Thursday, September 18, 2014

Supermarket Wars in Jerusalem

Until the beginning of the summer there were five main shopping choices for people in my neighbourhood.

1. The Shuk. The open air market downtown. Very cheap but bustling and noisy, no parking and a bus ride away (if you can be bothered to bring all your weekly shopping home on the bus!) There are those who make it a virtue to go to the shuk but most of my friends are not shuk people.

2. Super Deal. Mid-mountain where I live and just oh so conveniently around the corner from me. Unfortunately it's very expensive and quite small.

3. Rami Levy. The cheapest option, along the mid-mountain road a little further away. Imagine a shop the size of your local sweet shop/newagent being stuffed full of everything in Lidl and 200 people trying to get round it with shopping trolleys. I went there once and still have flash-backs.

4. Shufersal. In the valley. A bit like Lidl. Looks like an aircraft hangar but good fruit and veg and cheapish.

5. Mega Bool. In the valley opposite Shufersal and under a nice shopping mall. Mega Bool started off cheap but then got more expensive. However by that time I'd already got the credit card and it was pleasant to walk through the mall to get there and it was the closest thing to Sainsbury's in the area. In short I felt at home in Mega Bool and so did my friends.

[FYI: 1nis is about 18p, 6nis = 1 pound]

Then Mega Bool closed. It was a slow death lasting several weeks while they were open but didn't restock. Pitiful actually. It was painful to watch and one by one we stayed away and cancelled our loyalty cards. But where to go?

I was in denial for a couple of months and popped into Super Deal every couple of days while I made my mind up. I spent 2,000nis/month for the two of us instead of the usual 1,250. Rami Levy would have been about half that for the same food and household goods but I just couldn't. The only choice for me was Shufersal in the aircraft hangar. I met some of the old crowd there and was slowly getting used to it.

And then, big news! Osher Ad opened yesterday where Mega Bool had been. Osher Ad is a bit like Costco except they are not catering primarily to businesses but provide bulk buying opportunities for large religious families with lots of children and not very much money.

I asked for impressions on fb in Secret Jerusalem and got over 200 comments. It's been hilarious. I had people walking round doing live updates. They wouldn't allow photos to be taken as apparently there were spies there from Rami Levy. It was open till midnight, all 24 checkouts working, cheaper than cheap prices, no delivery service unfortunately. The lifts from the shopping mall aren't working yet so if you're not driving you have to walk all the way round. And it doesn't open until 10am which is very inconvenient for parents who drop their kids off at school for 8am - what are you supposed to do for 2 hours while you wait?

I went today. On my way I popped into Shufersal to compare a few prices. Tomatoes had dropped from 3.90nis/kg to 0.90nis/kg and cucumbers were also down to 1.45nis/kg from 3.90. So I guess Shuferal also sent spies yesterday. I reckoned it would be pretty cheap to shop at Shufersal today so I decided to do a quick reccy in Osher Ad and come back to Shufersal. I already had it in my mind that there would be an oppressively religious atmosphere in Osher Ad and I wanted nothing to do with it.

I arrived at 9.57am. Think of the start of a marathon except with shopping trolleys. Think of passport control at the airport in August. Everyone was in a jolly and expectant mood. There were people in strappy tops with bare shoulders, there were Arabs, and there were the orthodox Jews - the usual mixture of clientele for my neighbourhood. No religious coercion here (in some places supermarkets have been known to have dress codes for women).

It's huge. A bit like Costco and Tesco's rolled into one. I'd gone 20 paces when I realised I had to shop here today. Even though the tomatoes and cucumbers were 1.90nis/kg, everything else was a bargain. I bought the 3.2kg block of cheese but will cut it into 6 portions and freeze 5 of them. I bought 2.5kg of hair conditioner for 14nis which I'll decant into 750l water bottles. Sweets for Shabbat were 1nis per packet that usually cost between 5 and 8nis elsewhere. Crisps at 2nis/50g packet. Bread, rolls and pittot at reduced prices. A big box of chocolate croissants for 8.90nis will be quartered and frozen. I bought 1kg of carrots for 1nis. LOL, I don't even like carrots but at that price it would have been rude not to. And the list goes on.

Of course I spent twice what I would usually spend for one week but at least half of it is part of a bulk buy that will last a month. The cashiers didn't know how to work the tills but they'll learn. Unfortunately I had to schlep it all up the mountain in 30 degree heat. I broke my shopping trolley as it was all too heavy for it. So that's about 60nis for a new one of those. But then the cleaner who'd just finished the stairwell in my building offered to carry it all upstairs for me. All in all, I think I will be going there again. And again. And again. Until, as the cynics have pointed out, the prices start to creep up as they do once they've got you chained to their loyalty card.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Single Mother's Birthday

It started with this exchange:

Me: What nice thing shall we do to celebrate my birthday?
DD: Actually I think it's only for children.

