Saturday, 9 January 2021

A More Des Res for New Year Resolutions

Not every resolution is for every day. 
New Year resolutions (NYRs from now on) have the bad reputation of being discarded before the first month of the year is out. But still we're drawn to making them. I've seen some attempts at taming them by changing the name to 'goals' or 'intentions'. Who are we kidding? After a week, a res by any other name would smell as obsolete.

The forerunners of NYRs, about 4,000 years ago, were the allegiance to the King and promises to the gods in Ancient Babylon during their 12-day NY celebrations in the spring. The Romans continued making promises to the gods when Julius Ceasar changed the NY to January 1st in about 46BCE. Wanting to provide a religious alternative to reveling and getting drunk, English clergyman, John Wesley introduced the Covenant Renewal Service in 1740 (also known as Watch Night Services), to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the coming one.  

Nowadays we make promises to ourselves. This is not as binding on our psyche as promising our gods. Hence the reported 92% failure rate. Seeing as we're not giving up on NYRs, there has to be a better way of doing it. And now, at last, someone has found it. 

I didn't make this up myself. My blogging friend of 10 years, Emma Martin, who lives on Cyprus, discovered a small switch in mindset, a loophole, an altogether more des res, that increases your chance of success. At least until December - when it could go back to 8%. But you'll have had 365 days of opportunity and many of them in the warmer weather when you're feeling more energised. 

In Talking on Eggshells, Emma explains that NYRs are made on January 1st, in the NY, but you don't have to start all of them straight away. She interprets the concept as things you will start or conquer at some time during the coming year. 

How comforting to know that you can conquer Couch to 5K even if you start in the spring. You can give up eating meat by reducing gradually and have it licked (pun intended) by the end of the year. You can learn a new language or musical intrument without promising yourself to practise for 20 minutes every day. You can even schedule your studies to start at a beginners' summer course in your local college.

The pressure is off folks! This year I will..... means two doughnuts doesn't mean you've failed your diet resolution. One day of watching television all day in your pyjamas doesn't derail any of your good, industrious, healthy, productive, creative, empowering, self-improvement, super-hero resolutions. You just took a day or a week or a month off. Who cares? You have the whole of 2021 to do this thing.   

As someone who takes her NYRs as seriously as the Babylonians and Romans did, this revelation has changed my whole life. I'm stunned that no one has said it before. If we share it, we could help millions of people to do this year what they've never managed to achieve before. (Quick Emma, write the book before anyone else writes it!) 

On behalf of my friend Emma, you're welcome. 

Emma Martin blogs at Talking on Eggshells

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Cooking from the HeART

What do you do when you find yourself in quarantine with a fortnight's worth of free time? For Sally-Ann Thwaites the answer was simple. She would use the time to collect all her recipes, hithertofore on scraps of paper or on her phone, together into one convenient file. 

Sally-Ann (Sassy to her friends) is a great entertainer. Her passion is to have upwards of 10, and sometimes 20 friends around her dining table almost every Shabbat. Her greatest joy is a house full of guests for a party, a barbeque, or a celebration of any sort. So, on hearing of her plan to collate all her delicious recipes, everyone encouraged her to go the extra mile and make it into a book.

Thus began a five month project which resulted in Cooking from the Heart, a 260 page cornucopia of entertaining know-how, recipes, tips and luscious photos. 

Emerging from her solitary confinement, Sassy invited all her friends whose dishes she'd been borrowing for years, to send her the actual recipes. She contacted the chefs of restaurants and hotels to request the recipes of dishes she and her husband have particularly enjoyed locally and on their travels. 

She also dug deep into her memory to recreate the best loved dishes of her childhood. Recipes from her beloved mother, also a great cook and entertainer, and her first inspiration in the kitchen. In fact the book is dedicated to Monica Slater, a lovely lady whom I remember well from my childhood in our community in London.

When I offered to do some editing, I was told there would be about 25 recipes a week for three weeks. No problem, we were in lockdown, I wasn't going anywhere. But the recipes kept on coming. When, five months later, we reached 130 recipes I asked if this was a book of her favourite recipes or of every dish she'd ever eaten. Haha, very funny. These things often take on a life of their own. 

If you're going to do something, do it properly, right? A professional photographer, graphic designer and printer were essential to make the leap from crafts project to coffee table splendor. Fun for us, because every few weeks, in between the lockdowns, there was photo shoot and a whole bunch of friends had to come over and eat all the food. 

Sally-Ann setting the table.

I learned a few things too. Apparently a grazing table is a thing. But don't worry if you've never heard of it before as there's a page dedicated to telling you how it's done with elegance and panache*. Ditto for other more familiar concepts like table settings, buffets, reception food, and fruit platters.

Obviously after all the time, effort and expense, this is not the sort of thing where you print five copies and give them to your closest family. With the help of a sponsor, Cooking from the Heart is being distributed in aid of Beit Halochem, an organisation that supports military veterans in Israel. (Suggested donation £30 and all the proceeds go straight to the charity.) 

