Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hello Haircut

When I was a child in the 1960s my mother made me have short hair. I begged for long hair. I wore scarves over my head to pretend I had long hair. I covetted the long hair of various beautiful girls who seemed like princesses to me. I hated being called a boy - for some reason I was made to wear trousers aswell when I yearned to be more feminine in dresses and skirts.

The title of this post refers to how my dad would greet us on returning from work and seeing we'd had haircuts would exclaim, "Hello Haircut!"

The line was that when I could look after my hair myself (i.e. brush it properly) I could grow it long. I passed the hairbrishing test at about 6 years old and never looked back. I had the longest hair it would grow to until age 15 when I had it cut short on a whim. Came out of the hairdresser and crying and didn't go back until I was about 45.

Thinking about it in later years I assumed it was because short hair was 'in' in the 1960s. Think Twiggy and that pixie look. And I thought maybe my mother couldn't be bothered with doing our hair every morning. Though I didn't think that was a good enough reason.

When I had my daughter I swore I would never make her suffer short hair. She loved her long hair and was always measuring it against her back to see how long it was. But oh the tangles in the morning. Oh the fights over getting those tanlges out. I was beginning to understand.

However, the final straw was the lice. All the kids have lice here. When it gets so bad we have a classwide de-licing night when the whole class is asked to do a teatment and comb them out. We have regular discussions on fb about the best way to de-louse. No one wants to use harsh chemicals. There's no point in expensive treatments as one loose strand of hair and it's like open borders and free passage into the UK. At the height of the season we sometimes admit that combing out with the fine-toothed comb and lashings of conditioner is in fact only population control rather than lice genocide.

In the end neither of us could stand the combing out every b*&%dy night and the constant scratching. So, reader, with DD's permission, I cut her hair.

It looks great. She has the perfect hair that everyone wants - wavy but not too thick or frizzy. I wasn't allowed to take photos but I managed to sneak a few shots. We still have to comb out regulalry but it's so much easier and so few tangles that it takes a fraction of the time.

And when I told my mum she said, "why do you think I made you have short hair for so long?" I was amazed. I don't remember anyone having lice when I was a child in London. Lice was a throwback to Victorian street urchins. Sure we were checked sometimes at school by Nitty Nora the Flea Explorer, but no one expected her fnd anything. But apparently, there was lice. It was such a shameful thing that if anyone had it, it was a big big secret. Lol, here it's just a way of life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One Dieting Day

The new regime goes as follows:

Breakfast - 2 oatcakes (made with 1 cup oats and water and baked) with butter OR 1 cup of porridge made with skimmed milk or water. 

Lunch - 1 cup of protein (a fist size) OR 1 cup of carbs, and salad.

Supper - 1 cup protein (a fist size) OR 1 cup of carbs, and cooked vegetables. 

Lots of water and herbal teas. 

It's loosely based on a very strict diet followed by a friend in London who does it once a year and loses a lot of weight very fast. Her regime is the oat breakfast, a baked potato at lunch with salad and the protein at supper with cooked vegetables. I can't justify baking 1 potato every day in my big oven and I have store cupboard full of other carbs like couscous and pasta. I also have a lot of weight to lose and I'm petrified of the loose skin syndrome flaunted so often in the DM (I'm hoping my excess weight isn't in that league but I can't be sure). So I'm being less strict and taking it more slowly.

I have also enlisted an international celebrity to be my weight-loss buddy. I know you are all now trying to think of all the overweight celebrities you know but I am keeping my buddy's identity a secret until such time that she might like to 'out' herself with a guest post here (or write anonymously?). We are committed to 15 weeks of this so we have until September 1st.

Here's what happened yesterday (Tuesday 19/5/15).

Breakfast - I just needed my coffee with milk. I forgot to add tea/coffee with milk into the diet but I think I need it. I didn't feel like porridge or makng it.

Lunch - I was hungry by 10 a.m but I'd not been shopping yet. I found an old cabbage in the fridge so after chopping off the outer parts, I diced and sauteed it in olive oil (not much) and a shot of soy sauce. In the real diet you're not suppposed to add salt but I did, and pepper. Then I remembered I was supposed to have a protein with it, or a carb but it was easiest to open a can of tuna. It was surpisingly delicious.

Tuna Cabbage in mild soy sauce saute
Lunch 2 - I teach one course of mature students and they are all women on day release from their regular work. They take turns to bring in lunch. Today's lunch was particularly tempting. She had made fresh doughy rolls and brought in cheese and salad to go with it. Well one roll was about 1 cup of carbs and I filled mine with some quark and salad. I washed it down with another coffee with milk.

