Monday, 8 December 2014

Sleeping with the Monsters

Here is the News

News Summary

  • My tumour has been removed and the area around it is clear of cancer cells.
  • My lymph node biopsy showed that as yet, there is no sign of cancer in the lymph nodes.
  • As the cancer is very aggressive, I will start receiving chemotherapy next week, followed by biological therapy (herceptin)  after the  chemotherapy, to give me the best possible chance of non occurrence. The entire treatment is going to last in excess of a year.

Positive News

  • Miraculously, despite it being very deep, I felt the lump.
  • The surgeon got everything out.
  • I am recovering well. 
  • I can move my arm freely again.
  • My pain is hugely reduced.
  • I am back at work.
  • I made it to my brother's engagement party in England.
  • Friends have shown their friendship over and over.
  • I know that my chemo' is precautionary.
  • My cancer is receptive to herceptin, the drug that gives me the best chance of non-occurrence. 
  • I am forbidden from dieting.
  • Hair grows back after chemo so I may manage short hair for my brother's wedding in June. 
  • I have ordered three great wigs in Red, Purple and Ginger.
  • I am going to England between the 1st and 2nd treatment no matter what!
  • I am still going to crush this cancer but it may take longer than expected.

Negative News

  • The first chemo' drug will be given 2 weekly, four times.
  • The second chemo' drug will be given weekly, twelve times.
  • Herceptin will then be given 3 weekly, thirteen times.
  • The above amounts to 'a lot of times'!
  • I have been advised to take a month off work at the start to give my body the best chance of dealing with the drugs.
  • This time next month I may well be bald.
  • I despise needles and always have done. This is not improving with time.
  • My family have to go through this with me.
  • I will still be receiving treatment when I fly for my brother's wedding in June. This isn't something I was expecting. I will not have finished treatment when my son has his Bar Mitzvah, this time next year. This is something I never even contemplated.

Ridiculous News (things that didn't occur to me in advance)
    • Brushing ones hair with ones left hand (when right handed) is most awkward.
    • Certain other daily aspects of living pose similar issues (see photo to the photo directly above).
    • Knitting, one handed, is a technique I have not learned.
    • I can't cook left handed!
    • Three handed cuddles are odd.

    Monstor-ous News

    • I have always slept on my front, face down, hiding from the monsters. I don't remember a time when I didn't do this. When face down, the monsters can't see you and the burglars don't know you are there. I can't sleep on my side or my back and this has been the most frustrating part of recovering from the operation. 
    • Sleeping with the Monsters is not for me. 

    Wednesday, 15 October 2014

    Life Begins at 40 - Life With, Through and Beyond Tommy

    I approached the age of 40 with joy. It didn't scare me. I don't look 40. I certainly don't feel 40.  I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

    I wanted to start my forties being silly with friends and family. I had never before had a birthday party as an adult so I decided it was about time I changed that fact. After a quick think I chose to put on a '4th Birthday Party" and the silliness began.  The entertainment consisted of children's games, including Twister, Connect 4, magnetic fishing in a large tub of water on the balcony, puzzles and other assorted childish endeavours. The menu was pizza , popcorn, fairy cakes and ice cream. There were balloons and silly hats and it was a great party. I was ready for my forties.

    My cake was supplied by the very talented Taryn at Bakers Inn

    It was quite a year.  We moved areas within our city, moving further from great friends and meeting new ones. We had a war over the summer and spent part of our time in our secure rooms and bomb shelters. We were far less affected than those further south but affected we were.  I even managed to spend this special time on crutches. This was my first introduction to the world of crutches and it isn't something I hope to repeat any-time soon. These events have meant that although we moved to our forever home it still looks like we are living out of boxes three months on. The world went a little mad as terrorist organisations seemed to be springing up left right and centre and the world's slow and laboured response to these was more frightening than the proposed terror itself. All over Europe including in my home city waves of Anti Semitism rose and memories of times gone by and thoughts of 'never again' were in our minds. 

