Sunday, September 9, 2018

Minimalism Phase 2 - Delayed Reaction

23 items to go out and another 6 not shown as they've already gone.
Before I start on the topic in hand, an update on The 1000 Clutter Challenge that I started last October (previously 500 before being upgraded to 1000). Having decluttered 952 clutters I had only 48 items left in order to reach the goal of 1000 unnecessaries out of my house. In the photo you can see 23 more things.

There are 7 items of DD's clothing (mostly too small and grubby school tops) to throw out. 7 books (two to pass on to friends, and the rest to donate). 3 old swimming goggles and/or their cases. A Kinder Surprise from inside a chocolate egg, a bag of dried out felt pens, an old CD, and 2 CD racks, I won't count DD's old school backpack with the dodgy zip because we bought another one to replace it.

I didn't get rid of the CDs - I'm not quite ready to do that yet, but I moved them to a book shelf that has been freed of books. So consolidated clutter rather than consigned.

One note about the Oxford Book of Quotations. I got two of these for my Bat Mitzva 43 years ago. I left one of them at my parents' house in London and the other has been with me all my adult life. I chose this one as it's inscribed from my Dad's cousin Alan. I noticed it this week as we were talking on facebook about Bar and Bat Mitzva presents that we still have. I have about 8 of mine still. And then I thought about it seriously. In these days of internet, I don't need a big bulky book of famous quotations. So thank you Barbara and Alan Miller, I really did love it and use it before the days of instant information online. But now it has to go.

I'm really into gifting well loved books that I know I won't read again. In addition to what's on the bed, another 4 books were gifted recently. A Gentleman in Moscow went to a real gentleman for his 60th birthday and Behind the Scenes at the Museum went to my colleague at school who, like the girls in the book, grew up in the north of England in the 1960s. Eleanor Oliphant also went to an English friend who will appreciate the cultural references. And a coffee table book about quilting went to a friend who quilts. Half the pleasure is finding just the right recipient for each book.

An outgrown dress and unused pencil case of DD's went to the little girl downstairs. That makes 28 clutters and a running total of 980 items.

During the summer I sold two items of furniture - a chest of drawers and a tall display cabinet that became surplus to requirements (already counted). A friend came over and exclaimed, "Wow! Your apartment really looks and feels much bigger!" Score

And here's where I'm stuck. Although much has been donated, passed on, sold, or thrown out.... much of it hasn't. I have tops of wardrobes and other assorted shelves and drawers full of stuff waiting to go to the Yedidya Bazaar. I am trying to weed it down by taking books to the park library but it's a slow process.

Until those spaces are freed up I can't move other things into them and free up other spaces. For example, I don't need to store spare cling film and foil, sponges, dish clothes, and paper towels, etc... in the actual kitchen. I buy all these things in bulk packages because it's cheaper but they could be stored in the cupboard in the study, along with the spare toilet paper, if only I could get all the unwanted stuff out.

It's a temporary stuck. A delay of you will. The Yedidya Bazaar comes round again in April so I'll keep chipping away at it until then. Any other charity sales or swaps that come up in the meantime will be gratefully embraced. The only disappointing aspect is that I don't yet feel like a minimalist as I  can still see where more space can be found and possibly one more piece of furniture eliminated.

On the other hand, I do intend to find those last 20 clutters to complete the 1000 clutters challenge within the year.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

September 2018 - R2BC

The obligatory back to school photo.
Begrudgingly allowed because it's the law. 
It's the Jewish New Year this week, it was the academic new year last week, also my birthday, the weather got cooler, as if by magic, and autumn is definitely in the air. The End.

Just kidding. September has always been my favourtie month for all the above reasons.

Rosh Hashana
A chance to repent, renew, recharge and reinvent. This year I finally stopped pretending that I would be going to traditional synagogue services and have arranged to meet with a  few friends on the first morning of Rosh Hashana (it's a 2-day festival) for some meaningful start to the year. I'm not sure exactly what will happen as although we have a  rough agenda, this is the first time we're doing this. But I'm very much looking forward to it.

At home DD and I will do all our own Rosh Hashana traditions - blowing away our sins and bad habits, and eating our menus with the Rosh Hashana Symbols. And some of the meals we're eating out with friends.

It was back to school for both DD and me this week. DD has always hated having her photo taken so on the first day of 1st Grade I told her it was the law. She's now in 5th Grade and she still thinks it's the law. Hilarious.