It was 1.30 pm and I'd finished lunch and 'supper'.

Luckily I was teaching until 4.15 and then had to go and collect DD from school. There was homework to supervise, food to prepare for DD, and other evening chores to do. DD reminded me that I was on a diet a few times in case I forgot and accidently ate some of her ice-cream, heaven forfend.

At 7pm I was of course hungry. There were three choices. 1. Make the porridge I didn't have for breakfast but I didn't feel like it. 2. Finish DD's leftovers of pasta in tomato sauce and [highly processed] vegetarian sausages but that was completely forbidden as I've already had my carbs today. 3. Make a cup of tea (with milk) and see if the hunger passes.

I opted for number 3 but before I could get to the kettle I found myself scoffing down the sausages and pasta. Then I made my tea with milk and the hunger was assuaged.

A quick totting up of estimated calories says I had about 1,500 - well that's still little enough to lose weight (at my size) and it was three meals with no snacking. I consider Day 1 to be a good enough dieting day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits #32 - All Sorts Of Ridiculous

Doing a handwriting workbook from school, DD had to write 'wind' where it was suitable. I was helpig her read the phrases.
Me: A strong ...
DD: Yes.
Me: A cold ...
DD: Yes.
Me: A blue ...
DD: No!
Me: A hungry ...
Me: A sour ...

Seeing a picture of Anjelina Jolie as Maleficent.
DD: I know her. She was at Sapir's party.
(It had been a cinema party and they'd watched the film.)

DD: Mummy, canter tooth go on paper?
Me: What?
DD: Canter tooth go on paper? Or are they only on your skin?
Me: Oh, can tattoos go on paper? No, they're only on skin.

Last year we had a male swimming teacher and a couple of male substitutes when he was away.
DD (when I pointed out her new swimming teacher): What? You can have girl swimming teachers? I didn't know girls could teach swimming!

Me: You need to finish your homework before you can have your tablet.
DD: What will happen if I take my tablet?
Me: I'll put it away in a high place until the summer holidays.
DD: How long is that?
Me: Two months.
DD: Well lucky if it happens today and not yesterday because that would be even one more day to wait until I can have it back.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A-Z Of Time And Money Saving Household Systems (Part 2, N-Z)

You can read A-M here.

14. Nutrition. Real food, proper sit-down meals, smaller portions, no junk, drink water. It's not rocket science although a number of people have managed to expand this advice into whole books and industries. If you do this you will save loadsa money on food, fewer sick days, doctors and medicine. You will also be more energised for all aspects of your life, more efficient, happier, and spend less money on clothes because you'll look great in everything you already have.

15. Offspring. Your children need systems too. Children with structure in their days get more done and do better than those without. Encourage your children to create a daily and weekly routine to include their homework, hobbies, social activities, exercise, computer time, music practice, and enough sleep. For younger children do it yourself or together and put it on the fridge (with a sticker-reward element if necessary). You don't have to include everything and over-schedule them. For us the important items (which are the ones that meet the most resistance) are homework, brushing teeth, hair washes, and reading practice (in two languages).

16. Places. Everything you own has to have a place in your home where it lives. If it doesn't have a designated place it will be all over the shop getting in the way, looking messy, and ultimately getting lost. This applies to post, hats/gloves/umbrellas, remote controls, miscellaneous stationary and home office equipment, gift wrapping items, stores of unused toiletries for eventual use or regifting, old magazines, glasses and sunshades... in short, everything. And of course you need to regularly put everything in it's place.

17. Queen for a day. Time for yourself to do something fun, has to be built into the system. It could be once a month or once a week. It could be a coffee or lunch with a friend, it could be a cinema or concert outing, it could be a day shopping or at a spa, a monthly mani-pedi or a massage. It doesn't have to be a week in Paris though that would be nice. Just something to make you feel relaxed and good about yourself. Factor it in according to your budget. If it's a walk in the woods and a picnic by the lake that's fine. If it's a gin and tonic and an uninterrupted dvd that's also fine. If you plan it it will be money saving because the alternative is to reach the end of your tether and go on a spontaneous splurge.

18. Rainy Day. Even if you regularly finish the month in minus, you need to find a system for saving for a rainy day. I put the minimal amount allowable into a savings account by monthly automatic transfer and forget about it. There's hardly any interest atm but when I have a reasonable sum I'll review the best place to put it and move it if necessary. It's a pay yourself first system even though I could often do with the money for other things. One of my friends started collecting 2 shekel coins. Whenever she had one in her purse she put it in a jar. When she had 1,000 2 shekel pieces that would be a short holiday for her and her children (about 350GBP). Other friends have occasional work which is outside their regular income and put that money into savings. Another system is to look at your expenses and see where you can shave off savings - and of course save that money. Sell unwanted items on Ebay or your local Buy, Sell, Swap group on fb (start one if you can't find one). Set yourself challenges for furnishing a small emergency fund (new fridge), a larger fall back fund (temporary unemployment of up to 6 months), and a long term plan (new house, pension). These are but a few saving systems I've heard about, there are plenty more I'm sure. You might need to be creative but don't try sleeping in Heathrow aiport and having someone set up a Go Fund Me for you. It's been done and it backfired.

