Friday, September 23, 2016

Home - Reasons 2B Cheerful

Lemon Scented Geranium
1 Home
We came home after two weeks in London. As we came through the door DD announced: I'm starting to unpack now. I don't want it to be like last time we went away and the suitcases were sitting around for days waiting for the washing. Lets do it RIGHT NOW!

She got as far as finding her new Monster High dolls at the bottom of the first case and that was the end of unpacking. Two days later and DD's announcement has become a self-fulfilled prophecy. Oh well, it's the weekend.

2 Friends
It felt like the first day of school for DD all over again. However, after I'd seen her across the road she wouldn't let me come in but rather ran off with her friends. After school she went to the park with a friend to walk their dog and back to her friend's apartment afterwards. I didn't see her until 7pm.

3 Family
My nephew is in Jerusalem for his gap year, studying and volunteering. He's been here three weeks already but we left for London a few days after he arrived so we'd not seen him yet. Today he came round (with three weeks' worth of laundry) for lunch and so that DD could boss him around for a couple of hours. At last she has a cousin living nearby!

4 Life
A few weeks ago I wrote about my balcony and how I intend to plant it with cuttings rather than just buying plants from the nursery. My cousin from London visited a few weeks ago and brought me a cutting from a rampant houseplant [her words] of - um - I think she said it's called Lemon Scented Geranium.

Here's the root
Anyway, I put it in water and ten days later we left the country. I'd hoped to plant it before we left but there were no roots growing yet. On our return I was half expecting the water to have evapourated and the plant to be dead. But it wasn't and here is the root.

Tomorrow I shall be pottering about on my balcony. :~)

I'm linking to R2BC over at Mummy from the Heart.

Monday, September 12, 2016

D.I.Y. - My Father's Daughter?

At my father's funeral last January, the Rabbi spoke about his many years of service to the community. He said Dad was the local Bob the Builder. He recalled Dad arriving at the community centre several times a month with his tool box and a list of jobs to fix, build, or decorate.

At home we had a garage big enough for the family car but never vacant. Apart from our bicycles, the only things that went in and out of the garage were wood, paint, and tools (in) and homemade shelves, cupboards, and desks (out). There were thousands of little drawers filled with supplies of nails, screws, nuts, bolts, hinges, hooks, etc.... to rival any d.i.y. megastore. There were stashes of light bulbs, string, brown paper, selotape, glue, sisal, planks of wood, paint and varnish for any occasion.

There was a workbench at the back of the garage. Not your little Black & Decker toy but an enormous table that he'd built himself and attached all sorts of gadgets for holding tools and keeping planks of wood aligned and in place. Hooks, vices, pockets, and holders. When we moved house Dad attached wheels to the bottom of the workbench and pushed it the half mile to our new house along the roads.
Dad would have seen this and made his own.

Us three kids each had home-built wardrobes, bookcases and desks in our bedrooms. If I'm honest, I hated this furniture and craved exquisitely finished, dainty carpentry in my bedroom. In the living-room the wall cabinate made of three varnished wooden boxes, two with drop down doors and one with glass siding doors, were used for a bar and stationery/household papers. A big wooden bench-seat lined one side of the kitchen table, with a padded lid that opened for storage inside the box. Think of a large coffin with a blue vynal lid and you've got the picture.

Dad also did his own car maintenance in ways that aren't possible today now that engines are computerised. Dad had jacks, jump-start cables, oil cans, dip sticks and even a little trolley that allowed him to lie in his back and roll under the elevated car. Whereas my friends might buy their father a bottle of aftershave for his birthday, mine would have been delighted with jar of Swarfega.

Behind the garage was a garden shed that he built himself, obviously. This was filled with gardening equipment. Dad wasn't much of a gardener but there's no such thing as too much equipment. We had a hovver mower, a strimmer, a fork, a shoval, two rakes (one for soil and one for grass), a hoe, a selection of trowels and spades, a wheelbarrow, a hose, a composter, and an incinerator.

All the camping and caravaning equipment was also stored in the shed. Tents, the caravan awning, pumps, deckchairs, tables and deck loungers, jerry cans, Elsan Blue for the porta-loo, calor gas cylinders, special mirrors for driving with a caravan, special headlamp filters for driving on The Continent (as we called Europe in those days), groundsheets, mosquito repelling candles, torches and bungee chords with hooks on either end. Hands up those who didn't believe me when I said I was an experienced camper?