My Birthday.
Me and Ingrid Bergman reduced to tears as we marched, singing This Old Man, into a Chinese village in North Wales. You had to be there.

The Weather
It's overcast. Seriously, there's grey in them there clouds. We are praying for a wet winter in Israel. Turns out that desalination isn't enough and we're once again facing a water shortage. However, the heat of the summer is behind us and hopefully the universe will be kind.

The Reasons 2B Cheerful linky is with Michelle on Mummy From the Heart this week and for the whole of September.

Wishing everyone a SHANA TOVA UMETUKA (A Good and Sweet Year). 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Sixth Happiness For My Birthday

No photos from yesterday so here's one we made earlier.
Yesterday was my birthday. It wasn't a big birthday although no one can say that the number is small anymore so I suppose all my birthdays are now big birthdays. It was the day I don't teach in school, and college hasn't started yet so I did have a less hectic day than would normally be the case.

Whatsapp messages from family and friends mostly either wished me a great day (fantastic, amazing, wonderful, etc...) or asked what I was doing to celebrate. I answered truthfully. Grading papers, preparing lessons, supermarket. I treated myself to a delivery but then I do that every month so not really fair to count it as a birthday thing.

Facebook was marvelous as it always is on birthdays. Thank you to all my friends and even my "friends" and my cousins, who left birthday greetings. I tried to answer each one with a personal thank you but after a while I just 'liked' as many as I could. But, seriously, big LIKE to all of you.

Two e-cards all the way from Canada and California. Thank you, you know who you are.

And now enough of this Oscars acceptance speech  and back to the day itself. I also popped into college to do a few things, I went to sign DD up for gymnastics club, I did some housework. That's it. Until the evening.

This is where you expect me to say that I let my hair down and went clubbing all night. Wrong. DD had been asking me what I'm doing for my birthday all day. She was annoyed that I wasn't doing anything. I think she wanted to go out for waffles but as she didn't even bother to make me a card, I wasn't inclined to break my diet for her to have the treat. She did give me a big hug and say, "Happy Birthday Mummy, I love you so much." She's clever like that - no money or effort involved.

Anyhoo, I felt a bit guilty (Why? Just why did I feel guilty?) so I asked DD to watch a film with me for my birthday. It was my birthday. Mine. So I got to choose the film right? Wrong again. Well I refused to watch some pre-teen Hallmark TV movie this time so DD refused to watch anything with me.

As I was choosing for myself I revisited my childhood and watched, "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness" on You Tube. Remember? Ingrid Bergman and 100 Chinese orphans escaping the Japanese invasion. I was surprised to find that the bit about escaping with the children was only the last half hour of a 2 1/2 hour film. I'd remembered Gladys Aylward secretly reading her employer's books about China and saving her wages to pay her passage to China. I remembered her adopting Sixpence and then I thought the whole film was about the orphans' journey across the mountains. Not so.

It was a bit like when I watched Jane Eyre again decades after reading the book (because I had to at school) and seeing the movie and the BBC TV drama. I'd completely forgotten that half the story is about her life before going to be the governess at Mr. Rochester's house.

Btw, I read Wikipedia about Gladys Aylward and the film was very romanticized. The real Aylward never kissed a man in her life and didn't abandon the children in the end to go back to her  boyfriend. I didn't mind that so much but I'm sorry I read the article before seeing the end of the film because afterwards I could only think, all that scenery is actually North Wales not China. It lost some of it's magic I'm afraid.

Still, I found myself blubbering through the last 20 minutes so it was a fantastic choice of movie and a great way to celebrate my birthday.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Last Hurrah! - R2BC

View from the terrace of King David Hotel
Here we are at the end of the summer holiday? School starts on Sunday. Where did it go? What happened to all those  projects I was going to tackle over nine long weeks of no work (in theory, not including finishing off last year's courses, teaching two summer courses, and preparing for next year's courses)? We traveled some, we had guests from overseas, we went on day trips, we went to the pool, we went to the beach, and we relaxed... a lot. And that's where it went. 

Interestingly, things suddenly picked up a pace for the final week of the holiday. It was a sort of unplanned last hurrah before we return to serious routines for the next ten months. Here's how it panned out.