19. Shopping list. Have one on your computer with all the household items you use regularly. Print it out once a week and tick off things as you run out. Before you go shopping check it against your menu plan for the coming week and add any special extras such as birthday cake decorations or a gift to take to a party.

20. Timetable. You can go take a look at the FlyLady. This is timetabling in the extreme. She has Control Journals for every inch of your house for every hour of the day, every day of the week, every month, every season, every occasion, and every year. You could schedule the life out of your life. If you search You Tube for Control Journals there are hilarious and excruciatingly boring at the same time, vlogs of people showing you their giant files of lists and routines in great detail. Having said that, it makes sense to schedule tasks outside of your regular work for housework, accounts, mending, cooking, gardening, quality time, hobbies, etc... You can take it as far as you like from jotting things down in your diary to the full control journal lifestyle. Things will get done and you won't have to throw money at projects that you could have finished yourself but now need help with because the time ran out.

21. Underwear. We had 6 years worth of socks and knickers (well maybe only 4 years on the knickers) stuffed into drawers in DD's bedroom. I also tend to keep socks, knickers and bras way past their usefulness. what's more, I always buy a packet of knickers or socks in M&S (or Primark for DD) on our yearly visit to England. So the underwear mountains just keep growing. For DD the ridiculous thing is that the older items don't even fit her anymore and for me they're just worn and holey. Go through your underwear once a year and free up space. You might also be surprised to find enough good pairs of socks/tights/knickers so that you actually don't need to buy more for a while. Throw out the tired things.

22. Vegeburgers and kugels. Any leftover vegetables, pulses, and grains can be made into vegeburgers (or if you bake it in one big dish it's a kugel). Just saute your vegetables if necessary, soak your pulses and cook them if necessary, and mix everything up with eggs and any grains (rice, polenta, flour, breadcrumbs), or mashed potato for binding. Season and make your mixture into patties for vegeburgers or turn into a well oiled dish and bake in the oven until golden brown on top for kugels.

23. Wardrobe. You need to be able to see what you have and it needs to be folded ready to wear. Otherwise you'll be in a perpetual nothing-to-wear cycle of buying new clothes and sending them to Narnia at the back of the wardrobe. Last year Project 333 was popular. You choose 33 items to wear for 3 months. This cuts down your choices but, if all 33 items coordinate, you actually save time and have more choice. You change your 33 items with each season for weather conditions and variety. The great thing about this is that you don't actually have to throw anything out, just pack it away for the season. If an unexpected skiing trip lands in your lap (as it does - to some but not to me) you can of course dig out your skiing gear for the holiday. Same for scuba diving, hop picking, and volunteering in Africa - your 33 items do not have to cover every eventuality.

24. Xtras. There are so many more systems that work for people. Here are some I can think of. If you have experience with any of these I'd love to read about it in a comment. Couponing, bartering or swapping services such as gardening or babysitting, pot luck or contribution dinners and parties, car pooling, entering prize contests, upcycling, swap meetings, thrift shop shopping, house swap holidays, staycations, camping, planning for future events by gift buying in advance when you see something on offer, vegetable growing, and store cupboard kitchens.

25. Yearly Goals. The years go by and those years when you didn't have a baby, graduate, move house or get a new job, can be lost in eras of minimal achievement. If the word 'goals' scares you, call them intentions or aspiritations. You can do it yearly but it's also good to have a system of monthly or even weekly goals. It's true that 'how you spend your days is how you live your life.' Don't over extend yourself or be unrealistic but it is important to know where you want to be heading or you might never get anywhere. What a waste of the years that would be. Five and Ten Year plans are also helpful. Mind maps are a fun way to do this with coloured pens but lists work just as well.