File photo - not Dad
Dad had all the kits too. Overalls for doing the car, a thick plastic apron, gardening gloves and wellies for gardening, safety goggles for welding and sawing, earplugs for when he used the electric drill, a tool belt, and plastic ponchoes for pitching tents in torretial rain.

It was the early 1970s, years before B&Q and Texas Homecare became the weekend Meccas for d.i.y. enthusiasts. Dad was ahead of the times by decades. His favourite treat was to drive over to the local Danny Shop (or was it Dani or any other spelling?) for a browse and usually a buy. Today Engelbert Strauss would cover all the bases.

In many ways I am my father's daughter. I have his face, I have his sense of humour, his sense of justice and community spirit. I am a joiner (as in I join groups and committees, I don't do carpentry) and I volunteer. On the other hand, when the lightbulb went in my bathroom I waited for almost three weeks because I knew my nephew was coming to stay. As he walked in the door and after flying across Europe to visit us, I greeted him with the new bulb in my hand for him to fix the light.

Collaborative post

Friday, September 2, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - The September Effect

We slothed our way through the hot summer. We hated the heat but enjoyed the late mornings and slow pace. And suddenly it was September 1st and everything changes overnight.

1. It really does seem to get magically cooler. Obviously this is psychological but so many people I know also feel it.

2. We went out for lunch in the city centre on Wednesday. Downtown Jerusalem is very pleasant these days with the Light Rail trams making it cleaner and quieter to sit at the pavement cafes. The sad thing is that unless you work there, there is absolutely no reason to go there - other than to travel through on the trams. The theatres, cinemas, museums, and all other sources of entertainment have long moved to other locations. All that's left is offices, shopping and eating. We, and most people, hardly ever bother to go there. But on Wednesday we did and we had fun in the flea markets and enjoyed the street decorations.

3. We've had two school nights so far and I've managed to stick to the new school night rule of getting into bed at 8pm for stories and then lights out. On the first night DD lay awake until 10.30, poor thing, but after one day of school she fell asleep at 9.30 the second night. We're getting there. I only hope I can be strong over the weekend.

4. The school I taught at last year finally had to give me some answers about teaching this year because September 1st waits for no man - even Kibbutz men who make up their own rules as they go along. (I affectionately call it Kibbutz Organized Chaos - with less emphasis on the organized part.) I got the hours I wanted/needed. Of course I still don't have my timetable so I've no idea when those hours will be, but one can't have everything.

5. We are safely and comfortably gerscheduled in a way that makes us go to bed and get up at set times, do our work, do our chores because they are written on the diary, and be productive once again. About the summer holiday, as they say in Hebrew - haya tov vetov shehaya (it was good, and good that it was).

I'm linking up with R2BC back with Mummy from the Heart for September. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 1st And So It Begins

In Israel September 1st means back to school for everyone from Nursery to 12th Grade. All schools, all locations, all pupils.

We are not morning people
DD still thinks it's the law that you have to have your photo taken on the first morning of school. She wasn't happy about it but I got my photo. On the second go she tried not to look so grumpy. We are not morning people and this is the first morning in two months that we've been up before 8.30 am. (Or possibly 9.....or even 10.....etc....). She did go to bed at 8.30 last night but couldn't fall asleep until way after 10. I'm hoping she'll be more tired tonight after the early start to the day.

Looking at the photos I'm struck by how casual she looks compared with the uniforms and proper shoes worn in England. Oh well, we all look smarter in the winter.

I noticed a LOT of families speaking English at the drop off today. Much more than usual. I was dreading telling the new Head Teacher that we are going away next week (it's my father's stone-setting in London). However as soon as she heard my rubbish Hebrew she offered to switch to English which she speaks perfectly. Life just got a lot easier.

(As I write a helicopter has been circling low over our road and over the school. This is ominous as it usually means they are looking for something or someone. And now police sirens have started.)

The new Head was very nice and understanding about it. Whilst agreeing that's it not ideal she accepted my promise to take maths and Hebrew books with us and to keep up with the work. I was worried as she doesn't know me yet - I could be a completely flaky parent who's always flitting off for holidays during the school year, but it was fine.

She tried harder to look happy for this one
After a long and tearful goodbye to the school guard of nine years, at the end of last semester, today he was back at his post. In July we wrote cards, bought him a gift, he sat next to the leaving Head Teacher in the 'Goodbye Assembly' and they both shed a tear. She gave him a hug - it was all very emotional. And here he is back again at his post by the school gate. Whatever, it was good to see him.