And ended with this exchange:

Me: I'm not reading a story to someone who can't even wish me Happy Birthday.
DD: *big sigh* Happy Birthday Mummy can I have the dinosaur book?

In between was a series of mishaps and meltdowns one after the other. 

7am. Up, make 10 o'clock snack, shower, dress myself. Usual mad panic to get DD awake and cooperative enough for me to dress her. Bully and threaten her with no stories, no playing on my phone, no sugar things, etc... until she goes to the loo and drinks her apple juice. Eventually leave the house - she has a small bag of pretzels in her hand in lieu of breakfast (don't worry, packed lunches are eaten at 10am in school). Make it to school just as the bell is ringing. Class teacher has to prise DD's fingers off my dress to let me go. 

8.05am. Back home, make coffee, check twitter, blog, emails, facebook. Facebook is full of lovely messages wishing me a fabulous, wonderful, fun-filled, day. It hopes I'm spoiled and pampered and made to feel special on my special day. I put on a load of laundry and get to work preparing lessons for my college courses.

Work all day, occasionally check in to all the above forums. More pressure from facebook but it serves me right for going there. Make and eat a million rounds of cheese on toast to compensate for having an ordinary day on my birthday.

4.30pm. Pick up DD from school and, feeling the pressure from facebook, suggest we go out for ice-cream. She has a little drink from her water bottle and we go to the nearest cafe. (This is significant).

4.45pm. I don't even like ice-cream so I just ordered a celebratory coffee. Just instant because that's what I like. It cost 16nis (Over 3 pounds) for something I could have had free at home. 2 scoops of ice-cream cost 28nis (almost 5 pounds!) and of course DD had to also have a drink. Last time we go there (Cafe BeGeenah if you're interested). 

After we ordered and before it came I suggested we see what homework DD had. On opening her bag I realize I'd neglected to put her pencil case back inside when I'd removed it to get her water bottle out. It was sitting on a bench in school. DD promptly had a meltdown. I suggested we run and get it. She didn't want to, preferring to sit and scream about it. I kept thinking about all those coloured pencils and felt tip pens individually labelled with her name - hours of work to redo if we've lost her pencil case. 

5pm. The ice-cream came. It was served in a sundae glass and filled to the top. As DD put her spoon in the ice-cream dribbled out all over the top and ran down the outside onto the table. Meltdown 2. I went to the kitchen to get a bowl and paper napkins, I cleaned up the mess, I sat down. 
DD: I don't even like this ice-cream.

5.20pm. We leave the cafe 10 pounds poorer. I'm in a foul mood. I give myself the tip for cleaning the table.  

5.30pm. We get back to school and rattle the locked doors until the cleaner hears us and lets us in. We find the pencil case under the bench (where it had fallen which is why I didn't notice it when repacking the bag). This was the highlight of my day.

5.40pm. Get out DD's homework. There was quite a lot to do. For Hebrew she had to draw over the outlines of the aleph-bet and then go back to colour all the letters in. By the time she got to the colouring she'd had enough. I told her to leave it for a while and do some more after supper. 
DD: No you do it.
Me: I can't do your homework for you, it's not allowed. 
DD: Just do it! JUST DO IT FOR ME!
Me: Ok, I'll do a few letters. (It was a lot of busy work after all.)
I coloured in three letters and suddenly there was a howl of despair from DD. Apparently there was a pattern going on in the colours and I'd done the wrong colours. Meltdown 3. 

6pm. I go to make supper which is usually served at 6pm but because we'd been out it wasn't made yet. 
DD: Can I have suffink (sic) to keep me going? (I give her a packet of crisps.)

6.20pm. I serve supper. 
DD: Actually I'm not hungry. I'm full up from ice-cream and crisps. (Okey dokey.)

7.30pm. After the dinosaur book and a couple of other stories I left DD in bed and ended the evening on facebook reading about various people being whisked off to the Carmel Spa or at least taken out for a special dinner for their birthdays. They were all feeling the luuuurv. Oh good. Happy for them. Really. 

Happy Birthday to me and all single mothers everywhere! 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ode To Autumn In A Hot Country

It's like a cool shower after a day toiling in the fields. Like a comfortable bed after a camping holiday. Like flicking off your party shoes after a night of dancing. In a word - relief.

I'm talking about the Autumn after a Summer that's been sizzling hot since May. I know that September doesn't automatically mean instantly cooler weather but there is a subtle psychology that says it does feel cooler. The nights are noticeably so and the days are drawing in. There are clouds in the sky (although no rain as yet) and gentle breezes. Sleeveless top and dresses are not quite enough in the mornings and late afternoons. There is change in the air.

