October 30, 2012

Grandparents in London

My boys are watching yet another football match (it really sometimes seems like the football matches never end... If it is not this league it's the other one, if it is not a live one it is a recorded one, or a show about one). Whatever. I closed myself in the room with my ever-trusty Mac, and am trying to finish closing my gaps. It's not only here that I have huge gaps to close - I managed to open gaps everywhere it seems, and now that I decided to close all of them it sometimes feel like an impossible mission.
Hence the Sunday writing...

My parents arrived for a 2 weeks first visit just after Rosh Hashana. It was not their first visit to London of course. As my brother lives here they have been here many times over the years. It was also not their first time visiting us since we've left Israel of course. We try and go for 3-4 times a year. It was not even the first time they visited us here, since they came with us from Israel for our first 2 weeks in July. It was, however, their first visit since we officially moved here - their first time in our new place, after we've established a routine of sorts.
We knew it was going to be hard. It was harder.
Visits are so important, and on so many levels. First of all, and most importantly, I miss my parents very much. Talking on Skype is not the same as sitting for a chat, or drinking coffee, or going shopping together. It is a million times better then not having Skype, or not being able to call when you want, but it is still not the same as face to face on the same time-zone. The second thing is that it is so much better for the kids to get some grandparents time - who else will spoil them shamelessly, try to feed them all the time, and let them get away with murder? :)
But beside that, the visits are the only way anyone can really understand how we live here. We had the same thing in Gibraltar, you can't really get a lot of the finer points of our lives from a Mediterranean away. Wherever you go in the world the rhythm of life is different, in a way I think that is so hard to grasp from afar. It is the same for us whenever we visit Israel, we are amazed at all the little things we forgot or don't understand anymore.
For us here I guess the meaning is understanding how you can live well inside London without actually ever getting to LONDON. It's not that we don't live somewhere you can get (quite easily) to wherever you want / need. It's that, well, who has the time to? Yon goes to nursery for 3 hours a day. After you take the kids to school and Hidai to the bus in the morning, it's already 9:15. You have to be back at nursery at 12:00. It takes at least 30 minutes each direction wherever you want to go. So more often than not - you just don't go anywhere. There is nothing NOTHING more depressing than getting to Oxford st. and having 1 hour to spend there before you have to rush back so Yon's nice teacher can go eat lunch and the mean receptionist won't scold you.
But when you come to London you want to see LONDON, go shopping, eat out, go to a show, tour all the main attractions (it's fun no matter how many times you've been there). You don't really want to be stuck close to home because Yon goes to nursery for 3 hours. So it's a battle between wanting to spend time with us and doing everything together like we did in Gibraltar, and between wanting to enjoy London as one should when visiting it. Add to that the fact that there are 2 kids to visit and not only one, the fact that each and everyone of us likes different things and want to go to different places, a weather that is colder than what Israelis are used to in September (or at all), and obligations towards the grandkids in Israel, and a terrible toothache for almost the whole visit (for 1 grandparent, and "just for a few days" for the other one), and what you get is a right big mess.
And a lot of unhappy people.
So another change has to happen in life, and again adaptation is called for, so after we realised everything I wrote in the paragraph above, that was what we tried to do.

We took grandparents to Upper st. to get the feeling of being in London (and because Yon was showing withdrawal symptoms after not having Starbucks Chocolate Muffin for quite some time now) and do some minor shopping, before heading back home to have Uri & Ev for afternoon coffee.