On Sunday I went out for coffee with a friend and DD was invited to an all-day happening to celebrate the end of the holiday. I forgot to ask who organized the happening but it was all free for members. Knowing the parents of the friend who invited DD, it could have been the Teachers' Union, the Social Workers' Union, or a major children's charity that the family are very involved with. The day was by a pool with an adventure park (zip lines), activities and lunch. DD came home with a new school diary and her fingernails painted. I got a lot of work done at home. Everyone was very happy.

On Monday I met a friend visiting from London, for coffee. She didn't want to travel all the way to my neighbourhood and I didn't want to go into the town centre. So we met in the middle at The King David Hotel. We were the only ones sitting on the terrace overlooking the pool, with the Old City of Jerusalem across the valley. The coffee cost exactly the same as in a crowded cafe but it was so much more pleasant to be in the elegant gardens of the hotel. I don't know why I don't do this more often.

On Monday evening we went to see Hamlet in Motion in the park.

On Tuesday I had to give an exam at my college and meet with some students. Then we popped into DD's school to pick up her school books and a box of school supplies that we'd ordered online. We came home and ticked everything off on the list before going to the Big Shop (it's actually called Big Shop) to get school t-shirts and a couple of sweaters along with anything missing from the supplies list. It's a bit like Primark or Walmart but not nearly as much choice (or quality). However, we managed to do a Big Shop and came home loaded with bags.

DD posing with school supplies
on the table and bags more on the floor.
On Wednesday DD went to her friend's birthday party while I had to go into my school for the opening Teachers' Meeting. All I can say about that is, "oy vey!" To give you  some idea, the renovations that were supposed to be done over the summer, started yesterday. Luckily most of September is taken up by the Jewish Festivals so no one really expects to settle down into a fixed routine until the beginning of October.

This morning we went to the local shopping mall to pick up the last few things that weren't in the Big Shop. Whilst there, DD saw a new school bag that she absolutely loved and so did I. So we bought that on a whim and qualified for another free backpack! The plan was for a pizza lunch in the mall but we weren't that hungry so we came home and ate later (leftover pasta from last night).

This evening we're meeting up with our Summer Holiday Family for a falafel picnic in the park to officially end the Summer Holiday.

So lots of Reasons 2B Cheerful even as we say good bye to long lazy days and hello to earlier nights and ridiculously early mornings. The R2BC linky is back with Becky this week on Lakes Single Mum. I suspect that there will be a lot of cheerful summer holiday endings. Stiff upper lip and all that.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Hamlet In Motion

Hamlet dumping Ophelia while Polonius and Claudius hide behind a tree. 
Last night we went to one of the annual highlights of our summer - Shakespeare in Motion performed by Theater in the Rough, Israel. So far we've seen A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard III, and The Taming of the shrew. (Follow the links for my reviews.) We missed Macbeth as I was in my year of mourning for my Dad and didn't go to any live entertainment (although it was pointed out to me that Macbeth is a tragedy, LOL.) Last night was Hamlet.

We forgot to read Hamlet in our Tales from Shakespeare before we went but luckily there was, as usual, a synopsis in the programme. However, we did go prepared with two folding deckchairs this time. And we forwent the picnic because though it sounds idyllic to be watching Shakespeare in the park and eating baguette, cheese and grapes etc... there's actually too much going on for such pretentiousness. Most people go out to eat afterwards. We met half a dozen good friends there and had lots of invitations to join various parties for after show activities. But DD was tired so we came home and ate leftovers from Shabbat instead.

Gertrude and Claudius caught canoodling behind a pillar. 
The park is the garden between the King David Hotel and the Old City of Jerusalem. And the play (which in Hamlet, is the thing) takes place in various locations. The audience ambles from scene to scene along with the actors. I've said it before, but it's a bit like being there with the characters as the plot unfolds.

The acting was superb. I don't like to name names so I won't. Everyone brought something special to their role and obviously it's most thrilling for me to see people I know personally in the performance (Andrea Katz - the Grande Dame of Theater in the Rough, Annabelle Landgarten - we fold clothes together for the Yedidya Bazaar every year, and Gillian Kay - my age in numbers but more of a youthful Peter Pan on stage). Nevertheless I must give a special mention to Hamlet himself - Natan Skop, who was just amazing - hilarious and tragic at the same time. (DD liked Polonius best - Ira Skop, because he was the only nice person in the whole play. "He didn't hurt anyone and he didn't go crazy. He was just trying to help!")

