better.  Not good if you are calorie counting.

This year hubby and team have competition-winning Hannukah doughnuts and judging by the 15 hour days and the stink that accompanies him when he walks through the door – strip at the door, clothes in washer, straight to the shower – the bakery kitchen is certainly frying their fair share and more.

IMG_3138We are now on the 6th candle out of 8 which means Hannukah is nearing its end.  Every evening we have spent with different friends or family to ceremonially light the candle, eat and try to contain (or not) the excitement of rowdy children.  We have also eaten doughnuts, well I say we but actually I haven’t eaten one.  I don’t like doughnuts, never have, never will.  There is something about eating a fried cake that just doesn’t sit well with me or my stomach.

In two days the hannukiah and box of assorted spinning tops will be put away for another year 232323232fp6356__nu=327;_;75_278_WSNRCG=35_398_654329nu0mrjand I will bring out my Christmas tree and start internet window shopping for my birthday.  Like last year, we will not be braving the cold of Christmas in the UK, instead my sis will come and she and I will have Christmas lunch in a restaurant, followed by present opening with the childers when they come home from nursery.  Yes they will be going to nursery, not much else to do on Christmas Day if no-one else is celebrating.  We will be having our annual Christmas dinner and knees up on the 20th with my English Jewish friends who appreciate that Christmas appeals beyond religion.

Much as I might hark back to the Decembers of my childhood I am happy to report that even in my new Israeli/Jewish/Christian life December is still special; still about the kids having fun, still about my birthday, still about over eating and being with friends and family.  I will of course have pangs as the month progresses, especially during the Christmas Day phone call with my family in the UK (no crying this year?) but for me December is still the most wonderful time of the year.

Temporary Home

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It’s Sukkot which in Israel means a number of things.  Firstly it usually heralds the change in the weather.  Hooray.  The humidity goes down, the wind picks up, we even usually experience a few drops of rain (literally a few drops).  Sukkot also means that people’s balconies and gardens and kosher eateries gain an odd looking, temporary structure; covered in palm fronds and decorated with what I would refer to as Christmas decorations.  Of course they are only Christmas decorations if you come from a country that celebrates Christmas.  Sukkot in our house also means lots of children, open front doors, neighbourly kid-swap and a general raise in noise levels.

Cue quick explanation (Jewish friends look away now). Sukkot is a Jewish festival that commemorates the Jews 40 years of travel in the desert after their exodus from slavery in Egypt.  The structure or Sukkah is a reminder of the temporary dwellings they erected to live in during this time.  The word sukkah means booth or tabernacle and the roof is made from schach (try to say that after a drink) which are palm fronds or evergreen leaves.  During Sukkot people eat in the sukkah and some even sleep in the sukkah but as you know from previous postings about our garden, you would have to pay me A LOT of money to catch me lying out there in the dark.  The holiday is a week-long starting and culminating with special meals with friends and family.

(For a more in-depth explanation of the customs and religious importance of Sukkot http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm)

In our building we have a lot of kids.  Our 3 plus another 11.  8 of them are under 6  and by the way there are 5 sets of twins – yep, go figure – so you can imagine the excitement when the sukkah goes up in the gardens and behind the building in a communal area.  Don’t think you can have an invite only dinner as you are to be assured at least 4 small people will appear at some stage, joined later by parents.  I love it.

Husband built our sukkah and another one in no. 1 son’s kindergarten with a choice selection of bits of wood and old sheets.  Precarious was not the word to describe them, until they were tied to every available solid structure.  We are 4 days in and so far so good, as long as high winds stay away.  I intend to be out when he takes it down.

A little ram-shackled but we like it

A little ram-shackled but we like it

The roof is a bit more tricky because come a week before sukkot the council starts pruning the palm trees (of which there are thousands) and people  who look like they haven’t seen the light of day since last Sukkot come out of their houses to claim their share of branches.  Traffic jams ensue as elderly women, dazed by the sunlight, bent double, wander blindly across the roads oblivious to traffic ‘must get palms, must get palms’, cars randomly stop in the middle of the street and open their car boots all whilst the men up the cranes chopping the palms yell for people to ‘GET OUT OF THE WAY’.  I should mention that one palm frond is bloody heavy.  Surprisingly so.  A few years ago I stopped (in a layby) at the side of the road and claimed a couple of branches to bring home.  Problem was they were too big to fit in the car and in the absence of a roof rack I clung to one at a time on the roof with one hand on the steering wheel.  Not terribly safe and I almost broke my wrist but at least I bagged two beauties for free.  Yes, there’s the rub, if you don’t have your own (plus a tree surgeon to cut them down for you) or you don’t manage to catch the annual council chopping then you have to buy them!!!  At around 5 shekels a frond (£1 or $1.50) that makes for an expensive roof.

