Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Country In Fancy Dress - Except One

Even adults join in the fun
Today is the day when the whole country dresses up in costume. It's the last day of school before the Purim holiday. Of course the real days of Purim are on Thursday and Friday when there will be more dressing up but today all the schools have half day and it's one big costume party. Imagine if you did Halloween at school the same as the last day of the Christmas term - that.

Those who have been reading my blog for the past four years will know that I have had varying success in getting DD to dress up. Usually I lost but the nursery teacher managed to persuade her and we got a few photos.

This was our costume fight last year.  (2014)
This was the year before when I ended up in tears. (2013)
Here is 2012 - This was the one year we managed a happy dressing up experience.
And in 2011, when I also ended up in tears. 



This year the school went all out with a dressing up theme for each day for almost a week. Last Thursday each year group had a colour. I managed to get DD to wear her red t-shirt and red sweatshirt (I even slipped in red socks under her blue jeans). On Friday she flatly refused to be an animal. On Sunday she had no interest in being a boy. And luckily her class had a theatre outing yesterday so they were asked not to come in pyjamas like the rest of the school (although they could bring them in a bag to wear afterwards which we didn't of course).

Even the teachers dressed up. By coincidence the principal is called Etti (Esther) so the female staff reenacted the beauty pageant whereby the king chooses Esther to be his bride. 
The student assistants

Today, however, is the big parade. There are two schools and five kindergartens in our street and round the corner. (There is also a teacher-training college round the corner - honestly it's like living on a campus sometimes.) The street today was awash with costumes and disguises. Even the teachers and some parents joined in.

DD is at the back, the only one not in costume

DD wore a t-shirt, jeans, and a plain hoody. I think she may have been a bit shocked when she saw that everyone was wearing a costume except her as she didn't want to stay. The teacher suggested I bring her costume in a bag.

I came back 10 minutes later with the strawberry costume in a bag.

DD: "NO, I DON'T WANT IT HERE! TAKE IT HOME!"

I left it in case she changes her mind before the big parade but I'm not hopeful. *sighs*


Perfectly normal scene in the streets today

Cool 6th Grade girls



Saturday, February 28, 2015

Homework Habits From Outer Space

We didn't get homework when I was in primary school. Homework was a rude and unwlecome awakening when I started secondary school at age 11. I never really got to grips with getting it out of the way before doing other stuff (usually watching television or, when I was older, socializing).

As I've got older I've got better at pacing myself and keeping up with the paperwork. However, this was a long time coming - I didn't crack it until well into adulthood. And even now I sometimes have to stay up finishing off lesson plans and grading to deliver the next morning.

Imagine my horror when I walked into my bedroom tonight at 10pm and saw this... (Note: DD has been sleeping in my bed over the winter so we only have to heat one room.)



It was an initial horror of all my school-night yesterdays coming back to haunt me. And a dread that DD was going to be just like me in this respect. A dread because it's not a comfortable way to live, always on the edge of panic that you haven't finished your homework and time is running out.

Homework done on my knees after lights out (obviously with lights on again) was the norm for me in school. I cannot tell you how many times I got up at 4 am to write an essay due in that day. And I will not tell you how many times that 4 am essay had actually been due the week before and I was on my last and final chance before getting an automatic F.

Then I remembered that DD is only 6 and I am on top of her homework schedule. I made sure she'd finished everything due in tomorrow well before panic hour. So what was she doing?

"It's not for tomorrow, we have to bring it back on Thursday Mummy."

Who is this child?


Monday, February 23, 2015

Facebay, More Decluttering, Tips, And Good Karma

I get a lot of things passed on to me from friends with older girls and I take great pleasure in passing them on when we are done with them (the things that survive that is). When DD was born I bought an expensive carrycot/buggy/carseat combo and that was it! Everything else I needed for a new baby was given to me by friends and family.

I am also not a hoarder. As we grow out of clothes, books, toys, and equipment, they get moved on. Some people want their things back, some things go to families with younger children, some things do have to be chucked unfortunately (everything has a limited lifespan), and many things go to the Yedidya Bazaar.

So as I have started clearing out for the Yedidya Bazaar which is in only three weeks time and I've been reading Elaine's de-cluttering posts on Mortgage Free In Three, I was tempted by her lucrative activity on Facebay to actually sell a few items rather than be so generous this time.