 On their first Sunday I got everyone tickets to the first Cake & Bake show, and was super excited about it, both because it was supposed to give me a chance to find some baking supplies and ideas that are hard to find here (like, apparently - fresh yeast. That being said, after a very very long search it turned out that a) the health shop near my house sells them, b) kosher Kingdom sometimes have them, c) Ocado started a new Scandinavian range that for some unknown reason includes yeast), and also it's a chance for me to give my parents a glimpse in to my life and what I do. Unfortunately, it did not go as planned. It was the first cake & bake show, and even though we went on the second day, the entry queues were still very un-necessary long (the tickets were sold-out in advance. they should have adjusted the security and the facility accordingly, but didn't), so it took us a while to actually get in. When we did get inside we discovered that things were not going to improve. Long queues to get anywhere, not enough people who can actually help you find what you want, stalls standing too close to each other so you can't pass, no water points anywhere (water fountains, bottles water machines. Whatever), 3 coffee shops with stale food, long queues and outrageous prices and too-small sitting areas, and not one of the stalls offering tastings. I mean seriously? who puts on a cakes / cookies/ cupcakes/ chocolate/ bread stall and does not offer tastings? As a principal, I don't buy at places who are too cheap to offer tastings, so we didn't. Also, for some reason the organisers apparently believe that the only thing people bake is cupcakes, plain ones at that, so they could decorate them elaborately afterward. That is the only explanation to the sad sad fact that there were almost no stands offering non-cupcake-decoration items. So there you have it. All in all, not a success. They did apologise for some of it later on Facebook (though not on the official newsletter they send out), but it was too little too late. For our family it didn't matter - grandparents hated every minute of being there, and after around 3 stalls and 45 minutes in the queue to the coffee place, we sat on the floor and decided to part ways. kids and grandparents went back home (which as the day went, shouldn't surprise you didn't go all too well in itself and the rain didn't help...). We did get a chance to meet Paul Hollywood (the judge from the Great British Bake Off, that Ron & I watch religiously) and buy some sugar paste before they left. Afterwards Hidai & I wondered around the whole place, but because cupcake-decorating is not a very big deal in our house, it was less fruitful than I hoped.
Meeting Paul hollywood (highlight of the day)
Eating on the floor (low point of the day)
On Monday grandparents went out for a day of shopping and an evening with Uri & Ev, and Tuesday was Yon's eye test so they went for a morning of shopping and were with Ron in the afternoon (unfortunately it was the only time he had a bad experience in the after school club, which led to some comments which led to a raw about our parenting choices / skills. It was sorted the next day as I went straight to the head-teacher to find out what's going on).
At least Wednesday showed an improvement, when Ron (who used this opportunity to explain to his Jewish head teacher that he is celebrating Yom Kippur with his grandparents. To my non Jewish readers - Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and atonement...), Hidai, and grandparents (after a visit to the dentist here) went to watch the Arsenal match in the Emirates stadium. It was grandparents first time in a football match, and after we made sure they dressed properly, and after they climbed what looked like a thousand stairs to their seats, and after they survived the first half which was quite boring, they had a chance to see Arsenal win 6:1, and meet Uri who also came to watch the match (but through ha work thing, so separately). They had a great time, it is such a huge experience to walk with all  the rea&white dressed people on the streets before the match, and of course watching the match itself (I really can't describe it more because I remain the only one in the family who wasn't in a match...). Anyway grandparents came back total fans, and now they want an Arsenal shirt for Christmas and a match in every visit :)
Outside the stadium
Thursday was breakfast at Ottolenghi day. We had some recommendations and decided to check it out. What can I say? WOW. Everyone of those recommendations was right. The first difference I can see between places run by Israelis is that they are brighter and the walls are whiter than in British places. For me, it makes the place feels cleaner. The second is that the coffee is usually better. We drank good coffee, and ate French toast from brioche, and 2 bread selections with gorgeous breads and even better spreads. Loved it, loved it, loved it. I am just waiting for when I can have a morning alone with Hidai to go back there. After that it was almost time to go back since Yon, you know, finishes at 12:00...

Friday was the real low point of the visit, with a very serious talk about all the different expectations all of us had from this visit. It was good to clear the air and we could change the second week of the visit a little at least...
So on Saturday we went for a walk around Piccadilly circus. My aim was the Fortnum & Masons first because they had an Autumn thing going on, and second because it is supposed to be a great place to visit. It is. For us, however, it did not go so well, and some people in our party did not enjoy it so much, which led to being there a very short time before heading to Pret to eat some sandwiches. Anyway I do recommend a visit, and am planning to go back near Christmas. Afterwards we went by the Rainforest Cafe and the M&M's world shop (a slight improvement in the day, but not by much)
The Rainforest Cafe
All of us and an m&m
before heading back home to eat home-made brioche flower shaped buns and salty treats (high point of the day).
High point
Sunday I think was the highlight of the visit for grandparents - we took them to Golders Green to do some grocery shopping. For some unknown reason, grandparents found it to be lovely and enjoyed it immensely, while we (as usual) were just happy that there is bus to take us back home. We did some shopping at Kosher Kingdom and Carmelli ( I try to get there once a month to get some Israeli imported foods. It is oh so expensive but for us, totally worth it) and enjoyed the whole "the same as in Israel" feeling, while at least having the chance to show the kids what a sukkah is and explain about Sukkot (we do try and celebrate most of the Jewish holidays. Our rule is simple - if the holiday does not have some kind of food associated with it, it is not worth celebrating. Unfortunatly for Sukkot it falls down in this category. And also, you need an outdoor space to build a Sukkah, which we don't have).
Kosher kingdom purchases 
On our way home we stopped at Peacocks to but the kids some Wellies and rain-coats, as it became abundantly clear that a) it rains in London, and b) Yon adores puddle splashing... They had a chance to wear it the very next day, which is also known as "The Monday of Horror" for the fact that we managed to get lost on our way to Ron's football club practice thanks to some miscommunications, the fact that there are 2 bridges in Finsbury park area, and my not checking the map. We got to the practice after a whooping 45 minutes of walking in all the wrong directions possible, and without any will to live (to add insult to injury it turned out to be so so so easy to get there from the school...).
It took a while, but things (me) calmed down after a while (meaning, Hidai apologising), and we moved on to Tuesday, also known as Family Gathering Day, in which we had everyone (Uri, Ev, Jo, Adrie and the kids) over for dinner. It was a small, simple thing, that just needed 2 days of menue planning, 3 stores shopping and one whole day of cooking, and only included 4 kinds of biscuits, 2 salads, burekas, potato filled pastry, mushroom filled cups, sweet rolls, and cake-pops for dessert. There is really no need for me to say it again, right? you already know there wasn't enough food :)
everyone had a great time and it was a really lovely evening (even though Uri & Ev were about an hour late), and since there wasn't enough food, we only had leftovers for one day...
Some of the food (the main course)
Thursday morning we went for breakfast at Gail's, which we found to be less nice than Ottolenghi, but closer to Hidai's work. They do have the most amazing chocolate cookies (pricy as hell, but totally worth it) so if you are around, go buy them.