Polonius giving fatherly advice to Ophelia right in front of us!
Having said how wonderful the acting was and how much we thoroughly enjoyed it, Hamlet seems to be a lot harder to follow than previous Shakespeare plays we've seen (even Richard III). We knew the story so we weren't lost but had we not read the synopsis, it would have been a bit confusing. I think the action is slower in Hamlet - people take a long time to say what they need to say. Hamlet went on and on about the nunnery when we got it that he was dumping Ophelia in the first minute. And boy did they all take a long time to die at the end. Did I mention that it's not a happy play?

Sometimes you didn't know where to look first. 
One amusing incident in the graveyard. There was a communal chanting of, "Alas poor Yorick! I knew him Horatio." And one poor man was heard above the crowd with the old misquote of, "Alas poor Yorick! I knew him well." I tittered smugly to myself. (I forgot that Yom Kippur - The Day of Atonement, is in only three weeks. Woops. Sorrysorrysorry.)

And finally, who knew that these famous lines came from Hamlet?

In no particular order: 
Neither a borrower nor a lender be. 
This above all, to thine own self be true. 
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. 
To be or not to be, that is the question. 
To sleep perchance to dream. 
Though this be madness, there is method in't. 
The play's the thing. (What does that even mean?)
Sweets to the sweet.
The Lady doth protest too much me thinks. (I missed what she was protesting about tbh.)
I must be cruel only to be kind. 
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. (Obviously)
Alas poor Yorick! I knew him Horatio. (I gave this one away earlier.) 
I know a hawk from a handsaw. (Meaning, I can distinguish between enemies and friends.)
Get thee to a nunnery!

Here the Gravedigger accidently dug up poor Yorick. 
So much modern English usage from one play. My friends and I kept exchanging stretched eyes and raised eyebrows in surprised recognition, each time one came up. Anyway, mark your own papers. 14/14: English Lit. Professors, 6/14 - 13/14: Damned impressive, 5/14: Me, less than 5/14: Oh well.

Jerusalem People - there is one more performance tomorrow night. 28/8/18 at 5.30 pm in the gardens behind the The King David Hotel (walk down the road to the right of the King David into the park). You won't be sorry. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

R2BC - Short And Sweet

Nice and early this week, here are my reasons 2B cheerful.  It's short and sweet as the new academic year has pushed its nose into the end of my holiday and there's much to prepare. The Linky is live over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum. 

Lovely Photo
I love this photo of DD taken by Sarit Doron at the chocolate making workshop.

Proud to be Israeli
We saw this sign on a mixed-grill restaurant in the Golan Heights. In a country where all the soldiers are all our children, it was heartwarming and it made us feel so proud of the people who live here. The sign says, 

"Dear Soldier, don't be hungry. 
If you're short of money, tell a staff member and the shortfall is on us!"

Sunset over the Mediterranean

Club Med
After 30 years of living in this country I still get a kick out of living an hour's drive from the Mediterranean Sea. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Golan Heights #2 - The Yurt

Plenty of room in the yurt for gymnastics on a springy wooden floor.
After a previous camping experience I only agreed to this trip if we had beds. So a yurt in the Golan was booked with six beds. It also had a non-yurt extension built onto the side with a small kitchen and a separate, even smaller, bathroom. We loved our little home for two nights.

The yurt was in a small village and after our showers in the evenings, one friend and I walked round the country lanes rating looking at the different cottages and deciding which one we would like to live in.

It was very idyllic for two nights but I think I'm probably more suited to [small] town living for the long haul. I like people and cafes, entertainment, shopping, and a bit of hustle and bustle.

Ma'ayanot. They didn't look contaminated....
We didn't just sit around the yurt for two days, of course not. The next morning saw us off bright and early to an adventure centre where the kids could go-kart, peddle-kart, trampoline, zip-line, trolley board (like snow boarding but on a dry slope), and ride on a jeep through a mini-safari. I should be in PR - the mini-safari was a spread out petting zoo and the zip line was only three metres off the ground, LOL. But they had fun and that's what counts. Also there was no Sergeant-Major at this activity.

After a picnic lunch in which DD discovered that she likes an omelet in a bread roll, we went in search of some mountain springs and pools. Btw, omelet sandwiches are perfectly normal here. It's a very Israeli thing and, yes, the omelet is cold.