Facebay is your local 'Buy, Sell, Swap' group on facebook. There's no packaging up and postage costs (especially great for larger objects and furniture), you just say pick up here, and they come and pick up in return for some cash. Simples. This was Elaine's experience last weekend.

This was my experience:

I posted DD's old bike for 150 shekels (about £25). I had bought it for £40 three years ago and the training wheels were missing. However, it's an excellent bike for a 4yo to learn to ride on as its so small. It took DD about five minutes to teach herself and I didn't have to run after her holding onto the saddle even once.



I was advised that this was too much to ask so I dropped the price to 100 shekels (£17). One person tried to bargain me down but I already felt bargained down so I declined.

I also posted a selection of different Purim costumes. The festival of Purim is next week. It's our dressing up in costumes, Mardi Gras, Carnivale type holiday. The kids even dress up for school all this week. We had a dressing up box which DD is not interested in at all (she hates dressing up so much she told me she's not even doing it for Purim - deja vu.) So I thought I'd see if I could make a few bob.

Here's DD as a fairy in 2012




The fairy, the strawberry, and the the bride, 25 shekels each (£4), the pirate paraphernalia (left over from DD's pirate birthday party) for 20 shekels and the witch's hat for 15 shekels. I was asked if I could take the fairy costume to the town centre (6 shekels on the bus and about an hour of my time - no, sorry). Then a very nice lady with a 3yo came to buy it directly from my spare bedroom and gave me 25 shekels. Hooray! My first sale on Facebay.



Then the new cooker was delivered (delivery pre-paid) and the guy asked me for a tip. I gave him 20 shekels. I'm not sure why I did that. Delivery was pre-paid and I had to pay them 100 shekels extra for taking the old cooker away, Apart from that, they delivered. I wasn't thinking - I was just so thankful to have an oven that worked and be rid of the broken one. This tipping business has got out of hand imo. So my 25 shekels was instantly cancelled down to 5 shekels (87p)


On Shabbat some friends came over for an impromptu Shabbat Lunch. The three children dressed up as pirates and the two guests took home swords, binoculars, eye patches, and belts - why not? The 5yo girl was also given the bride's dress and they borrowed (although I really don't want it back) the bicycle on which to learn to ride without stabilizers. The mother of the 4yo boy took the witch's hat - that's her fixed for Purim :). No one wanted the strawberry. And no money was exchanged obviously as these are my friends - we share loads of things.

So the good news is that more 'stuff' has gone from my flat. The great thing is that lots of people are very happy (including the cooker delivery guy). I fully expect to receive in spades from the Goddess of Karma. Maybe I should give that extra 5 shekels to charity?




Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Snowman Diet

I've finally found it - the fastest, simplest, biggest weight loss, diet ever. It's called The Snowman Diet after our very own little Olaf who trialed the diet whilst wasting away on our balcony. Here is the chubby little fellow at 10:30 am on the day he came into our lives:


Six hours later on The Snowman Diet and he looked like this:


There were a few side effects such as the loss of an eye (his only good one in fact) and an elongated nose but his clothes were literally falling off him so it was all worth it. I swear to you that there has been no photoshopping on these pictures whatsoever. This is the genuine article, he really did drop about 30% of his body weight in only six hours!

We next weighed in after another couple of hours. So this next picture shows 8 hours on the diet. Notice his long, elegant, slimline, nose:


So far the diet had involved just sitting in the sun. No food was imbibed but, on the other hand, no exercise was necessary. This diet is especially suitable for those who abhor exercise.

Anyway, just as a plateau was seen to occur, as it does mid way through most weight loss programmes, we changed tactics. Our subject, Olaf, switched to sitting in torrential rain for the next few hours. Once again, for those worried about the exercise requirements - he didn't move an inch, we brought the weather to him. And only 3 hours later, 11 hours after starting the amazing Snowman Diet, Olaf looked like this:


At this point we, the professional dieters, thought that he'd gone far enough and should probably stop the diet. However, he wouldn't hear of it and insisted on staying out in the rain. Between you and me, I think a tinge of anorexic psyche had crept in. Whatever, the client is always right, so we went with it. Two hours later we had to concede that this is not a diet you want to try at home. Our subject looked like this and was ailing fast:


And here he is at half past midnight, after 14 hours on The Snowman Diet. After this distressing photo shoot, I went to bed:


Surprisingly there was still something left of him at 9.30 in the morning after 23 hours of dieting:


But by 10:30 am, exactly 24 hours after commencing the [now controversial] Snowman Diet, there was nothing left of him. R.I.P.:


There is a conspiracy theory that at the 23rd and a half hour, the pizza delivery guy smuggled in some garlic bread and spicy dip, thereby providing enough sustenance for the snowman to ride away with him on the back of his motorbike and go live at the pizza parlour, near the stone oven, where there is loads to eat, and it's nice and toasty. There's a flaw in this theory, however, or several.