After that  the weather took a turn for the worse side and it became cold and windy, which automatically sent grandparents to 2 days of shopping for winter clothes (if you consider what I have from Gibraltar as Autumn clothes at best, grandparents came from Israel with, lets face it, London Summer clothes)...
On their last day here, we decided to go out in in the morning instead of moping around the house all day, and we went to Covent Garden and around for a stroll. It went surprisingly well (if you consider all the other outings this past 2 weeks) and we managed to finish the visit on a high note, and they still want to come back for Christmas :)

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October 28, 2012

On Autumn and Connections

I seriously can't believe it's the end of October already. Time is such a funny thing isn't it? On the one hand it tends to fly away (especially when you have lots to do, 3 hours a day to accomplish everything you need and a tendency to watch TV instead of work), while on the other hand it takes its time... 
It is our first Autumn here in London (and yes I know it's also Fall, but Autumn sounds so much more romantic don't you think?), and it is nothing like we have ever experienced anywhere else, and everything like you imagine a proper Autumn should be - cold, rainy, and filled with orange-red leaves everywhere. I love it (well, when I am inside the house I do). I fill the house with Autumn appropriate music, eat soup for lunch, and wear all my winter clothes (when winter hits I will need actual winter clothes. Everything I have is Autumn fitting at best).
Kids at the park
One of the main things in Gibraltar we could never get used to is that there are no trees. I mean obviously there is the Rock itself, which has foliage and stuff, but there are no parks, it is not a green place. It is a blue place as it sits just on the Mediterranean and our flat was on the edge of one of the harbours. Don't get me wrong, it was the most beautiful view in the world, and there is nothing like getting a giant tourists cruise-ship just outside your window, but I missed the green and I adore the fact that we now have green everywhere - grass, trees, leaves, parks...
It makes for a great change. 
Though tomorrow things are supposed to get rougher and this is the last above 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) day we will get for a while, so they already shut down the bubbles and lights in our gardens until spring (weird that when they built it they didn't think about the fact that this is London, and the winter here is in a water freezing temperature...), and on Sunday it's the end of Summer Time so it will start getting dark around 5 already. Another change. 
Life is all about that though, don't you think? changes are everywhere and all the time. Maybe not exactly changes, but adaptations. For me at least it seems that it never stays the same. It is never quiet. And when it does, we move :)
For years now Hidai and I have our mutual agreement that the only constant in our life is the being of our family (no more changes there thank you very much). Everything else is under constant movement. 
And it's not just the big things, it can be the way we dress, because they dress differently here - all with the short skirts and tight jeans and knee high boots, and Hidai now has to dress properly for work (not a full suit but close enough), or the holidays we celebrate nowadays, or the fact that the kid's accent is moving more toward the English one I guess, so it's the little things, the ones you don't even notice at first that change. 
One of the changes that happened over the years since we left Israel is realising the importance of connections. Don't get me wrong, we are still unfriendly as ever :) but keeping that in mind, we try harder (again, as all is relative in life, that should probably say relatively harder), or at the very least we acknowledge the fact that we should try harder, because if you don't create your own connections than you sit alone when there is a holiday, or you have no-one to ask if you have some silly questions, and basically you are in charge of not being alone/lonely. I guess It would have been easier if we chose to live in an Israeli or a Jewish community, and I guess that is why most people do, but we chose not to. 
So we are left with the building complex, that does not have a lot of people with kids Ron's age, mostly "young professionals" who leads a life that is so un-similar to ours or parents with their first baby/toddler that keep looking at me funny when they see how I treat Yon's falling down performances (seriously that kid deserves an Oscar or a Brit award for the way he does melodrama-in-the-street), that you just have to patronise and say "fine. You just wait and see", and the nursery/school, in which we have yet to find like-minded souls or people willing to talk to us (hopefully Tyler's mum). 
And so we arrive to family issues, and the fact that Uri & Ev live in London does helps with the holidays (or most of them anyway), but it does not change the fact that their lives are totally different and separate from ours. 
So basically the only people we know in London who lives near us, have kids in similar ages, and are nice (a bonus point), are Jo & Adrie. That's why we totally used the family connection we have through Ev and declared them family :). We had one dinner at their place, 2 dinners at our place (holiday dinners no less), 2 park outing, 2 chance park meetings, one restaurant dinner, one birthday party invite (only Hidai went since that was the week I was ill), and one coffee and play date this past Sunday. (No it is not weird or anything that everything we do is written in the calendar). It feels so good to have people we like to hang out with, that it actually made me realise how much we came to take that for granted in Gibraltar. It did take us a while, but after we found our small but loved group of friends, losing all of them when we moved here was so much harder than we anticipated, and Jo & Adrie are making this loss and loneliness a little bit easier for us. 