Schools go back and, therefore, parents go back to work properly. Routine is restored and bedtimes enforced once again. Proper clothes are beginning to emerge, with even a layer or two. Shoes instead of sandals. School uniforms instead of shorts. A general smartening up occurs.

There's an energy. Personal energy as it becomes comfortable to walk more without the incessant heat that was June, July and August. Even cleaning your house is easier and more worthwhile as it seems to stay tidier for longer when the holidays end. There is work to do and schedules to stick to so no time for constantly stopping by the fridge for something to nosh.

I colour my hair and pluck my eyebrows - when was the last time I did that? It feels good and I get into the grooming groove. How about a facial scrub, a deep cleanse, some toner, and a bit of makeup now that the tan is beginning to fade? All these lotions and potions are somewhere in the back of the bathroom cabinet from before the Summer surrender to sweat, sand and frizzy hair.

I look at the parched (that means dead) flowers and plants on my balcony that were neglected in the heat and think about planting anew for the next season. I have seeds and sprouting potatoes ready. I start googling about growing vegetables on a small balcony. I'm thinking about soups and stews all of a sudden. And suppers that warm and fill rather than grabbing a yogurt and some grapes. Now that spending time in the kitchen is bearable again, my culinary ideas are getting more ambitious.

It's a natural build up to Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year). Invitations are given and menus planned. There is a desire for everything to be physically clean as well as spiritually prepared. It's a new beginning, a new start, a new leaf, a breath of fresh air, expectation, hope, ambition, inspiration, and motivation. It's Autumn.

The Chinese Bamboo, a story of inspiration and motivation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tidbits 23: Food And Education

DD's in bed and I'm sitting in the living room. Suddenly I hear soft whimpering and moaning coming from DD's bedroom. 
Me: DD are you all right?
Me: Darling, what's the matter? Are you ok?
DD: Be quiet I wasn't talking to you.
Me: What's going on in there then?
DD: I'm just telling myself a story. I don't know why you heard me, I'm telling it very quietly.

In the supermarket.
DD: Do we need carrots?
Me: No, we're not really carrot people.
DD: Of course we're cucumber and tomato people.
DD: Are we potato people? (Yes)
DD: Are we aubergine people? (I am, you're not)
DD: I'm gummy bears people.

A few days later
DD: Mummy why aren't we avocado people any more?
Me: We are Darling but they're not in season at the moment.

DD: Rock and Roll is a kind of music.
Me: Did you learn that in music at school?
DD: No, I learned it from Bubble Guppies. You can learn everything from Bubble Guppies. Even important things. You should watch it. I don't know why you don't watch it.
Me: Do you learn more from Bubble Guppies than you learn from going to school?
DD: Of course! They even have a 'First Day of School' on Bubble Guppies so I already know everything!

DD: Right we never had a chance to say goodbye?
Me: Say to goodbye to who?
DD: To the dinosaurs because they're dead already.

*Photos by Sarit Doron

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dinner Was Hijacked

Having discovered a packet of frozen tvp 'minced meat' (Tivol/Tivall) in the freezer I decided to make couscous with a vegan bolognese sauce.

DD has had couscous before and loved it. The last time was at Shabbat lunch at the home of friends. The couscous was served as a salad with cut up vegetables mixed in and a salad dressing. On that occasion I didn't happen to have any as there was so much other food on the table.

I started the sauce and as it was simmering on the hob I got the couscous out. It's an instant couscous - you just add some olive oil, spices and boiling water, wait five minutes and it's ready to eat. DD wandered in to the kitchen to see what I was up to and supervise as she is wont to do.
"Ooh is that couscous?"
"Yes, I'm making it with that meaty sauce."
"Can you cut up cucumbers and tomatoes in it instead like we had the other day on Shabbat?"
"I'll do some for you like that and some for me with the bolognese sauce."
"Well I'm only eating the salad one!"

In the end I put the bolognese sauce in the freezer for another time and made the whole coucous dish into a salad as instructed. It just wasn't worth the washing up to make two different meals.

We sat down to eat and DD tucked in. Between mouthfuls I got the following lecture: "This is delicious. Much better than that meaty sauce. I don't know why you didn't try this the other day on Shabbat. Why didn't you try it? I love this salad. Can I have some more please? Can I take some to school tomorrow? I never want to have that meaty sauce with couscous. Uh uh. Uh uh means no. Are you enjoying it?" And on and on and on......

Couscous salad with vegetables is very good but I wanted couscous bolognese. I felt like dinner had been  hijacked.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cara Delevingne Was My Friend

Absolutely true. For a few weeks Cara Delevingne was my friend on fb. And she asked me, I didn't ask her. Up she popped one day requesting my friendship and I thought she was a woman in Jerusalem who belongs to one of the parenting groups I frequent. Obviously I accepted - she might be able to help me find a babysitter after all.