    The most exciting thing to happen while I was 40 (and the thing that does start to make me feel just a little closer to my age) was my baby leaving primary school and starting high school. I still can't quite get my head around that one. I remember his first day at nursery, primary school and his first day at his new post immigration school where he didn't speak the language, like they were yesterday.  Four years on he speaks fluently and has started high school. There is nothing in my life that I am more proud of than my baby. He bursts my heart every day. My husband does this too of course!

    As my 41st birthday approached, my life changed. Something happened to me that only happens to other people. It only happens on TV, in books and in a world where people Blog about it - except this time it didn't. This time it was me. It is now my turn. 

    Late September, I found a lump. Suddenly, life became a whirlwind.  First the mammogram, then the ultrasound, then the biopsy. Then came the wait. The wait was short and I was grateful. It is cancer. It should have been a shock but somehow it wasn't. Then the whirlwind began again. The race to find out if it was one cancer only, how it was working, where it had spread to and what we were going to do about it. 

    There was an MRI to get a clear picture of exactly what the issue was. It is a solitary tumor from what they can see. There was a PetCT scan to check my whole body and make sure that it is a primary and solitary cancer and that the rest of my body, is at this point, clear. I got the all clear on that one today and it has been the biggest relief so far. The two week wait for this has been the most difficult wait. This was in no uncertain terms, terrifying. I can deal with cancer. I can't deal with cancers. 

    This week I celebrated my 41st birthday. I really celebrated. We spent it doing something my son wanted us to do as a family. It's going to be a different year and I wanted it to start well. We went to an alligator farm - the only one in the Middle East, We enjoyed bathing in ancient hot springs and we finished the evening with friends, eating under the stars.

    In under a week, Tommy the Tumor, as my son has named him, is going to be removed. Yesterday I had more blood tests, a chest xray and an ECG and I am ready to go. There will also be a sentinel node biopsy frozen section done. I don't really know much about this. I just know its my best chance to find out exactly what the treatment should be afterwards. I will be taking a few weeks to recover from the surgery, by which time, I am hoping that the exploration and the pathology from it will be able to tell us what the next step is. I may need radiotherapy, or hormone treatment, or chemotherapy or other targeted therapy. There are so many 'ifs' at this stage. I am finding the 'ifs' quite hard.

    What I do know is that I will be travelling overseas for my brother's engagement party 5 weeks after surgery. I won't be carrying a suitcase but boy will I be there. I will fly alone and I will be fit enough. 

    From here on in I suspect that whirlwind is just going to keep spinning and I am planning on it spitting me out at the other end, fixed and fighting. The cancer is a primary cancer. I can fight it. I will fight it. I will survive it. Others have done it and so shall I.

    I have my brother's wedding, in June, to be fit and well for and a talented, beautiful and warm hearted new sister in law to welcome in to my family. If I end up having chemo' and my hair falls out, so be it. It's just hair. I will look fabulous and fit for the wedding though and here is my secret plan.

    Shhhhhhh  - don't tell anyone!

    Sunday, 15 June 2014

    Life is not a Rehearsal - What will you do this Year?

    Many years ago a very special friend told me that life was not a rehearsal.  It took me many years to really understand why he thought that and what he meant by it.  My friend was right. Everyone makes mistakes and if we are lucky, then we learn from these mistakes but there is no time for regret. Regret is destructive and demoralising. Regret takes time. Time is a precious commodity that should be used to enjoy life, rather than to dwell on any bad times gone by.

    With 417 Days a Year, what would you do in the next year? What would be on your To Do list?

    In the next year I would love to;

    1. Welcome as many friends and family into our new 'forever home' as possible.

    2. Get back to a weight at which I am comfortable.

    3, Travel to somewhere far away to meet long lost relatives that I have never met before.

    4. Improve my second language.

    5. Be proud of the things I achieve during the year.

    Do any of these feature in your Top 5 things to do this year?  What would your Top 5 be? Please feel free to comment with your inspirational Top 5 for the year to come.