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My Way

I miss baking.
I started writing this Post about 2 weeks ago. Because I did. I do. I miss baking. It grounds me. It makes me calm. It makes me happy. I find that whenever we move, I need to bake. So I miss it. And still, it took me a while to start baking again. Why? because I gave it up.
And it got me thinking about all the things we give up along the way. Usually it is done for a reason. More often than not, I guess, a good reason like health, or kids, or time with a spouse. But eventually you wake up one day realizing that a part of you is missing.
Why did I gave up baking? Because after you lose 13 kg (around 2 stones), you tend to want to keep them off. And when I bake, I eat. I am very fussy about baked goods, so it is very hard for me to find other bakers I like, that's why if I don't bake it myself, chances are I won't eat it.
But I miss it.
It might not even be the baking itself, but the sense of accomplishment, of purpose, of creation it gives me. I usually don't like life choices related regrets and try to live my life in more of a Had A Few, Too Few To Mention But More Than This I Did It My Way kind of way, but something about London and in particular this building complex that makes me ponder the road not taken, the have a proper job-get married late-don't have kids when you are 26 side of the road. And it's hard. Because when I look at my life right now, standing on the kids at home all day-no time for myself-no job I can talk about-no money to spare side of the road, it doesn't look appealing. More like appalling. And I know, because Hidai keeps reminding me, that it's a phase, it's going to get better, and the kids will go to school eventually. But honestly, I can't see it. And that is where baking comes in.
So I started slowly, because a) I am missing so many ingredients it's a wonder I could bake anything, b) it takes some time to get used to the oven, c) Hidai only lets me bake one thing at a time (something about having to eat too much cake if you can believe that).
And it was wonderful and hell at the same time. It gave me everything I wanted, and it made me anxious as hell. I guess that with the move here I need to find myself again, carve out a new me again. Who do I want to be this time? It is without a doubt one of my favorite things about moving to new countries, the whole new identity thing, the have no life before here thing. You can be whomever you want to be, share as little or as much from your past as you want. A clean slate every time. But the decision which person to be gets harder with time, and you leave more untold stories, more unknown history behind you.
What does that have to do with cookies? That was a big part of my identity in Gibraltar, and it is still an unfulfilled dream of mine to have a bakery, to learn more, to go pro.
Do I want it to be part of my identity here? it is already starting, and I feel an overwhelming need to prove myself all over again, that I can do it. That I am a good enough baker. That it is good enough that that is a big part of my identity. All the things I accomplished with my baking in Gibraltar are wiped off and the ugly side of the clean slate emerges - you start again.
So I bought ingredients (basics for now. Why is it so damn hard to find a good store to buy these things here???) and started baking again. it is going to be part of my identity here as well. Because it is a part of me I can not leave behind (and also, the kids will hate me if i don't bake for them).

Okay, so not a funny Post this one, and not at all the direction I was planning on taking with it, but there it is nevertheless. What I was aiming for here was a little lighter Post that will explain that food (okay, sweets. Okay, chocolate) and baking are a big part of who I am and that is why I am planning to start a different section of the Blog that will be dedicated to it in the next few days (or weeks. Tops).

And because it seems like an apt way to close - Frank Sinatra My Way

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October 25, 2012

Kids and Catch-ups

The house is oh so quiet - kids are asleep, Hidai is still at work, and the windows are closed so I can't hear the sounds of defeat from the last Arsenal lousy match.
I spent the last 45 minutes reading back to try and understand where I left everything... So much is missing and so little has changed that I am not really sure how to close the gap. Looking at it now, I feel very badly about not being vigilant enough or obsessive enough with the Blog that it got to a point that I know I will forget some of the things I wanted to write about or that they will no longer be relevant...
But since regrets usually gets you nowhere, and such is life, I will ignore the fact that this is my fault and just try to fix it.
So what are we missing?

  • Grandparents visit
  • Jewish food, stores and TV shows
  • Baking - mine, TVs, and Laura's crazy Join British Bake Off idea :)
  • Family dinner and getting close to Jo & Adrie
  • Kids life
I think that's all. Easy peasy like they say (if they are under 10 years old).
I want to finish it all by the end of this week since next week is Halloween and with it - half term, which means both kids at home for around 10 days, and also, Halloween at our house means one thing - singing pumpkin (you probably ask yourself - WHAT WAS I THINKING last year when I bought a singing pumpkin?! Well I was thinking - it's s cute and Yon would LOVE it. Unfortunately he does).