Chocolate-making workshop
I need to explain about the mountain springs and pools (ma'ayanot in Hebrew). There has been a health scare in the Golan whereby some of the ma'ayanot have become contaminated with a rodent borne bacteria due to the many years of drought in the region. Apparently when the rest of the country gets torrential rain in the winter, the Golan doesn't. This means that things are not washed away as they should be. This summer over 60 people have come down with a life-threatening flu-like illness that can damage the kidneys, up to three weeks after frolicking in the streams.

There was a list of which pools to avoid and many were physically closed off to the public. We found one that wasn't on the list and very open to the public with lots of locals enjoying the cool waters. I wasn't happy about going into any ma'ayanot - why take the chance. However, I wasn't strong enough in my objection and we went. The kids loved it. The next day these pools were added to the list so we're on alert for flu-like symptoms for the next two weeks. *sigh*

The Sea of Galilee. 
And on to the next. A boutique chocolate factory where the kids went on a tour and then did a chocolate making workshop. Thankfully they only needed one adult with them and one of our adults is a chocolate maker herself so there was no contest. I got to sit in the coffee shop and relax with our other adult.

We ate dinner in Katsrin, one of the two towns on the Golan, and then the long drive home to our yurt to shower, stroll, and bed. I say it was a long drive but actually, the Golan is quite a small area of land. It just feels like a vast expanse because it's a plateau of volcanic rock with big skies and rough, wild terrain with hardly anything man-made in it. (South Africans always talk about missing the big skies when they move to the UK. I never understood what they meant before but now I do.) The Golan is very different from the rest of Israel, considering how close everything is (you can drive the length of the country on one day). The Waze kept saying we were only 20 minutes from our destination whereas the map and the scenery looked like we were heading into Syria. Had we not seen some very welcome signs in Hebrew every so often, we would have been nervous that we had crossed the border by accident.

Our final day was spent by and in the Sea of Galilee on the way home. I don't know why they call it a sea. You can see the other side. Lake Geneva is apparently the biggest body of water in Europe and it's 580 km sq. I just googled the Galilee and it's only 167 km sq. Despite the click-bait name, it was the perfect end to a short but full holiday on the Golan Heights.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Golan Heights #1 - The Dairy Maid

Feeding the calves
We had one weekend after  Ashkelon to do our laundry and water the plants before setting off on our second holiday of the summer. One member of our Holiday Family is very pro-active about organizing us to get  up and go. Me, I just pay my money and do what I'm told. Anyway, we were booked into a yurt in the Golan Heights for a three day/two night adventure.

We left early on the Monday morning. Three families (three mothers and three children) in two cars. Neither of the cars are mine so I try to even things out a bit by paying for all the coffee and ice-cream stops. some of the parking, and treating everyone to one of the meals. The three kids liked to travel in one car together and I went with the other driver, whichever driver it was for that leg of the journey, to keep her company.

He made them hold the rail
while he was talking. Brilliant!
On the way up to the Golan we stopped at Bethlehem in the Gallilee. I've heard of this place before because it's near Nazareth and I once read a theory that this is actually the Bethlehem that Mary and Joseph traveled to for Herod's census and where Jesus was born. Otoh, Jesus spent his adult life in Jerusalem which is near the other Bethlehem so someone had to make the long trek south.

First we went to a herb farm where they have cooking workshops for kids. The bread making was at 11 am and the pizza making was at 1 pm. We arrived at 11.45 so we missed one and it was too long to wait for the next. The children were given a worksheet to fill out in return for a prize. The prizes were little plastic nothings like you get after a visit to the dentist but they liked them and they learned something about herbs and spices. The other two adults enjoyed buying spices as they are both interesting cooks. I'd like to be an interesting cook but DD will only eat omelets or dry pasta (with a bit of grated cheese) so I don't bother. The toilets were clean.

Next we went to a dairy farm for a tour of the cow sheds. The tour was designed for children but the guide was very Sergeant Majorish and shouted a lot. The kids didn't like him at all. I thought he was wonderful and took notes on how to keep my classes in line.

We were introduced to the calves who were between four days and two weeks old. We stroked them and fed them. One of our boys let them slobber all over him but that was a bit much for DD and I. I'm not an animal person but they were very cute.