Since having the childers, Sukkot is by far my favourite holiday; a social butterfly such as myself who spends way too much time alone, really appreciates the many visitors, invitations and the comings and goings of the neighbours.  I seem to spend way more time outdoors, protected from bugs by our sukkah (although a large cockroach did fly on to me the other night) and there is something so holiday-like eating outside and (almost) under canvas.  Only a few more days to go until it’s over for another year and life goes back to normal after the holiday-fest which is August and September in Israel.  Better get back to the garden and enjoy the rustle of the drying fronds overhead.

Christmas decs sorry Sukkot decs

Christmas decs sorry Sukkot decs

Thank you very much

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Thank you thank you to all the people who wished me congratulations and mazal tov this week.  Many apologies for not understanding why I needed such felicitations.  The fact that a fellow Brit had given birth to a baby (who may be King if the monarchy last that long) is OF COURSE reason to congratulate little old me.  I had worked long and hard at matching Kate and Wills, the wedding was very hard work and the birth quite stressful.  So thank you thank you, I am indeed proud to be British.  I will be sure to remember to return the courtesy when your President’s grandchildren give birth (although I can’t imagine how I would know).

The British Royal family has this strange draw for so many, me included.  I do follow Kate and Wills much like I hover over a story about Posh and Becks.  It does rather point to the fact that my view of today’s Royals is more Celebrity than Royalty.  I think I can put the blame for that firmly at the door of the glossy magazines and E! Entertainment.  However, long before I was reading mags and watching car crash telly (sorry E!) I was a little obsessed with the Royals.  Rewind to my Lady Di scrapbook that my grandmother and I lovingly put together, Charles and Di’s wedding which I was excited about for weeks before,even Fergie and Andrew’s big day is firmly etched in my memory.  Talking of memories, the Silver Jubilee (age 4) is one of my first.  In my world, being British goes hand in hand with memories of Royal events, whether you want to abolish the whole outdated notion of a sovereign or not.

I always had a particular soft spot for Diana, probably because I liked her clothes (I was 8).  She was just a fairy tale princess to me, hardly human at all, but on August 31st 1997 in the Australian rainforest a group of backpackers told me that Princess Di had been in a car accident and thought to be dead and I was devastated.  Whether it was real grief or just an attack of homesickness is debatable. A few hours later my mother told me down the phone from the UK that I probably had the start of blood poisoning and I needed to get to a hospital fast I was much more interested in telling her to turn the TV on and see what had happened.

A few days later my future husband re-appeared in my life and my early memories of our relationship are all wound up with pictures of the outpourings of grief, the flowers and the sorrow for her young sons that I saw in the newspaper.  My husband still jokes about the amount of time I spent over articles and feeling sad I was away from home at such a time of national togetherness.  Lets face it I was on a once in a lifetime trip and I wasn’t exactly mates with the Royals.

On the day of her funeral a group of Brits gathered around a portable TV in a hostel kitchen and watched the long and drawn out footage.  Husband-to-be kept walking in and making jokes that we were still there (3 hours on), were we sure we were feeling sad enough?  It wasn’t funny.  In fact its a surprise he made it to a second date such was my outrage at someone dissing my beloved Diana.