You know, because we were talking about Halloween and because I am just so damn proud - My first pumpkin!
Each of these points deserves a separate post, and so it easiest to begin with the kids catch ups (not sure it actually works in English, but they do play a lot of catch these days so it does seem appropriate).
It amazes me everyday how well and how fast the kids have adjusted to living here. Kids are amazing creatures (so I wanted to write amazing monsters. Don't judge me), and although I know they didn't really have a choice and they have to adjust for survival, I still find it awe-inspiring how they do it so seamlessly. Like they've been here all their lives. We actually chose to be here, and still it takes us so much longer to feel like we belong...
Kids in action
Yon, or JonJon, or Joanty as he is now fond of calling himself :) (because it took the nursery teachers some time to get used to JonJon. I don't know why since I didn't think it's that strange of a nickname, but Hidai said maybe it's better that he will be taken more seriously and be called by his given name. But seriously? Yon? he is the least serious person I know... So by now he made sure everyone knows to call him JonJon) is having the time of his life in nursery which in our huse is called JonJon School, because he is no longer a baby and he wants to go to school like Ron! He is so lucky to have a teacher that is all for messy play, because as Adrie pointed out to me - he is a tactile child, and wherever he goes he has to touch EVERYTHING. Drives me crazy sometimes (okay most of the times) but that is who he is, so we embrace it and send him to school. He is the only child in his nursery that goes home at 12:00, which was a huge surprise to us - both in where we lived in Israel and in Gibraltar most of the kids go home around noon. It never even crossed my mind that it can be any different. It took us a while (3 days) after discovering this fact, to go check how much it will cost us to have hime stay until 3:30 for most of the week. After 2 unpleasant talks with the unpleasant receptionist (I guess she isn't really a receptionist, but she does sit in reception) to discover that it is a valid option if we want to add 240 pounds to the 24 we are already paying to have him start at 9 and not 10 on Thursdays (still can't get over the fact that they stole 1 hour from us and we have to pay for it). So, 240 Pounds to have him eat lunch and take a nap? We did take like 3 minutes to think about it, but decided to invest them in more important things like Christmas gifts :)
I used to think Ron is the friendliest kid I know with his ability to befriend kids wherever he goes and have girls run after him. But Yon is unbelievable. Truly he is. He has most of the kids in Ron's class play with him every morning, and when it's time for them to go into school he has a goodbye ritual with all of them :). He is the same in his nursery (except that there he has to share sometimes...). This week when we bumped into a friend of his from nursery, Daniel, they started hugging and kissing like crazies :) so he has a birthday party invitation for sometime in November and we are hoping we'll get to know a few of the parents and can start organising some playdates for him because we never get to meet the other parents (because he is the only one finishing at 12) and I think he will enjoy it (I am sure I will enjoy it a bit less).
Thanks to Yon, we also had the pleasure of finding out how the NHS system works, and although it takes some time to actually manage and schedule an appointment, we took Yon to his first London eye check in Moorfields Hospital, and after 5 hours, 3 tests, 4 doctors and eye drops, were left with the diagnosis that the vision in his bad eye is better and the vision in his good eye is worse, because he would not cooperate in the first test - thew one in which he has to say what he sees. And the reason he wouldn't cooperate was because we had the worst ever person doing the test. She was so un-child friendly (or un-adult friendly) so he got really stubborn and would not budge. It didn't matter that he did everything else beautifully and was very cooperating. So now we have to take him to a new test in which they will test the back and bottom of his eyes to see how much he is using his eye, and if this test comes out fine then we don't have to worry so much if he doesn't want to cooperate for a while. They were all (except the one) very nice, and the Hospital is done beautifully and very much with children in mind. We also got a free pair of glasses because yon's were a year old and were too small for his head (I am telling you, he isn't even 3 and a half and already wearing 4-5 clothes...). So it took 4 more weeks to get this new appointment, but we now managed to have half of the appointment booked for the 18th of December.
Ron, who always stays Ron (or Ronchuk, but it does not work in English. Or outside the house) started an Arsenal football after school activity that I managed to find after a very very long search... He is enjoying it and together with school football he has at least twice a week of playing, but I have to say that it astounds me how less serious they take kids football here than in Gibraltar. It could be a London thing but there you have it - it is not serious enough. And I know that I sounds like one of those pushy mums but it frustrates me because when the football isn't serious than you don't get all the good things organised team sports are supposed to give you, and you are left with the idiotic thing of everyone wanting to score and nobody is passing. This Monday when they were playing, Ron took the ball very cleanly and nice) from another kid, who in return tackled him in a very ugly way while he was running, so Ron fell very hard straight on the floor on his face. It was a red card kind of offence. So do you think anyone took the time to teach the kids that this is NOT the way to play football? Or at least threw the kid off the pitch? No. Of course not. It's infuriating. It took me a logt time to calm Ron down, see that he still has all of his teeth and send him back out there. So no. I don't like how they teach or how they play, but I am only the mum. And football is a dad thing (and unfortunately it's on Mondays. The only day Hidai can't leave work early). Next week because it's half-term there is a different activity with a different coach in a different place (2 buses more than half an hour each direction kind of place), so I am thinking we will use Hidai's 2 days at home to take him there. Maybe it will be better...
The football at school is no better. Well, after we complained to the head teacher about the whole after-school activity thing it did get better, but only just. I don't get it. The school is great, really great, but the after school sucks. Well actually Ron loves it and won't stop going (he can because you only pay until half-term and then re-evaluate), but I was expecting a bit more than playing the computer, but I guess that is wh Ron likes it since at home he doesn't play on the computer in the afternoons... The school itself is great, though it is funny sometimes to see the difference a perspective makes - they are studying the pyramids and ancient Egypt at school. So I told Ron, you know, the Jews built the pyramids. Cause they did. It's a known thing. They were slaves in Egypt and built the Pyramids, and that is why we have Passover - going from slavery to freedom. Everyone knows that. And then I went to check it online... Well apparently the Jews did not in fact built the Pyramids. And might not even been in Egypt at all. And the whole Passover story is, well, a story. Oops. Never even crossed my mind that it could be. So I went back to Ron and said, well, you know how we talked about Jews building the Pyramids? Let's just say that it's a Jewish beliefe and not go tomorrow to school and tell everyone that's what happened...
We had the same thing with the creation of the world this week, though I did go straight to the Big Bang Theory (which on knew only as that really funny show we watched together...) and didn't do the whole God thing. Now that I think about it though I should because he will not learn it in school...
I have to say though that the curriculum is very good, and though I do think they can still advance him more in maths and science, they managed to interest him in the other subjects enough to write a made-up story of his own (a great great great accomplishment), they also have film club on Fridays and book club in which they are doing a guided reading of Narnia (we have it at home, but if you'd ask me I would probably say he is too young. So I guess it's good nobody asked). And the latest is that he joined the school choir, mainly because he wants to sing Christmas songs in the snow :) but also because apparently he likes singing. Who knew?
So he is loving school, has made lots of friends in his class, and has a BFF in Tyler (Even though I did ask Ron how to sell it, I am still not sure...), who after Ron nagged me for 2 month, and after I scrunched up enough courage to go talk first to his grandma because she is usually the one who takes him to / from school, and after a very very chilly response (not sure why but she does not seems to like us much), and then to his mum (talked to her 3 times now! So proud of myself. I know it sounds silly, and maybe it is, but you have to understand that nobody talks to us in school, and that, well, it's me. I hate conversing with people), will come to our house on Friday. It's the first friend Ron has over, since we moved here and since he is sharing a room with Yon. I really hope it goes well. I do have high expectations because Tyler is a really nice kid, and he also likes Yon, and I am really hoping we can finally have someone to talk to about life and school things here...