Hard at work
Then we visited the chickens and learned why some eggs have chicks growing inside them but the eggs in the shops don't. We held newly laid eggs. We were invited to hold baby chicks. DD declined. I said, "come on, be brave. Don't you sort of want to?"
"I sort of want to but they're all scratchy and squirmy."
The guide overheard us and took my hand. "Come on Mummy, you show her that it's ok."
I snatched my hand back before he could place a scratchy, squirmy chick into it and squealed. "No, no, I don't want to!"

The cows were hungry by this time so the children were given shovels and told to fill a wheelbarrow with hay, wheel it back and shovel piles of hay in front of the cows who were poking their hungry heads through the railings. This took them about 20 minutes. Meanwhile the Sergeant Major disappeared - probably for a cup of tea or his afternoon nap. There was something strange about this picture. It had to do with paying for the tour and child labour... but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

After that we went into the cow shed to milk the cows. Obviously it's all automated but one cow was left unhooked so that we could milk her by hand. I have always wanted to milk a cow (or a goat, I'm not fussy). DD refused to go anywhere near the cow and she went back outside to feed the calves again.

Feeding the cows
Each child was taken to the cow and shown how to milk her. He invited each parent to go with the child while I, being without child, took their phone and took photos of the two of them milking the cow together and separately. It wasn't just our group, there were other families there too. I waited patiently until everyone had had their turn and there was just me and a woman wearing a 10 month old baby on her chest. I stepped forward but the Sergeant Major wanted to give the baby a go too. So I waited until they were done and I took their photo on the mother's phone.

The Sergeant Major started collecting up his things, "OKAY, NOW WE MOVE TO THE NEXT STATION" he barked. I almost cried. "What about me? I want to milk the cow too!" I got to milk the cow. I loved it. I released my inner Heidi after a lifetime of  buying bottled milk.

Midlife Ingalls Wilder
Now we had the milk we had to use it. Well not the exact same milk that we'd retrieved from the cow but other milk that had been cooled earlier. And another batch that had been gently heated. The children made the cooled milk into chocolate milk. It was delicious. I swear it tasted very different and much better than the tasteless supermarket milk. And I don't even like milk. Or chocolate.

They made the warmed milk into butter and we ate it spread on crackers. Also delicious.

We left the farm and drove off to find some luntea (lupper?). In our car I babbled on about how thrilled I was to have milked a cow. In the other car, apparently, the children went on and on about how much they hated the Sergeant Major.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Ashkelon: Tsunami - 0, Missiles - 1.

Who knew? 
We spent five days in a hotel in Ashkelon with my mother. It was five days of no cooking, no washing up, no cleaning, and no internet. It was wonderful...ish. Ok, there were a few issues along with the fabulous pool and the cable tv. Overall it was a definite good holiday.

We booked through I always use them and there has never been a problem because I've never had to change anything about the booking once I've booked it. This time I found out that changing anything about the booking is a big pain when you didn't book directly with the hotel.

We were without a car and the hotel was advertised as just outside Ashkelon. We didn't know how far out of town it was so we booked dinner as well as breakfast in the hotel. Dinner was £28 per person. We didn't really think about it when we booked but this is an enormous amount when you're not planning to eat three full courses every night. It's a buffet but the choices are the same every night which also gets boring.

After the first night we went to the reception and asked to cancel dinner for the next three nights. "Sorry, we can't change anything about the booking. You need to phone" So we phoned and we spoke to Mike in Berlin. (Have you ever wondered what these world travelers do for a living on their laptops for a few hours a day? - This is it.) Mike in Berlin, bless him, made a mistake and cancelled dinner in only one room. So we called back (each call takes 15 minutes to get through) and Dave managed to cancel dinner in both rooms. Then we discovered that Mike had not just ignored one of the rooms, he'd actually cancelled breakfast in the second room by mistake. I don't know who we spoke to next, Netta I think. After each call we had to wait while they sent an email to the hotel office with the amendments. Anyway, it all got sorted but that was two hours of our holiday we won't get back.

Grandma and DD at the Marina.
The other thing we discovered was that although we are not breakfast eaters at home, I forced myself to enjoy the breakfast buffet because we had paid for it (and I couldn't face another ordeal with but DD wasn't interested in eating it at all. I think next time I'll have my usual coffee for breakfast and buy us both an early lunch (or brunch) in the lounge cafe when DD's hungry. Seriously, one pizza and one salad from the lounge cafe is much cheaper than the breakfast buffet.