25. Zzzzz. You need to make sure you're getting enough sleep or every other system will work at half effiency levels. Work backwards from the time you have to get up in the morning and make sure you get what you need - you know what your optimum number of hours is. If you like to read in bed, go to bed half an hour earlier to allow for this. Leave your tech devices in another room.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A-Z Of Time And Money Saving Household Systems (Part 1, A-M)

1. Accounts. Have files or folders, a drawer or a shelf for all your household bills and documents. Keep it contained in one place. Have a pending basket where you throw in papers as they arrive to be dealt with later. 'Later' needs to be a specific time in the week when you sit down and clear the pending box, pay the bills, answer letters that need answering, and file everything into the appropriate file/folder. Schedule this into your week, it shouldn't take longer than an hour tops. It can be done in front of the tv on Sunday night or at 6am one morning if you are an early riser. The golden rules are to keep it contained and regulalry keep on top of it.

2. Bedtime. You can't make the children go to sleep and it's often frustrating to have them messing about when you need the evening to be child-free to work or have time to yourself. Do your bit of the routine - supervise homework, enforce music practisce, serve supper, de-lice hair, supervise baths and clean up the bathroom afterwards, read stories, put out clean clothes for the morning, etc... And then set a curfew for 8.30pm. All children have to be in their rooms. They can read or play quietly but they have to stay in their rooms. I met someone last week who had his children doing this until they were 16 although I don't think he was still supervising baths.

3. Cooking. Prepare everything in double proportions, make in two dishes and freeze. You then have one week on and one week off cooking. Or alternate days of cooking (using different dishes from the freezer not the same food two days running). You may have to add the pasta, potatoes, or the salad but the soup, sauce, or main dish will be ready. Just remember to take it out of the freezer in the morning.

4. Declutter. It's obvious that the less rubbish you have, even if it's treasured rubbish, the less you have to look after, the less storage furniture you have to clean around, and the easier it is to find and get at what you want quickly and efficiently.

5. Evening Meals. Have a loose weekly menu. For example, Mondays - pasta, Tuesdays - pizza, Wednesday - bangers, beans, and mash (or shepherds pie), Thursdays - fish and chips (or fish fingers depending your age and budget), Fridays - chicken, rice, and vegetables, Saturdays - soup and salad based meal, Sundays - toasted sandwiches, pancakes, omelets or French toast and leftovers. It gives you a starting point and then you can add whatever sauces and vegetables you have in the house. A clearing up rota is good. Or at least a help with the clearing up rota for younger children. In our house it's DD's turn every night #onlychildproblems

6. Flowers. Don't have cut flowers in the house. They last for a week tops and then you have to throw them out and wash the vase. Pot plants last for years, they are less messy, and only need watering regularly. I love flowers but I keep them outside on the balcony or as flowering plants in the house.

7. Guilt. If you don't feel up to doing any of it one day, don't do it. Use your time profitably to catch up on sleep or tv programmes you wanted to see but missed. Do not waste valuable leisure time feeling guilty about it, even if it is unplanned leisure time.

8. Housework. Only clean half the house each week. Bedrooms and bathrooms one week, living rooms and kitchen the next. This requires a certain amount of cleaning up as you go and toilets and sinks will need a once over in between times, but most rooms can survive two weeks between cleans.

9. Ice-cream. We live in a hot climate and the kids want ice-cream every day. They don't get an ice-cream every day but it is hard to say no when you're walking home past the shop and it's 30 degrees C. I have two strategies. The first is to buy a box of cones and a tub of ice cream for the freezer (I could make my own but I don't). This is way cheaper than buying something on a stick or in a cone from the shop. The second idea is to buy small, cheap children's yogurts and freeze them with a plastic spoon stuck in though the lid. A quick once under the cold tap and the frozen yogurt cleanly comes out of the tub. DD can have a frozen yogurt every day if she wants - it's a yogurt!

10. Jobs. Everyone who lives in the house should have jobs. DD is 6 1/2 and her jobs include unpacking the 48-roll packet of toilet paper into the cupboard in the bathroom and making pyramids of the rest on the shelf behind each toilet. She also waters the plants on the balcony every day in the summer. We're working on tidying up her stuff before the bedtime curfew. Actualy we're still working on the bedtime curfew idea.

11. Kitchen Closure. I have a friend who is one of six children and five of them boys. His mother used to clean up the ktchen after supper each night and lock the door. They had a fruit bowl and some nosh, drinks, and tea/coffee making facilities in the morning room (sounds posh but it just meant a separate room for the table instead of an eat-in kitchen) but the kitchen was closed. With eight mouths to feed their mother needed to know what food she had in the fridge and that it was not going to be eaten late at night by teenage boys with hollow legs. She was also able to clean up and know that she would have a clean kitchen to come down to the next morning. You don't have to go to the extreme of actually locking the door but a Kitchen Closed policy has its merits. (You could temporarily open it for a 9pm tea break if you eat supper early.)