I guess that's it for kids things. In accordance with the baking craze going around our house and the UK and with the holiday season upon us we made Halloween baking this week - Halloween shortbread cookies (it's an Israeli / mine version. Not really shortbread, but for lack of another word) which the kids actually helped making (it did help that the cookie cutters are huge and the whole thing was done in under an hour, and also that Hidai was there to stop me from being too critical) and Yon took to nursery (huge success. He is so depressed he doesn't have more to bring), and Halloween cupcakes for Ron, who wanted chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing cupcakes (and although I did try, very hard, to change his decision and do something more interesting, refused flatly. Not even vanilla cupcakes, or orange icing.) so where is the Halloween you ask? well, they are sitting in a Halloween themed cup and have a tiny sugar-paste decoration on top, that Ron put himself and so was very proud of himself for making the cupcakes ;).
Yon's Halloween cookies (biscuits?)
Ron decorating the thousand cupcakes he took to class

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October 24, 2012

Dip Your Apple In The Honey

Jewish New Year, commonly known as Rosh Hashana, is always my most nostalgic holiday. It's the first holiday after a long long break so it means that Ron forgets all his Jewish knowledge or enthusiasm for everything traditional,Yon is so young he definitely doesn't care about any holiday (though he is willing to dance to any music), Hidai is working longer hours, and I feel alone. Every year. It's not just because we are new here, or that we don't know many people. I think it's the autumn that hits me. The whole shorter days, red leaves on the ground, it's getting colder, darker and rainier thing. It's the loneliness, sadness, and the homesickness together with some very Israeli songs and uninterested children with no appreciation for their parents culture and traditions... That is the only time that I get hit by the full impact of how much the kids are different from us, how big is this gap between their lives and childhood and ours. They will never know the things that defined us, and we will forever struggle to understand the culture that defines them.
So I get very... I guess the correct word would be pensive, around this time of year, and even though it happens every year, I am always surprised by it. Maybe because it never happens with any other holiday, I always expect that this year I will finally get used to Rosh Hashana and this weird thing will stop.
It doesn't.
BUT, this year, with the move here on top of everything, I was sure it will happen again and I made arrangements in advance - I invited Uri, Evelyn, Jo, Adrian and their boys to a holiday dinner, because there is nothing worse than sitting alone in this kind of situation. I also started hearing some holiday music with the kids a couple of weeks in advance (only slightly helped - I felt nostalgic, Ron wasn't interested at all, and Yon just couldn't stop dancing), and planned a festive meal that wasn't even remotely close to a real Rosh Hashana Eve dinner in quantity, but was based around sweet food and honey because, a) it's the traditional thing - eat sweet food for a sweet year, and b) I don't really like cooking. I do, however, like baking :).
We were lucky this year that the holiday fell on a Sunday (to the non Jewish readers - the Jewish calendar is based on the moon, so even though the holidays stays on the same Jewish date, they move around on the weekdays and regular calendars. If you want to have a way better explanation then mine - Jewish Calendar ) so we got the holiday feel, everyone could come eat with us, and Hidai was home to help with the preparations (mostly kids and dishes).
I have to admit we were really anxious about the whole thing, and about a thousand times during the preparations revisited the whole "What were we thinking" question. We were totally unprepared for a holiday dinner - when we left Israel we left all of our much loved tableware behind, and even after 3 years, we still haven't managed to replace all of our collection (we are getting there, but it did take us 7 years to build the old one), so we had to buy things like a tablecloth, which we avoided buying until now, because even though it might sound silly, it goes back to the traditions I talked about at the beginning - there is only one kind of tablecloth fit for a holiday, and it's really hard to find the right combination of material, size, colour and decorations... I managed to find and buy it on Amazon, but am still missing the proper cotton napkins and silver napkin rings (I did buy some cute white & blue ones that Yon adores, but it's not the same...). Also, and I know I said it already but still - the apartment is tiny. Tiny. So we needed some creative thinking to fit everyone comfortably inside and around the table (thank you Laura & Mick for the greatest idea ever - the kids table. Taking the kids small arts table, buying 2 more chairs and a nice paper tablecloth sure does solve this problem very nicely, and the kids eat better, leave the table sooner and annoy their parents less. Did I mention that it's most definitely the best idea ever?). Also, we just moved here - we are missing so many food ingredients we don't know where to buy, we are still struggling with the food shopping online and with operating our appliances... What were we thinking?!