No, we must sadly report that our subject did not survive The Snowman Diet. This means that 100% of snowmen who trialed The Snowman Diet did in fact die.

Verdict: This is not a diet to follow if you want to live as well as lose weight. For people who don't particularly care about living, as long as they are slim, The Snowman Diet could be the answer to your dreams.

Disclaimer: It's Purim next week, a Jewish festival in which we are encouraged to be very silly.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Snow!!! I hate it.

Having closed all the schools again at midday because of snow, and all we got was rain - again. Last night I posted on fb: Anyone want to come round and make a Rainman? (27 likes) Yes the cynicism was running high in Jerusalem last night.

We went to bed last night in a not very hopeful mood. Yes it was settling but it kept turning into rain (sleet and graupel actually) which washed it all away.

However we woke up to this (and another day off school, hooray!).



I love to look at the snow but I hate going out in it. My biggest memory of snow in England was being made to go out during the lunch hour at school, aged 7. I had cotton socks in thin wellington boots and I stood miserably on the veranda for an hour while my toes slowly froze.

Fast forward 45 years and other people's photos began to appear on whatsapp and fb, frolicking in the snow and looking happy. Totally unfathomable imo. We were still in pyjamas.

Still, I accepted that with a 6 year old, you have to do your parental duty and I wasn't going to deny her some snow experience. Lucky we had everything we needed on our balcony.





After that experience and a few snowcastles made with the beach buckets, DD was cold, wet, and had also had enough. We came inside, changed into clean, dry pyjamas, put on the heating and made hot drinks.

Right I'm done. Bring on the rain.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Yedidya Bazaar Decluttering 1

Two years ago I discovered The Yedidya Bazaar. The most amazing idea and a win-win-win situation for the three groups involved: The local families de-cluttering and spring cleaning for Pesach, residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas who can come and buy everything and anything for 2 shekels an item (that's 33p), and the charity that gets the proceeds. They raised over 10,000 shekels last year which means over 5,000 items rehoused from places they were not needed to places where they are needed. As I said win-win-win.

The 2015 bazaar is only four weeks away! I've been putting stuff aside all year as it becomes obsolete to our needs and storing it in an empty top of a wardrobe cupboard. This is now full so I already had up to two bin-liners ready when I decided to get serious. I was motivated by Elaine's amazing efforts this week, and also by the fact that we are hoping to rent out our flat while we go away in a couple of months and I need to take pictures.

I started small with books. It was hard at first but it got easier as I went along. There are some books I've owned for years because I want to read them but haven't got round to it yet. Some I kept because I do still want to read them, but most I didn't.

One-third of a shelf of the remaining books are waiting to be re-gifted as I like to pass them on to readers when we get invited for Shabbat.

My three teenage nephews all have specific and different areas of interest - economics, geography, and classical civilizations. I happen to have books on all those subjects that I'm happy to pass on. In fact, and amazingly coincidental, those are the exact three subjects I did for A Level!

The before and after photos don't look very different considering I have about 80 books in bags ready to go to the bazaar. Before (top) and after (bottom)

Four top shelves double layered

Only top two shelves double layered (The double layer on the middle shelf are books for re-gifting)










As I said, not much different to look at but these must have come from somewhere:

About 80 books now bagged and ready to go

Jerusalem people, are you getting ready for the Yedidya Bazaar?
  

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sleeping At Heathrow, Her Handbag, & His PR Stunt

What a palaver eh? So much information and mis-information it's hard to get a grip on the truth. Having been following the discussions avidly (and joining in as much as the Daily Mail will allow me *ahem*) I've decided to analyze the plot as it thickens by the minute. My theory is that the Media Networking Consultant, Alan Lane, orchestrated the whole thing as a huge self-promoting PR campaign for his business.

1. In 2002 a middle class couple, Alan Lane and Katrina Smith, with a good income buys a house in Poole, Dorset for for £265,000 with a mortgage of £170,000. He was then around age 59 with his own consultancy business and she was 50. It was 2002 remember - there was no reason to believe that the economy was about to collapse.