There's a facebook page where people are posting photos of their dinners from the book. It's fun to see everyone's choices, interpretations (because no two cooks are the same), and comments. And you can find information about how to get your very own copy. 

I've completed a few little projects during this pandemic, but Sassy raised the bar considerably. In fact, in my Jerusalem neighbourhood, I'd say she won the lockdowns by a mile. 

*I am particulalry interested in panache at the moment, having just started this new blog.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

The Call to Vacction (It's a Play on Words).

Jerusalem Payis Arena
The sign says: Maccabi Always With You. 
 3.20 pm: I'm giving a zoom English lesson to six 4th Graders. The phone rings. I don't give the lady time to tell me anything. I say I'm a teacher giving a zoom lesson and I'll be able to talk in another 30 minutes. Had I known what it was about, I would never have hung up.

 3.50 pm on the dot: She calls back. She's from Maccabi, my health fund. Would I like to make an appointment for the first round vaccination? Of course I would but as I told the person I spoke to a couple of weeks ago, after receiving invitations by sms, email and a phone call, I'm allergic to latex and they warned people with allergies to speak to their doctor first. Last time I was told that as I'm not yet 60, I don't really qualify. Which begged the question - why invite me to make an appointment then? 

Since then they are filling in free slots with people in their 50s so as not to waste opened batches of vaccination that have been out of the freezer too long to put back. 

This nice lady asks if I'm allergic to any medicines and specifically any inoculations. No and no. So you're fine, can you come at 4.20? Whoa, I'm not sure I can get there by 4.20. Ok, 4.40? Done. 

I am about to hang up when she says, "one more thing. Your second jab will be on the 25th January also at 4.40." I'm amazed. Are you an angel from heaven? The truth is that Israel does what it does best in a crisis. We're used to crises.  

 3.55 pm: I dance around my apartment feeling like I've won the lottery. 

 4.05 pm: I jump in a taxi. "Driver! The Jerusalem Payis Arena! And don't spare the horses!" (I'm paraphrasing.) 

 4.20 pm: I walk into the Arena. They give me a number at the door which corresponds exactly to the number showing on the screen. Cubicle 9. Straight in. 

 4.21 pm: I give my ID number. "Rachel Selby? I see you had your flu shot three weeks ago." Yes and yes. "Which arm?" Reader, I didn't feel a thing. 

 4.22 pm: I'm sitting in the lobby having been instructed to wait 10 minutes before leaving. 

 4.50 pm: I'm home and half vaccinated. The trouble is that no one knows which half. And anyway, my 50% immunity doesn't kick in for 8-10 days. But who's going anywhere in the next month anyway? We too are heading for a strict stay-at-home lockdown due to start within 48 hours.

Apparently we are stopping the first round of vaccinations at the end of this week and spending the rest of January giving the second round. I wasn't going to bother with this first round. I thought I'd contact my GP, maybe have to get an epipen and a doctor's note. Whatever, I planned to be ready for the February intake. I was quite happy to let the first 1.5 million people try it out before me. But, now I'm happy, relieved, honoured, and very grateful to have been given this opportunity. 


Saturday, 2 January 2021

New Year, New Blog

Dawn of a new day. Possibly the age of Aquarius.
Happy New Year 2021! 

A New Year full of hope with covid-19 vaccinations rolling out around the world. I haven't given up on celebrating Pesach (Passover) this year with our family in London. And if not Pesach, then the summer (thank you Easyjet for Flexibooking).

Coinciding with all this anticipation for the rebirth of society and the economy, my DD turned 12 last month. Not exactly empty nest time but definitely more independence for both of us. Babysitters are a thing of the past. We can each come and go with our own keys and have our own schedules. We'll keep in touch by phone and agree a time to meet at home for dinner (because Midlife Panache demands that it must be dinner, not just tea or supper).

Oh the exciting possibilities of the coming year. I love you already 2021!

Seriously though - who is this Midlife Panache? What happened to Midlife Singlemum, that comfortable, homely, old friend of a blogger? Well Singlemum's still here but Panache is desperately trying to get out under 12 years of plain pasta. 

I loved having a baby, then a toddler, then a little girl. I didn't feel that it was hard doing it on my own but the all encompassing committement meant that I lost myself somewhat in the process. 

Fitting work around hours of available childcare meant that income was restricted. I'm an emotional eater and there were plenty of emotions to chomp my way through. I ate DD's leftovers because wasting food is a sin. I put all my efforts into DD and unwittingly let myself go. And this past year of being almost totally sedentary was not helpful, to say the least. 

Time for big changes. With thanks to Midlife Singlemum for 10 years of fun-filled blogging, and to DD who provided reams of entertainment but no longer wants to be featured in a blog, I hereby introduce Midlife Panache!

I'm not entirely comfortable with the name yet. Panache means flamboyant confidence of style or manner. I almost changed it to something tamer. Midlife In Clover was a contender as 'in clover' means a life of ease and luxury, but also connotates afternoon tea in the garden - which is more me. And a cow. So I nixed that one. 

Midlife Panache is a challenge and I'm up for a challenge this year.