    Friday, 6 June 2014

    Burned Friendship Cake

    With 417 Days A Year I think that perhaps I would learn to bake. Baking is one of the many things in life for which I have no real talent. This list is long and I shall not bore you with it here.  I never learned to bake as a child and it isn't something which I have really taken the time to learn to do as an adult either.  I do love to cook but because I am not a great fan of the rules and regulations associated with recipes, baking recipes tend not to be my 'go to' place when I need to make desserts.

    I mastered the Chocolate Brownie some time ago but after that success I was somewhat reluctant to move forward. After-all you can't really beat Chocolate Brownies. This was, until I had a guest that didn't eat chocolate. This snippet of information (something that I still find most unusual) caused a last minute panic. The sort of panic that can only be solved by friendship. I reached out to a friend and received a 'fool-proof' recipe.

    My friend asked me what ingredients I had in the kitchen and promptly suggested her 'fool-proof' recipe for Lemon Cake. This recipe wasn't hers but came from her husband's aunt and was apparently guaranteed to work and to be a success both in its appearance, taste and ability to be appreciated every time. I wasn't convinced but I tried it and to my amazement it was perfect. It became my non chocolate 'go to' recipe and it has since been shared with many friends, who have in turn, passed on the recipe. 

    I think of the Lemon Cake as a friendship cake. The recipe was given to me by a friend in my time of need. I have baked it for friends both at home and away and I have passed it on to friends as well. I have found it very hard to 'kill' this cake. When I forgot to add baking powder, it made delicious Lemon Bars.  When I used a tin that was too large, we had a thin and delicate cake. This friendship cake always worked like a little miracle - until today.

    Today I burned the Lemon Cake. Despite the right ingredients, the right oven temperature and the right amount of time on the timer, I burned the cake. I didn't do anything differently today in the way that I prepared or baked the cake. The only change was how I felt when I was making the cake. While excited about making the cake and taking it to a lovely friend tonight I was very aware of another friendship that has been struggling recently.  I am actually rather scared that this friendship may be burning out and this has been a difficult and unwanted thought.  It was on my mind when I made the cake.  I am not sure that I will make it again, despite its recent success because now it feels like my Burned Friendship Cake and I think it may be time for a new recipe.

    Friendships are delicate relationships that require just the right mix of ingredients and care. Some friendships come to a natural end. Sometimes we are lucky and our friendships change as we change, maturing with us. Sometimes, I am taken by suprise as a new friendship springs up from nowhere reminding me how wonderful friendship can be.  

    The year ahead will bring many changes in our friendships and much staying the same. My wish is that however this works out, it will be advantageous for everyone.  If you would like to share your 'go to' cake recipe then please do so in the comments. That would be really wonderful.

    Meanwhile, in the loosely translated (and never formally attributed to) words of Marie Antoinette, "Let them eat cake".

    Friday, 30 May 2014

    From House to Home and Back Again

    By the age of seven I had lived in 8 homes and two countries and I had realised that I wasn't the same as my friends, who had never moved house at all. Of course at that time I didn't really know that it was strange to move so often. I suppose I was young and while I understood that we were moving again, the next house, in my mind, would always be our 'forever home' and so I wasn't particularly disturbed by the moves.

    When I left my 10th family home to go to University, unlike my friends, moving really didn't seem like such a big deal.  In fact, in the four years that I spent there, I lived in another 5 homes (yes we really are at 15 already!).  My places of residence during this time, really were homes rather than student houses. I had my own personal things around me, my photographs, soft toys, books, clothes, music and all sorts of other things that made me feel at home.  I understood by then, that for me, a house became a home when it was filled with the familiar. Up until now, this had been my family and our possessions.  I carefully packed and unpacked my things and with each move my system improved.  