2. In 2004 his work dried up and they were struggling to pay the mortgage. They sold the house for £397,000 and came away with equity of £200,000 - Good move. So they bought a flat for £295,000 with a £95,000 mortgage. He was 61 with little work and she had no income. Bad move. Seriously, there were no decent flats for £200,000 in Dorset?

3. In 2006 they needed to downsize again and, in a panic, they sold the flat before the bank foreclosed. Good move - they released £190,000 in equity. And they rented for between £850 and £900 per month for the next 7 years. Bad move - a quick division sum of £190,000 by monthly expenses would make it clear that this money could not last more than about 7 years and then they'd have nothing. On the other hand buying a flat for £150,000 (not necessarily in Poole or even in Dorset) and living modestly would have given them security for life.

4. In 2013 they moved to Canada with the offer of a good job for him. He was 69 and she was 60. The move probably wiped out any money they had left. The job only lasted 6 months. They returned to the UK with nothing in June 2013. The story goes that they lived with friends for a while and then moved into the airport. One report says they've been in the airport for 5 weeks so that was a lot of living with friends - over a year's worth in fact.

5. They pay £300 a month to keep their stuff in storage and £400 a month to stay 2 nights a week in a local B&B. A quick look on Zoopla shows 56 properties for rent for under £500 pcm in Dorset. And other counties are probably cheaper. He gets about £800 per month in pensions and her state pension will kick in this year (if she is 63 before 30th September). Before that she's entitled to £280 a month in jobs seeker's allowance but can't claim it because they've no address and she can't get to the job centre from Heathrow every week. Hmmm, these are solvable problems much less drastic than living in the airport methinks.

6. They have a bank loan to pay off which is costing them £485 a month. Last year he earned an extra £7,000 from his consultancy business but no guarantee that he will do the same again this year. She has been offered work as a residential carer but won't leave him. For goodness sake, it's not like going into service with only Boxing Day and Mothering Sunday in which to go home and visit. Take one of those jobs for a year, come home every weekend, and pay off the loan while he lives in the rented place with his £800 pensions.

7. Here's where the thick plottens. They stay in a B&B near the airport for two nights a week where, unusually, they have use of a washing machine. By amazing coincidence there is a B&B close to the airport which is owned by an older couple called Alan and Katrina - same names! On the forums people have claimed to have seen their photos on travel websites and confirmed that it was them, before the photo was removed. Others have allegedly called late at night and they've picked up the phone giving their surnames - Lane and Smith - same as the airport couple. Someone said the B&B is registered to a Mr Alan Legge. (In the DM he has been called Alan Lane, Legge, Page and Parks so even they aren't sure, LOL.) You can't trust everything you read in a forum but how difficult is it for someone to go down there and check? Eh Daily Mail?

8. A very kind lady felt sorry for them and set up a Go Fund Me collection to raise £2,000 for the deposit and first month's rent on a flat - this apparently has been the problem. Although with all their affluent friends, connections (he's a media network consultant), and two daughters in Canada, I find it hard to believe that no one could have lent them this small amount to get a roof over their heads.

9. It was announced that the couple were to appear on Loose Women, ITV, today. On the Loose Women fb page people strongly expressed their suspicions. The announcement was removed and there is no further mention of this tv appearance.

10. The Go Fund Me fund reached £9,270 and the lady who set it up was urged to stop further donations. She was very upset by it all but she did stop the campaign while explaining that the DM had assured her they had checked out the story and it was legitimate. Another comment said that Go Fund Me are investigating the whole affair after complaints have been received. Who knows?

11. The Daily Mail finally related to all the accusations, after ignoring this part of the story way after it had become 'breaking news', by saying the couple are devastated by these false accusations. Meanwhile the story has gone global.

12. And here is where it all becomes personal. One comment on the DM article said that Katrina's handbag was Louis Vuitton. On the Go Fund Me site another comment referred to her designer handbag. The thing is, I have that very same shoulder bag (albeit in taupe instead of black) which I bought for £8.50 in Primark last April. You can see Katrina's bag here (bottom picture). And here is mine:


So there you have it. Loads of people weighing in with all sorts of facts that have not been verified. A couple who seemingly wanted someone to save them because they cannot bear to live in something less than they have been accustomed to - even though they cannot afford it.

My own theory at this point is that they may or may not run a successful B&B but the husband, who runs a media networking consultancy, has just made the biggest successful ad campaign for his services. The story is global. He's won.