Diana In ParisI have a sneaky suspicion that Kate will also have my unadulterated adulation in much the same way as Diana did.  She certainly has better dress sense than her mother-in-law (the 80’s wasn’t kind to many).  I do draw the line at the nude tights though,  you are 30 dear, not 60.  After seeing her standing on the steps of the hospital, beaming through her under eye bags with her poor swollen feet tucked into some suspect the-royal-baby-emerges-with-kate-middleton-prince-williamgrandma heels my love of her was ramped up just a little bit more.  Good on you girl, you were fantastic.  I hope the paps are kinder to you than to previous ‘commoner’ brides.    She’s got one hell of a life ahead of her, not one that many would covet (not me anyway).  I will of course accept any more salutations on her behalf from my disbelieving Israeli friends and neighbours who cannot get their heads around the fact that Briton’s taxes pay for this family and their opulent life (I do point out that most Brit’s don’t get it either).  I tend not to dwell on the rights and wrongs of the monarchy too much and will instead follow Kate’s life with interest (no scrapbook I promise), mazal tov and congratulations to her and William, George is a perfect name for any little boy, King, Prince or otherwise.

Sentimental Journey

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Pops

Today is Father’s Day in the UK and it would be a bit remiss of me not to dedicate today’s ramblings to my Pops.  This year Pops is celebrating his 75th birthday which I can hardly get my head around so I’ve no idea how he is taking it.  He is blessed so far with good health and all his faculties intact (not counting the loss of hearing in 1 ear).You will however know from previous posts he is definitely way more grumpy than he used to be – or maybe I just didn’t know him as well when we lived in the same house as I know him now.  Rather ironic that now we live a 6 hour flight away from each other our timetogether can certainly count as ‘quality’ time’.  This is opposed to when we lived in the UK and I would hop back at weekends and the parents were just 2 on a long list of people to see.  I sent him a card which miraculously (through the joys of Moonpig.co.uk) arrived in time and I told them to go out for a pub lunch today to celebrate.  After I hung up I thought that perhaps it would not be fun to be in a pub full of families celebrating together, just the 2 of them, with their family scattered across the country and the globe.   We are there in spirit and as I told him this morning the Israeli crew will be doing everything we can to come back in the summer to celebrate his 75th with him.

A good friend recently reminded me of the importance of not missing celebrations and milestones with loved ones.  Life is short and memories can only be made in that short time. I have already missed so many events because of money or time or simply because I live too far away.  So it was this piece of advice plus the never fading homesickness that has sent me onto the internet to try to find a flight that will get us back to the grey skies of Manchester this August.  I can’t think of anything nicer.

I also want to extend today’s UK Dad celebrations to my own kid’s Dad aka Aba aka husband.  There is no specific Father’s Day in Israel, there’s a Family day but it’s really not the same.  As someone who shirks all kinds of celebrations, especially his own birthday, I will not be splashing out on a present or even a card – he puts them back in the envelope and leaves them on a shelf (what’s that all about?). On the vague chance he figures out how to open a computer and read this I want to tell him thanks, on behalf of the childers and from me.  There is not a child in the world who would not be lucky to have a father like him; ever patient, interested, kind, loving.

So for fear of slipping into soppy sentiment…oops too late, Happy Father’s Day to all Dads, here and departed. If you are as lucky as I am, take my friend’s advice too. Don’t miss a moment, life is too short.

Do you want to come to a party?

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It’s been a weekend of parties.  Unfortunately not parties of the adult variety but 5-year-old birthday parties.  A strange phenomenon of my eldest’s nursery is that all the kids seem to have birthdays from May to July.  Must be something in the water in the autumn here.  Anyway every week I duly head off to the toy store and buy the most appropriate non-bank loan inducing present or 3 and every weekend my son comes home high on sugar and over excitement clutching a plastic toy which invariably is broken by the end of the evening.  I am currently taking notes as in a month’s time I will be the hostess to 35 five-year-olds.

Luckily his best friend shares the same birthday week so the 2 families are combining to provide a party in the local park complete with entertainment, balloons and due to the extreme heat no jelly and ice cream.  When investigating the party jolly rogerentertainer I discovered a few facts I, as a new children’s party organizer, had previously not contemplated.  Firstly, I am in the wrong business.  For an hour and half or two Coco the Clown and the like earn an inordinate amount of dosh.  One entertainer quoted 2,200 shekels ($600 or £400), obviously we didn’t hire him.  There are circus acts complete with acrobats hanging from sheets, magicians and my personal favourite, Roy Boy (yes really) who dresses like Tarzan and does the most incredible one-man theatre show complete with live animals – I didn’t call him, I figured the cost may outweigh the occasion. We decided on a pirate party entertainer who does magic, I have absolutely no idea what he will be like but pirates and magic seems like a winning combination for two small boys.