    Almost 4 years ago I left my birth country for a third country. This time I was with my own family. While we did sell and give away many many possessions, the majority of what we had accumulated came with us, including everything of a personal or sentimental nature. I knew just how important this would be for my child for the move to be a success.  This move was different though and not just because it was such a big move.  This time, I was waving goodbye to a house, not a home. My parents had always done me the great favour of not allowing me to see a home we were leaving, once it was empty, so that I could always remember it as filled with our things, the way it should be remembered.  This wasn't a gift that I was able to give to our child on that occasion because our things were going on ahead of us.  We did make sure that we took lots of photographs before the big pack up though as a next best solution. As all of our worldly goods were packed into a container and ready to sail the seas, my 22nd home, became a house again, before our eyes. I still own it but it isn't my home. It is someone else's home now, filled with their love and their trinkets and all their worldly goods. That door is closed and I know that it shall never be my home again.

    I knew when we made this move, from my own experiences as a child, just how important these material possessions would be in making a new home. While people are often simplistic in saying that it is just the people that make a house a home, when you have moved as much as I have, this just doesn't hold true. Yes, of course, if my family is with me, where I live starts to become a home, but when you have moved a lot, you need something extra, something familiar and comforting. You need things!

    We have recently been looking for a new place to live. This will be my 25th home. There is very little suitable accommodation available and therefore compromises are going to have to be made.  Many of the viewings that we have done so far were for places much smaller than where we live now, which in turn is infinitely smaller than the house we left behind.  The search for our next place to live has really opened my eyes to how many people see this whole possessions issue very differently to me.  Perhaps its cultural but I am not so sure.  While we have seen a number of places, all very different from each other, there has been one remarkably similar theme to each viewing. Either the owner, or the current tenant, when noticing us trying to mentally 'place' our things and see if they will fit, has immediately told us that of course, we can just downsize our things. This has been suggested to us each time without even a thought, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Things, being just things, seem to have no part in building a home for these people. 

    Realistically, I knew in some ways that I would indeed have to downsize a little. I sold a desk, a few books that were never going to be reread and I cleared out 15000 emails so at least my inbox is downsized. Everything else stays - from the piano that my parents bought, second hand, when I was 7 to the ridiculous Alien Citrus Juicer that I am never going to use but nevertheless, love dearly. It was a present. It is important to me. It is called Martian because it was given to me by my friend Martin and it looks like an Alien. These things and everything in between are the things that allow us to make where we live feel like home.

    I have thought an awful lot about what makes a home over the last few weeks, since this search began. Interestingly the language of the country that I live in, has no separate words for a house or a home. I hope that when we find our new 'house' (and to be fair, it is going to be a flat but let's not be pedantic), we will be able to make it our home. We want to fill it with family and friends and things that evoke memories and give us the feeling of security. We want to turn it from a house to a home, even if we can't say it in the native language. Maybe someone that has only lived a few homes, or never moved from where they started, will feel very differently about what makes a home.  

    The only thing that I am of certain of, is that home number 25, will be my 'forever home' (until next time).

    Wednesday, 16 April 2014

    From Slavery to Freedom - A Time for Rules but not for Recipes

    Sometimes I find life rather overwhelming. I think perhaps that most people feel the same way, at least every now and then.

    For me, this time of year, comes with many restrictions and rules as a result of my religion and the religions of others, school and work schedules and National days of 'rest'.  For many, the regulation and enforced routines are a welcome change and are embraced wholeheartedly. I'm afraid that I get rather bogged down with it all and it is at times like these that I feel the need to do things that are not dictated by rules or regulations. I think that it will certainly be a hair dying week. This is how I look at the moment but change is imminent:-

    If you recognise me in the street please do say hi! I just love it when fans recognise me.

    Over the last week I have watched as friends, acquaintances and strangers from many continents have posted photographs of and recipes for, the wonderful and traditional foods that they are preparing as part of their celebrations. Many people have simply posted photographs online showing their amazing creations but not given instructions as to how to create these miracles.  These photographs were without exception followed by people asking as to how the creations should be made and what the exact recipes should be. 