12. Laundry. You could do up to 10 loads of laundry in one day, squash it all onto your clothes horses/line to dry and/or tumble dry in the machine. However, you then need to iron everything. If you take the laundry slowly and smooth out the wet clothes on the clothes horse or hang tops on the line on hangers (pegged of course), it will dry without any need for ironing (with a little help from body heat). It may take a few days to get to the bottom of the basket but hours spent ironing are eliminated.

13. Muffins. DD has to take a 10 o'clock snack to school every day. This is for most children a sandwich and some fruit. It's a leftover from the days when people got up a 6 and had their main midday meal at about 2.30 when they came home from school. We live oppposite the school so, though school starts at 8, we get up at 7.30 and there is no time for breakfast. Ten o'clock snack is actually eaten at 9.40 so it is essentially her breakfast. She gets a hot lunch at 1pm. Only she doesn't like sandwiches. So at half the price of buying unfrosted cupcakes in the supermarket and with twice the goodness (not scientifically calculated), I make a batch of muffins every couple of weeks. I make it with silan (date syrup) instead of some of the sugar, I grate in some carrots and courgette, and if anyone asks it is absolutely not a cupcake (which they are not allowed to bring to school), it's a healthy(ish) muffin. This works for us but the point is, a batch of muffins in the freezer are a cheap and healthy snack and they take only about 10 minutes to defrost.

You ca read N-Z here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Was That Me 33 Years Ago?

I've never been much of a photographer. My friend S has made about 40 of those photo books of her son's life and he's only four and a half. I've still to compile our first photo book and DD is six and a half. So you'll not be surprised to hear that my album from my gap year 33 years ago is an exercise book with a few photos, postcards of the kibbutz we lived on (Sde Eliahu if anyone who doesn't know is interested) and lots of writing. A bit like my blog really.

There was a Swiss guy with us, Alex Avidan, now Dr Avidan in Jerusalem, who was and still is an avid photographer. A few years ago we held a reunion of sorts and Alex compiled a powerpoint presentation of all his 344 photographs from our year together. It was set to all the songs we used to sing and had us exclaiming, "who are those kids?!"

Yesterday he posted a link to his photos on facebook after another friend posted a selfie wearing our beloved sweatshirt that we designed ourselves. Actually Alex reminded us that he designed the sweatshirt aswell. LOL, had I realised back then that he was such a high achiever I would have tried harder to attract his attention.

So here are a few photos of me among Alex's gallery. It was 1981-1982. We were living as farmers on a kibbutz on the Jordanian border. We travelled the country in the back of an old Leyland lorry. We sang and danced a lot. We thought this was life. Who knew?

Me aged 19, notice the farmer's tan

We loved to sing and perform

This was my favourite seat on the Leyland

A country girl at heart?

All photos by Dr Alexander Avidan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits #31 - The Kibbutz Edition

We went to our favourite kibbutz for a long weekend as my good friends SJ and Nadge were celebrating the Bat Mitzva of her youngest daughter.

We were put up in an empty kibbutz house. It had a bathroom and a kitchen, a living room and a few bedrooms but the only furniture was the two beds we slept in. Apart from the two beds it was completely empty.
DD: It's a good job this isn't our real house.
Me: Why?
DD: I can't help thinking there's something missing.

We were introduced to an old friend of Nadge who had come from the UK with his wife. He and his lovely wife were sitting in the garden when we arrived. 
Me: Hi, I'm Rachel Selby
Friend of Nage: Hello, I'm Fred Bloggs*
Me (recognising the name Bloggs from a female facebook friend in the same town): I know that name. Who's Lisa Bloggs?
Friend of Nage: She's my ex-wife.

*Names have been changed.

Eating in the communal dining room.
DD: It's so lucky for them. They don't even need a shop. They just come and choose what they want to eat.

On the way back to our hosts' house from lunch in the communal dining-room on Saturday, I was boldly leading the way with a bunch of guests who didn't know the kibbutz as well I do. Chatting away, I headed for the blue front door and we all trooped into the living room.
Us: Chatter chatter chatter.... silence.
Me (to the girl sitting on her sofa reading): Ooh, sorry. Sorry, wrong house.
Us (all troop out again and go to the right house two doors down.)

At the party DD was placed on the children's table. Of course she wanted to stay with me. 
Me: If you don't sit with your friends and have fun with them, there's no point in you coming. I won't bring you here next time when there's a party. (She reluctantly sat with the children and had a great time.)

We arrived home around midnight and DD, who'd been asleep in the car, was barely awake as I helped her put on her pjs.
DD: Mummy, will you take me there again when there's a party?
Me: Yes, you were a very good girl.
DD: Good, because I kinda miss that place.

Left. DD having fun on the children's table.