A few days later I was scrolling down the Daily Mail Online looking for some reading matter about how someone lost 200lbs in 3 minutes and now goes camping in all her loose skin, or such like, when I see the name Cara Delevingne. "Oh," I said to myself, "she's got a very similar name to that woman in Jerusalem."

I went to look as I couldn't quite remember that woman's exact name. Whoa. I found myself fully friended and therefore able to comment on a timeline where the previous status was from Georgia Jagger.

Some detective work was in order. I noticed that Cara and I have two mutual friends. I quickly messaged one of them - my friend Sharon. I can't remember who the other mutual friend is now.

Click on image to enlarge it. 

Sharon and I chatted for a while and I knew I had to blog about this. Meanwhile Cara popped up on my newsfeed a few times. I smiled but actually, I was far more interested in hearing how the new Supermarket in a local shopping mall is due to open in two weeks and that it's rumoured to be one of the cheaper chains. 

The next thing I know facebook is asking me if I want to friend Hugh Grant. Whoa again. I admit that grabbed my attention more than news about the supermarket opening. 

I let a week or so go by as I had to catch up on blogging about the summer holiday in various pursuits that are a million trillion miles from how Ms Delevigne spent her summer. Perhaps that's why she did it? 

Today I was ready to write this post and I went to see how Cara was doing first. OK, I just wanted to see if there were any more names I could drop, if I want to see how she's doing I'll go to the Daily Mail won't I? To my dismay I saw that facebook had directed me to her public page which I was 'invited' to follow. FOLLOW?! We were friends once yer know. 

At this point I started to think I may have imagined it all. I rushed to my messages to see if my conversation with Sharon was still there. It was. Phew, I knew it. Cara is a fickle friend. I wrote to Sharon immediately.

Click on image to enlarge it.
So if any of you bump into Cara Delevingne and she asks for my phone number, please don't pass it on. I'm not talking to her atm.

*With thanks to Netanya and Sarah for the lessons in Screen Shots.

Beach Convert

I used to hate the beach. Not all of it and not all the time. I only hated 1. the sand 2. swimming in the sea and 3. when it's hot. I like walking along the beach in the early morning before it gets hot and no-one expects you to strip off or swim. I like the beach in the evening watching the sunset. At night cooking and singing around a bonfire. I like it from a nearby balcony whilst sipping a cool drink and watching the world go by. But that's not really doing the beach is it?

The Sand gets everywhere. You bring copious amounts home with you and it gets everywhere at home too. Even though you shower and wash your hair thoroughly, for days afterwards you find sand in places you didn't even know you had places.

Once about 30 years ago I got caught up in a wave. It came at me from behind just as I'd lifted my feet off the ground and I was turned over in somersault. For probably 5 seconds at the most I didn't know which way was up and which way was down. It was terrifying and then it was all over. I was left sitting in about two inches of water. I did not go back into the sea deeper than up to my knees for 30 years!

The heat and I are life long enemies and sitting on a sandy beach with minimum shade when you're too scared to go in the water and cool off makes the heat a clear winner in this context.

And DD has refused to go on the beach a number of times in the past because she too doesn't like the sand and is a bit nervous of the water.

However, this year everything changed. Back in June we were staying at a kibbutz only 20 minutes drive from the beach and were invited to go there with friends for a couple of hours. Well I would just as happily have stayed at home and read my book but 5yos need a bit of activity - they're peculiar like that. I wrote about it in this post but here's the beach bit:

"The sea was rough and no one was allowed in past their knees but knee height is perfect for 5yos. DD (and all the other children) sat just shy of the water and were catapulted up the beach as the waves came in. A row of lifeguards stood as a buffer in case any little ones got carried too far out (and also to stop the older kids from going in despite the warnings) but actually they were all beached each time and had to come running back to sit on the sand and wait for the next wave. Honestly, it was better than any ride at a theme park."

So when I knew we were going camping at the beach it wasn't the beach bit I was dreading. I'd already made a shift towards loving the beach. Only this time I went in the water proper. It was amazing. I can't believe I've been so scared of it for 30 years. This is what I wrote: 

"We spent a fantastic afternoon on the beach it has to be said. The water was just rolling enough to ride the swells and thrill the children. The sand was perfect for building forts and castles with moats and canals."

Thus when my friend Yael suggested we drive to the beach (well she drives and I pay for the car park) on Friday afternoon when the children finish school at midday, and spend the afternoon there, it took me about half a second to say yes. An added bonus is that Yael is a serious photographer. If I told you she took 500 photos in three hours and then edited them down to 47 the next day, you'll understand what I mean about being serious. All the photos from the beach are by Yael Katz. 

Another benefit of a trip to the beach is the follow up activity of washing and drying the shells you collected. ( My photos this time - can you tell the difference? :P )