I signed up for the afternoon program with homemade lunch at 2.30 pm when lessons end for the day. On the one hand it's more expensive than last year but on the other hand I now only have to send DD with her 10 O'clock snack, plus a little extra for the 1 pm break, and not with lunch as well - that was a killer especially as she won't eat sandwiches or anything that I make really.

I got a slight reduction in price because DD decided to be vegetarian and she's kept to it strictly for about six months now. So she'll just be getting the carbs and the vegetables which she'll have to eat - the afternoon lady is very good at making them eat their lunch.

So that's it. The first morning of 3rd Grade. No big deal - I didn't even have to go to the classroom with DD, she just went ahead. Good luck to us and everyone for a successful and happy school year!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mini Summer Staycation In Israel - R2BC

The view from the top.  Mediterranean scrub.  It is what it is.
On Thursday we set off for our annual mini-holiday with our friends. This year we were only 4 mothers and 4 children aged between 5 1/2 and 8 1/2. Also, we left it too late to find two consecutive nights in a kibbutz guest house so we only had one night away.

We set off early on Wednesday morning for the obligatory hike and picnic. I described the Israeli obsession with hiking here and gave my views about it. I don't need to go into it again. Suffice to say I've not changed my mind but we don't have a car so we have to go with the flow to some extent.

We went to Guvrin National Park which is a full of ancient ruins, houses, cisterns, and caves in the Judean Hills. We trekked a bit and every so often there was a ruin where everyone climbed down into the underground cistern to look. I don't do climbing so I stayed above ground and sat under a carob tree to wait.

This solitary house was once part of a whole village in the hillside.
That's a carob tree on the right. 
Lunch was trying to balance plastic boxes and human bottoms on a series of rocks because the picnic tables at the first stop were all in the sun. I ate a bit but it wasn't lunch as I enjoy it. More of a quick snack and not worth all the cool boxes and flasks that came out and were packed back in the cars after 15 minutes. DD didn't eat at all.

My friend showed me that you can pick a carob pod, break it in half and chew the inside (you discard the beans). It's delicious. I always thought you had to cook them somehow first.

Some of the solitary houses we saw were once part of a whole village built into the hillside. Originally each house had an underground cistern to catch the rain water and the cisterns were connected by tunnels. This meant that the water was shared and also that the people could walk between the houses without going outside.

DD in a carob tree.
After two ruins with underground cisterns, DD and I opted out and sat at a shady picnic table to eat our real lunch and read a chapter of Harry Potter. This is why I like to take our own food. We had it with us, we sat at a table, it felt like lunch.

From there we drove to our kibbutz guesthouse and spent the afternoon at their beautiful pool which we had almost to ourselves (probably because all the other Israelis were out hiking in the mountains). And in the evening we drove to a nearby town for shnitzel or felafel and chips. The children played and eventually went to bed. We sat outside and drank coffee until late. I love this part of our trips the best.

The Soreq caves are magical.
Day two started with our Israeli breakfast (though not nearly as good as last year's). Then we set off for the the Soreq caves on the way back to Jerusalem. The Soreq caves are full of natural stalactites (with c for ceiling) and stalagmites (with g for ground). It's beautiful like a fairy cave. You go round in groups of about 20 with a guide on a purpose built path through the structures that are lit up to show the different shapes and formations.

I went to this cave about 25 years ago and DD went last year on a school trip. It's a strange concept that you know every Israeli adult on the tour had visited this place before. Imagine if you went to Cheddar Gorge, for example. You wouldn't assume that every British adult you saw there had been there before. Israel is a small country and it's part of the education and national psyche to visit and learn about every inch of it.

These formations are between 1 million and 10 million years old.
One drop of water can take two months to drip.
One mm of rock can take about 100 years to form. 
It used to drive me mad on my gap year that one week we'd go and climb a mountain in the Mediterranean scrub and two weeks later we'd go and climb another similar mountain. What was the point? To the Israelis it was obvious - that was Mt. Tabor, today we are climbing Mt Nebo. Next week we will climb Mt. Gilboah. Different history, different parts of the Bible innit?

And then home for a rest before a birthday party in the park down the road. There was food and beer for the adults. Home at 7.45, straight into bed for a chapter of Harry Potter, and asleep by 8.30 - both of us.