On the second evening we walked only 15 minutes along the sea-front to the marina and had a fabulous fish meal with dessert for about £40 for all three of us. Actually the portions were so big that we could have shared two between us.

The Ashkelon Marina is buzzing at night. It's more Greek fishing town than Monte Carlo but it has everything there including entertainment, shops, every type of food, the sea and the boats. And the 15 minutes walk there  and back (nearer 25 minutes on the way back as it's uphill and after dinner) was just the right amount of exercise to be pleasant.

I was surprised to see tsunami warnings along the front. Also signs showing which direction to run to and how many metres to safety. Between 350 and 600 if you're interested. DD was intensely interested if not fixated on the chances of there being a tsunami. We explained that there has to be an earthquake in the Mediterranean region first and then you have a few hours warning. By the time the tsunami comes we'd be back home in Jerusalem. That night she snuggled up to me in bed and said, "can I sleep closer to you tonight? I'm nervous about a tsunami."

On the third morning we were woken by loud sirens signalling a rocket attack from Gaza. DD and I rushed out of bed, I grabbed the door card, banged on my Mum's door, and ran to the stairwell. There we met several other guests in various states of undress. You only have 30 seconds before the rocket hits (unless it's intercepted by the Iron Dome) so no time for modesty.

My sister sent DD a whole package of activity books for the hotel.
We weren't fazed because we've been in war situations before. My mother remembers the first doodle-bug to hit London. It was on June 13th 1944 (I just googled it) after they'd returned from being evacuated in Scotland. Her older brother was standing by the window trying to get a look at it but her mother pulled him away. They took cover under the dining table and the whole window shattered into the room from the impact of the blast. DD and I spent a whole summer running down to the bomb-shelter in our building a few years ago and she remembers it.

So we were't fazed but we were a bit shakey when we returned to our rooms to put on the tv news. It's not a joke even if you've done it before. It's real missiles and they do kill people. That same morning one rocket had landed on a house in a town just south-east of Ashkelon. Interestlingly, DD wasn't worried about the missiles from Gaza like she was about a possible tsunami. This is ironic as there have been about 200 rockets fired at Israel this summer and not one tsunami.

There was quite good entertainment in the evenings at the hotel.
That day my cousin from Tel-Aviv drove down to have lunch with us and we had a lovely catch-up. The next day family friends from Stanmore, now living in Netanya drove down to see us. Whilst having coffee in the lounge I told them about another English couple in the hotel. The evening before, whilst playing our nightly match of kalooki or contract whist, we'd overheard them talking to a guest and they mentioned Edgware and Netanya. "I'm sure you must know them," I said.

Within two minutes the other couple had spotted our guests and joined us for coffee. Turns out that the man is a cousin of our friends' son-in-law and their daughter is married to an old friend of mine from 40 years ago. Btw, yesterday I met my old friend's sister in the supermarket and she said that the couple's guest from the first night must have been her cousin from Ashkelon. I once heard this joke: There are only 10 committed Jews in the world. The rest is done by mirrors. Sometimes it really feels like that.

The next morning we checked out. We asked the receptionist to order us a taxi to take my Mum to the airport. She called her husband but he wasn't available so he got his friend to take us at 2/3 of the price of a real taxi. Welcome to the Middle East. And after dropping my Mum off at terminal 1, DD and I continued to terminal 3 to get a Sherut (a shared door-to-door, mini-bus taxi) and go home.

Friday, August 17, 2018

What Happens To Your Garden When You Go Away?

Inside before we abandoned them.
After a busy July in which DD had summer day-camp and I had two summer courses on the go, we were looking forward to a slower pace in August. My mother arrived on July 31st and spent five days with us in Jerusalem. We didn't do much, mostly hung out and played cards but also met with friends and went out for coffee.

On the sixth day we decamped to a hotel in Ashkelon for a few days of beach, pool and.... more card playing.

But before we go there - a word about my garden. This summer we finally beautified our modest balcony with plants and flowers. We also planted (sowed?) seeds with varying success rates. The balcony has a low wall all around it, that provides a shelf along three sides. The safety rail is fixed to the outer edge so nothing can fall off and we placed planters all round. We also bought a tree for the corner. It looked very pretty.

The problem with a garden on a west facing balcony in the Middle East, is that it gets very (very very) hot in the afternoons in the summer. You have to water it every day or the plants start drooping as if they are gasping for a drink. If you miss two days they die of thirst. As we were going away for five days, that would be three whole days in the middle without watering. I spent a serious amount of money at the plant nursery only a few short weeks ago. Believe me, if I had to stay home to babysit my plants I would have done. (Well perhaps not but you get the level of my concern.)