Actually, we were not thinking.
Holiday table all ready to go
Yon and I started the preparations together with a trip to Kosher Kingdom in Golders Green (Jewish store, as if you didn't guess from the name), where we bought necessities like burekas, olives, gherkins, Bamba, and obviously - houmous. And some Rosh Hashana napkins and chocolates. We also bought an octopus. Because that is what one does when accompanied by a Yon. Buys a pink sparkly octopus.     
After that it was only silly details, as it is common knowledge that once you have an octopus you are half way there. I guess that's why Yon is always unconcerned. I, on the other hand was concerned, and also worked my butt off for three days before the holiday to make sure everything was clean, tidy, and ready for the holiday.
Yon and I on our way to Golders Green
Kitchen chaos
We invited everyone for 5 o'clock so we can have tea/coffee and cookies before dinner. I was a bit surprised when they came bearing alcohol. Lots of alcohol. But apparently it's customary to bring your own alcohol. So it was more of a wine and cookies five o'clock. We had 3 kinds of cookies - chocolate with chocolate chips cookies, spicy honey cookies and a new recipe that I got from mum a few days before and tastes exactly like the honey cookies you buy in the Supermarkets in Israel (the kids and Uri liked that one the best).
A few cookies (or biscuits if you are not Israeli)
Dinner included one giant chala bread that I got from my favourite Israeli food Blog, 3 kinds of burekas (2 bought ones - potato and mushrooms, and one home-made filled with cheese), 2 kinds of pasta bakes (one sweet and one savoury), and mini pancakes based on soft cheese (I bought the correct real Israeli cheese to make them. It's been years since I ate them like that). In Jewish standards this does not constitutes enough food to be called a holiday dinner. And I'm pretty sure I said the sentence "there is not enough food" a couple of times. At least.
The Challa
Did I already say that there is not enough food?
For desert (because really, not enough food) we had 2 kinds of cupcakes - honey cupcakes with cream-cheese, honey and vanilla icing, and chocolate cupcakes with chocolate and cream icing.
Side note on the cupcake issue - I don't like making cupcake. I don't like making icing. I am no good at it, and given the opportunity I will always choose baking a proper cake, but Ron is very into cupcakes, and it's easier to serve, and I promised to bring some to school, and I couldn't stand the whole not being good at it thing. So it took me 3 tries for each kind of cupcake until I found the right recipe for each cupcake and each icing. We ate a lot of cupcakes here in the last couple of weeks.
Back to Rosh Hashana stuff. Everyone ate (according to Hidai. I was too nervous to see anything, and from what I saw nobody ate anything), played (okay, that was just the kids, but they played together beautifully, didn't break anything, and nobody cried), drank (even us), and took home a goody bag.
Total success.

Cupcake madness
The day after, I gave Hidai all the leftover food and cookies, and added the cupcakes to Ron's school ones.
It was the best Rosh Hashana we had in years. It was hard work, made me sick with nerves, and all of us anxious as hell, but in the end I loved every minute of it and I am so happy we made the effort, and had a proper holiday.
Well, the fact that they loved the food helped :)

And just to finish with a smile, I was searching the net for some Rosh Hashana music in English, and stumbled upon this - Dip your apple song, and this one also. So funny :)

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October 23, 2012


So I got lost for a bit, well maybe more then a bit. I've been feeling lost for a while now.
Which is, I guess, the main reason I haven't been here. I haven't even visit the Blog let alone wrote anything. I had 2 big meals, but other than that I haven't been baking, and for the past week I was sick in bed...

But now, as 2 trays of home-made croissants are baking away in my oven, I am starting to find my way back.