Then my thoughts turned to food.  Children like to eat rubbish, period.  By rubbish I mean anything that is brightly coloured MelonSlicesand/or loaded with sugar, salt or monosodium glutamate and although I have been known to let my children indulge on occasion I do feel a real sense of guilt (or is it fear of the highs) at providing 35 kids with a sugar fest.  So for the past few weekends I have been eyeing up the party food on other’s tables and surreptitiously watching what the kids eat and I have discovered to my joy that if you provide vegetables (the Israeli child population is brought up on cucumber and tomatoes), watermelon and the ever plentiful at this time of year, grapes then the kids eat them.  So not to be seen as the crazy Yma (mummy) I will of course bring some kind of crisps or pretzel type snacks and as I noticed at the last party the genius idea of popcorn (cheap and tasty) will also be making an appearance.  Having seen full pizzas being tossed at the end of the party I think going back to old skool and providing a Israel-style sandwiches ie.  Pitta and hummus could be the way forward for something more substantial.

Daddy is a baker so no.1 son’s cake will be taken care of by someone other than myself.  He has requested a spider web withspiderman a spider and spider man.  I may try to encourage a pirate ship, want to keep the occasion themed right?!

Last thing on the list then is the goody bags.  So far we have received whistles and water pistols, beach balls and swimming goggles that I can remember so when browsing the local dollar store I had a peak for inspiration.  I’m thinking eye patches or is that just too weird?  It is a pirate party after all, parrots are out and cutlasses and a bottle of rum not really age appropriate (good perhaps for the parents).  Maybe I should stick with bubbles.

rumI must admit I am really looking forward to it – I don’t get out, ever – just to see the excitement and un-paralleled joy on his face when he realizes it is his party and he and his best friend are the magicians assistants. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.

Bonfire Night Israel style.

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lag baomer

As the smoke clears from a slightly damp Independence Day barbecue the important task of collecting wood in shopping trolleys begins for the next fire friendly festival in Israel, Lag BaOmer.  You would be forgiven for thinking that it’s just one big festival over here at the moment but in actual fact Jews are currently in the period of mourning which is Omer, the 50 day period between Passover and Shavuot.  Lag Ba’Omer is the one day (the 33rd day) that is a day of celebration during this time.

Here goes with the 39 & Counting rundown of the reasons for this holiday (Jewish readers look away now):

The Omer period is counted from the exodus from Egypt at Passover to the giving of the Torah at Shavuot

The Omer period of mourning is for the victims of a plague in the time of Rabbi Akiva, the Rabbi from the time of the destruction of the 2nd temple.

The mourning is lifted and celebrations occur on Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day of Omer) because the dying of the plague victims ceased on this day.

It is also the day that marks the death of 2nd Century Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author and first teacher of the Kabbalah book, the Zohar.

It also marks the Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire led by Bar Kokhba

The holiday is marked with bonfires symbolising the light of the Torah (other reasons are also given here) and in more modern interpretations, to celebrate the heroics of Bar Kokhba in leading the revolt.

As you can see it’s a confusing one.  As ever you can read more about it here and here.

For many Israelis Lag BaOmer means a few things in their modern lives.  Firstly it’s the only day between Passover and Succhot that you can get married, secondly it’s a time when children of all ages gather and make bonfires, everywhere and anywhere.  For me it’s the night 9 years ago that my husband proposed.

At least a week before, the hunt for the best bits of wood starts with none too ethical tactics being used by some older children to bag the best haul (didn’t we have a fence yesterday?) .   In the run up to the actual day the organised nursery and school fires take place culminating in the busiest night for the fire brigade when older kids try to outdo each other with the most enormous mountain of a fire possible.  Not the safest of holidays.

Luck is on the emergency service’s side this year because shock horror it has been raining, a lot, for a week.  This is pretty much unheard of at this time of year, it’s certainly the latest in the year that I’m still rocking my winter boots since I moved here.  The ground is damp, the wood is wet and instead of having a week of smokey smog it looks like it may only be a couple of days. So be safe kids and we’ll be wrapping up warm a la Guy Fawkes night when we’re huddled around the fire tomorrow night.