    Some of the amazing recipes that I have seen this week have included my good friend Maurice's Potato and Caramelized Onion Spanish Omelette Style Kugel (OK he is a Chef), Suzanne's family recipe for Sweet Chremzels (something I have only ever experienced in their savoury form), Dean's beautiful Huevos Haminados, Sophie's cheese filled home made beef burgers, Elisheva's Orange Juice, Katie's Stuffed Aubergine and Chilli, Alexandra's Cereal and Lisa's family recipe for her Picnic Slice.

    I saw many culinary concoctions that I may have liked to try creating both now and in the future but as I read these recipes a feeling of dread came over me. From my desire to make something lovely for my family to eat, inspired by these photographs and mouth watering descriptions, came an overwhelming feeling of constraint and restriction! I knew that anything that I cooked this week would have to have the the element of freehand - no recipes, no weights and measures - just plain old throw it in and see what happens.

    So in the spirit of 'non-recipes' - tonight's meal was the following;

    Spinach Gnocci with Sour Cream and Tomato Sauce, sprinkled with a little cheese.

    The Ingredient List 

    Potato Flour
    Sour Cream
    Tomato Purée

    No weights, measures or recipe was used in the making of this dish.

    Followed by;

    Chocolate Coconut Crunchies - inspired by Lisa's Picnic Slice

    The Ingredients List

    Chocolate Chips

    No weights, measures or recipe was used in the making of this dish.

    With the preparation of this meal, I feel like my path from Slavery to Freedom has at least begun.

    Thursday, 27 March 2014

    My New Arrival

    When I started looking into which sewing machine I should purchase and where I should purchase it from, I found and received an abundance of advice. This advice in fact was so abundant that it became not only overwhelming, but also completely redundant in its usefulness.  

    After some thought I decided that I would look for a sewing machine that fitted the following criteria. The sewing machine needed:-
    • To be cheap. The purpose of the machine was to save money by up-cycling things that I already have. It needed to be good enough for the job at hand but in the likely even that my learning to sew was a failure I didn't want to waste too much money.
    • To be local or to be lightweight, so that I could bring it in my suitcase on my next visit to the UK.
    • To be simple. I already knew that I was terrified of sewing machines. I didn't want to have a panic attack when I first sat in front of it and I wanted to be able to conquer it, rather than it conquer me! (At this point I was still doubtful about who or what would win).
    • To have very few bits that could easily break. This also meant that I wanted a machine with manual and mechanical settings rather than electronic settings.
    • To have a very small number of settings and functions. I wanted to learn to sew. I never had any expectations of being able to sew well or to learn more than a handful of stitches of techniques. In the event of such a miracle occurring, I could, of course, upgrade.
    • To be easy to use. Actually it needed to be more than a little bit idiot proof. I think perhaps that if I had found one with voice control that would have suited me well. The memories of hours trying to thread machines at school before even attempting to sew still come back to haunt me and it has been many many years since I was at school. At this point, if I could sit in front of a machine and learn to thread it, it probably would have been enough to keep me going for a while, in the way of achievements.
    After some time planning and dreaming I actually started to look forward to the big day. The decision was made to go ahead, the seed was planted - but I needed to wait a few months.

    Following in the tradition of Fiddler on the Roof's Motel Kamzoil, I would like to introduce my new arrival.

    Sunday, 23 March 2014


    As an Expat' Brit I really do miss a nice bit of Crumpet!

    British crumpets aren't sold where I live and living without them wasn't an option so I went in search of a recipe. After taking the bits I liked (the easy bits) from a few recipes, I devised one that worked well. I often get asked for my Crumpet recipe so now I am sharing it. 


    450g Flour
    300ml Warm Milk
    300ml Warm Water
    1tsp Salt
    1tsp Sugar
    1 Sachet of Yeast (or 5g/7g appx)
    a little oil

    If you have egg rings like these, they are superb for crumpets. If not, you could cut the tops and bottoms of some tuna tins I suppose but that isn't one that I will be doing as a veggie! You could even use biscuit cutters - your imagination is the way to go on this one. 


    Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl (I told you this was simple). Pour in the milk and the water to make a batter and beat it well. Set this aside for about an hour in a warm place.

    Stir the mixture well to get rid of the air trapped inside it.

    Grease a frying pan or a heavy bottomed pan (I love this term) and heat up the pan.

    Pour some mixture into the rings until they are about half full. It takes about 10 minutes to cook the crumpets.  Once you have good holes and the mixture is almost solid you can flip the crumpets to toast their bottoms (or tops depending on how you define these).

    These crumpets are really simple to make but the key, as you see is to make them ahead of time due to the hour's waiting time in the middle of the method. The great news is that I have frozen crumpets that I have made from this recipe and they freeze brilliantly. They don't need defrosting and can be toasted or oven cooked from frozen.

    My Grandma, Knitting and Sewing

    As a child, my grandmother taught me to knit. I'm probably not the worlds best knitter but I am quite competent and I love the peace and relaxation that knitting affords me.

    This little guy is City Bear and is a treasured possession of my son, knitted for him by my grandma.

    My grandmother was also an excellent sewing machinist. Having worked for many years as a seamstress, the task often fell to her when we needed repairs and alterations doing. This talent for precision and patience, with a needle and thread, never made it to the next generation or to the one after that. When it came to sewing classes at school I was beyond anything my teacher had seen before. When my friends made 2 or 3 garments a year, I failed to complete one plain blue cotton t-shirt in the same time. Sewing, simply isn't something that I have a talent for.

    Sewing is something that I have always wished that I were able to do.  This is because I rarely find clothes that I like in the shops. I have many many clothes that no longer fit me or no longer suit me and I longed to be able to do something with them. After all I have lots of material that I love and it would to superb to make things that I actually like and that actually fit me properly from it.

    Last summer I treated myself to a lovely pink sewing machine and started to learn to sew. As I wanted something quite specific I carried it across the globe in my suitcase. This effort ensured that I will continue to use it and not give up! I am never going to be an expert. It just not something that I am naturally good at. I am going to keep trying though. I don't ever want to make clothes from patterns because even the thought of doing this bores me silly. I hope to up-cycle as many of my clothes as possible though rather than just throwing them out. In this world where so many things have become disposable, it is a good feeling to re-purpose and re-fashion things. 'Make Do and Mend' - I hope my grandma would have been proud!

    Saturday, 22 March 2014

    Welcome to 417 Days A Year

    417 Days a Year

    This weekend, in a moment when I should have been doing something far more important instead but didn't really fancy it, I decided that it was time to write a blog. 

    I have attempted to write a blog a couple of times before but like many things, it takes time.  Spare time, of course is something most of us don't have much of.  While thinking about what to call the blog, it occurred to me, that if we just had more time in the day, or more days in the week, or even more weeks in the month, we could possibly accomplish so much more. From this idea, came the name for my new blog, 417 Days A Year.

    In 417 Days A Year I would cook more, knit more, travel more, up-cycle more, do considerably more genealogical research, clean and tidy more (OK I probably wouldn't) and generally take more time to enjoy doing those things that make life more enjoyable. We only get one life and it isn't a rehearsal, so this blog will be about some of  the things that I manage to squeeze into my time, as well as the wonderful things that other people manage to squeeze into theirs. It is dedicated to those who never got the chance to make their own dreams come true.

    I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up and to be honest I still don't. However, I am now in some people's eyes grown up, that is; I have qualifications, full time employment (and a few sidelines), I have workplace experience, I am married and I am a mother I have left the country of my birth and started a life in a new country and therefore I suppose I must be grown up. I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up though, so in the meantime I will be posting about things I enjoy and things that happen while I am living the life that I live, while waiting to decide what I will do when I grow up. I feel that I can't be alone in thinking perhaps this wasn't the life I ordered but as I am not sure what life I would have ordered instead, I plod on. After all, the life I have is pretty wonderful - its just not the life I thought I would have.