Life has been kind of hard on me for the last month or so, with lots of unanswered questions, worries, and doubts, which unfortunately for you, I am going to list most of...
First of all, my kids are all grown up. And they have one foor out the door. Seriously. Ron is 7 and yon is 3 something. It suddenly hit me - when Ron was Yon's age I just got pregnant with Yon. I can't even think about having another one, but it does makes me think about the fact that they are all grown up... Ron is in school (or other activities) until 17:00 o'clock 3 times a week, and Yon can be in nursery until 15:30 every day if I choose to pay (I don't because it's an extra 240 pounds a month) and anyway next year he will for sure go to school full time (I got his registration forms. Gets me every time), so I am beginning to suffer some empty-nest related anxiety, and for the first time in a very very long while I have a relatable group - the What Will you Do Now group. I haven't been part of a relatable group for so long, I'm not even sure if I like being a part of one...
But the thing is, the kids aren't all that old, and any place I carve for myself will ultimately be at their expanse because I will be less accessible to them (and to Hidai, and to my parents and to everyone basically). If I take the week I was lost and ill and wasn't paying enough attention as an example, then Ron went the whole week with torn shoes (really really torn. Shame on me), the HDMI on my computer broke and I was without one of my monitors for almost 2 weeks, we were missing some basic home things, and so on. You get my point. Things didn't happen. I was not in control.
The fact of the matter is, you can't build anything unless you are willing to go the distance. And I am not. I can't think of my family paying this kind of price, and just so you won't think that I am all about others, I am not all that good with long terms. In fact, beside Hidai (and obviously the kids), I can't even name one long term decision / responsibility / commitment I have (or ever took). So you're probably thinking about the move here, but even that isn't long term... I can't honestly look anyone in the eye and say "yes, this is our last move". When Ron finishes Primary School, he will have to start over in secondary school anyway. So who is to say it will be here / in London / in Europe? Not me. But I do have my coffee shop-patisserie dream, and even more than I hate commitments, I hate unrealised dreams. So I found myself frustrated - to bake or not to bake? I can start small, but anyway in order to get my name out there I will have to knock on doors and do stalls in fairs again and work very very hard. I did not feel ready for that, but I did not feel ready to let go of my dream...
There is no answer. Not an easy one anyway, so in the meantime I am working on at least having a baking Facebook page, baking new things, trying new techniques and sending lots of baked goods with Hidai and the kids.
Bureaucracy... It's amazing how much of it there is. And how quickly you forget it when it's done... So we are not done. We are still waiting for the Social insurance bills or whatever they are called here, so that I can pay them and finally become a tax paying citizen. We called them a couple of weeks ago and they said yes, it's on it's way... Still haven't arrive though. Without these payments we can't submit Hidai's forms to the Home Office to get his 5 years residency, and without that we can't leave the UK. so I know there are worst places to be stuck in, but the feeling / knowing that you are stuck here is just suffocating. And the knowledge that even though we are perfectly legal, and have every right to be here, and we did all that was required and on time, things are not settled yet. I hate it. It frightens me every time and all the time. I know it's baseless, since we did call the Home Office to ask everything and make sure we are doing everything by the book (we are), but still until we get the stamp in Hidai's passport and the ability to go outside the UK (which can take even 6 more months...) I won't be able to relax...
Settling in... So do you feel at home?  We've been here 3 months. Just 3 months. Already 3 months. And I have no answer to give.
It took us until Friday to feel comfortable enough to talk to Taylor's mum and invite him over. Ron has been asking for it for 2 months now... When we had grandparents here we went terribly lost on our way to football, which is located a convenient 15 minutes in the other direction... We have that alone feeling and no idea how things work around here, and life in general don't feel settled. On the other hand, we had 2 family dinners, we donated to the Paint Highbury Campaign and met some people from the building, we have regulars passing us and saying hello on the way to and from school, we went to a PTA meeting... We are settling in. It's just that it takes time. So much time. When we finished our first year in Gibraltar we summarised it as survival. Everything is life or death. I remembered it coming here, but I don't think you can totally remember what it feels like. Everything IS life or death.
Family... We are not really used to having family around anymore. It's been 3 years now (come December) since we left Israel, and normal extended family life with it. We get visits. But here we have Uri & Ev, and Jo & Adrie (they are technically speaking Ev's family but still...), and it's a fine balance that you need to find and not an easy one at that. What's more, we had our first grandparents visit which made it painfully clear how different life here are from life in Gibraltar, and how hard first visits are... It wasn't the easiest or funnest visit we had together, but it's one of the most important ones, because the first visit is always the visit in which the fantasy meets the reality, and the London visit turnes into the "Are you crazy? Oxford st. is 45 minutes from here by tube, and yon finished nursery in 3 hours form now..." so yea, we don't get to see a lot of London, certainly not without the kids...
And don't even get me started on the weather (don't mind the gray, mind the it's October how the f*&^%%ck is it 10 degrees?!!!! bit)....

So that is most of it, most of the reasons I felt lost and out of control. But life is, at the end of it, unreliable as it gets. So who is to know what time will bring? If you had asked me at an point if my life where will I be in 1/3/5/10 years from now I would have a great answer, which proved to be wrong every time. I stopped guessing. And stopped planning. Settling in is my main mission for this year, so I talked with Taylor's grandma and mum 3 times already, that is why we will go to the birthday party JonJon was invited to and that is why we will volunteer in the PTA. After that? who knows.

(Actually a bit of a too dramatic a finish. my mission - and I do choose to accept it - is to close the one month gap I have here this week, before the kids have half term and it's Halloween time)

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