Pool dude
I'm linking up with Reasons 2B Cheerful over at Lakes Single Mum.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The New Outside Room - Reasons 2B Cheerful

We have added a new room to our apartment. Well no we haven't actually added a new room but it feels like we have a gained a new room.

I bought the new balcony furniture. You can see below what it looked like before. I had some plastic chairs which aren't comfortable, and a small coffee table which does what it says on the box - holds your coffee - but not much else. The truth is that we didn't really use the balcony except for hanging washing. And that was a shame.

We went to ACE where they had run out of the 'bistro' sets that I thought I wanted. So we we went to Home Center where the 'bistro' chairs were 250 nis a chair (about 50 GBP) if you buy four but more if you only want two or three. In the end I decided to buy the nicer Keter (the plastics people) chairs which are still much cheaper than aluminium framed chairs. And if you're already buying Keter, it's better to go to the Keter shop for the best value.

At keter I chose a cheap but sturdy table and four of the nicer, more comfortable chairs (one is at my desk). The table is bigger than the 'bistro' tables so we can really have a meal out there and/or play Rummikub, paint pictures, etc....

On the way home we stopped at Hastock (a bazaar outlet) and picked up four cushions for the chairs and the plastic table cloth. We arrived home 10 minutes before the chairs and table were delivered.

Tonight's dinner is salade sur le balcon. To drink we will have le Chateau Robinet as usual.

The next project is growing something pretty to look at. I said in my last post that I'm tempted to go to the nursery and buy some colourful plants but instead I'm going to try and grow from cuttings and seeds. This may take some time.

Linking up with R2BC which is back at Lakes Single Mum this month.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Thanks For The Ads Facebook

The prettiest bit of my balcony is my neighbour's flowers
Yet again, I met someone yesterday who told me, with a look of utter disdain, how she would never go on facebook because it's a frivolous waste of time.

I couldn't be bothered to go into detail about the invaluable information I get via the relevant facebook groups about parenting, single parenting, the health care system, government regulations and subsidies, tax information, food recalls, places to go/things to see, where to buy, the education system, recommendations for good services, where to donate, buying and selling second hand, new services in the area, jobs available, etc....

Not to mention support groups for people who really need support in very difficult situations, and keeping up connections with friends and family flung far and wide around the world. And down the road but why pay for a babysitter when we can chat online?

So I just told her that her comment is like saying you won't go into the library because there are a group of people who often sit on the steps and giggle about inane rubbish. Even though you know that some of those gigglers are actually Ph.D. candidates who must be doing their research somewhere in the library.

Anyway, moving on.... Today I discovered a way to make a pet hate work for you. Facebook ads are hated by most people. Who needs them cluttering up your timeline? Most comments about the ads are asking how you can get rid of them. The answer is that you can de-clutter your likes and interests in your profile so that fewer related topics are available to show up as ads.

I have been looking for balcony furniture for a few months. My balcony had become a dumping ground over the past season and the plants neglected to death. (I thought I had some before photos but I can't find them.) Once I cleared it up, I wanted to make a little outside oasis. A tiny, elevated garden in which to enjoy my morning coffee or an evening drink. The plastic chairs and the low coffee table just don't do the job.

We need comfortable table and chairs
(A note about the lack of plants. I was going to make a trip to a local nursery and buy colourful plants but then I decided to take cuttings and grow my own. I've also been watching You Tube videos about growing plants from fruit pips and sprouting vegetables. Watch this space.....)

There are a couple of shops in Jerusalem I could go to for furniture. I know because I asked friends on facebook. I'd need to ask a friend with a car to come with or pay for a delivery. Neither of these options is a problem but I've not got round to going there yet. I've looked at their websites and I've not seen exactly what I'm looking for.

I saw this on my downstairs neighbour's balcony. This is what I want
So I searched the web for garden furniture in Israel. I really wanted three bistro chairs like you get outside cafes but I couldn't find exactly what I wanted at the right price. So I gave up searching. And this where Facebook took over.

Facebook has been finding outdoor furniture shops for me and showing their ads on my timeline. The more I click on the ads the more they send. Today I found exactly the chairs I wanted. I was ready to order them to be delivered but they were temporarily out of stock. I'm happy that they are out of stock because they didn't have a suitable table to go with the chairs so I'm hanging on for another advert with the full set in one delivery.

And when I've bought my new balcony set, I'll delete all interest in outdoor furniture from my facebook settings and internet searches.