So pretty and full of life beforehand....
The solution was to bring everything inside.  I put a thick cloth on the dining table and also brought the balcony table inside. All the planters were arranged on the tables and before we left I over watered each pot. I also put the blinds down to keep it cooler inside. This was Monday morning. When we arrived home on Friday afternoon things were a little fragile but not too bad. Nothing that a few hours of sunshine wouldn't cure.

And here is where I made mistakes. Firstly, I watered everything again when actually the soil in every pot was still saturated. Then, I didn't put them back out in the sun to dry out a bit and soak up some rays. You see we were leaving again the following Monday for another mini-break with friends. I lazily decided to leave the plants on the tables inside for the duration - until the following Wednesday. Wrong decision! Even though the patio door was open all the time and blinds up to let in the sunshine over the weekend, 10 days of indoor living was not good for my poor plants.

I can only beg for forgiveness and another chance. 
By the time we arrived home on Wednesday at least three plants were completely dead. Another two had lost their pretty flowers and are hanging on by a thread. The tall, sturdy, something plant that we grew from seeds is now a bent old man with osteoporosis of the spine. I'm hoping for some resurrections over the next few days. We are in Jerusalem after all. I'll keep you posted.

I thought children tied you down, and I knew that animals tie you down... The truth is that over the years I've often had the key to various neighbours' apartments so that I could go in and water their plants while they are away. For now we're home for the duration with no plans to abandon my poor plants again until well into the cooler weather. But I still feel like one of those mothers who goes out partying, or worse, away for the week, and leaves her young children locked in the house at home.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Home Sweet Home - R2BC

Sunset over the Mediterranean

August 16th and I've not written one blog post this month. (Well I have now obvs.) And I've missed at least two Reasons 2B Cheerful - Sorry ladies! But now I'm back on the Linky at Mummy From the Heart with Mich. We've been up and down the country, camped, swum, walked, eaten, played and laughed. I'll be writing about everything (well not everything) over the next few days.

Home Sweet Home
DD and I got home yesterday evening from three days on the Golan Heights. We went with friends, our Summer Holiday Family. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves but last night, after a quick trip to the grocery, a long shower and a light supper, we were in bed by 9 pm and slept like logs for 10 hours.

Today I pottered about the house. The laundry got done. I'm up to date with my summer course grading. The plants are back on the balcony (full story tomorrow). I've had time to blog again. God's in His heaven and all's right with the world.

Badge Of Honour
Apparently while I was away Feedspot selected Midlife Singlemum as one of the top 10 midlife parenting blogs on the web. One wonders how many midlife parenting blogs there are. Anyway, I'm number 6 so I'm ahead of at least four others. And I get to display another badge of honour - eyes right. Thank you Feedspot, it's nice to know I'm not just writing to myself and my three closest friends.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Bible - A Chapter A Day

Whilst in London for Passover, I bought myself a Bible. This is what I wrote about it here.

The Bible
Of course I know the stories from the Old Testament and some others that I've heard second-hand through teachers and discussions around the dinner table. But I've never actually read the Bible - the whole thing. Thirty years ago Rabbi Donniel Hartman told a group of us that he realized this too, one year, and he read the whole thing from cover to cover.

I decided to do the same - a chapter each week corresponding to the portion we read in the synagogue each week. I started with the beginning of Genesis every year for about 10 years and never got further than Joseph going down to Egypt. Part of the problem was my Bible which had both Hebrew and English in the tiniest print and the most old fashioned language.

So I bought a Bible. With big print. And if I'm already buying the Old Testament, I should really read the NT as well. My mother and I both said how we regretted skipping Scripture lessons at school just because we had a 'Jewish' pass. (There's a lot I regret about my education but that's a whole other discussion.)

Well I'd not got round to starting yet when I heard about the 929 project. This is the second time they're doing this. Here's some background to the first time around. Basically, in November 2014 they started an online project to read all 929 chapters of the Bible, Prophets and Writings, from Genesis to the end of Chronicles 11. So that's pretty much everything except the New Testament - as it's a Jewish initiative. 

If you read a chapter a day for five days a week, not counting holy days and festivals, and have the weekends to catch up if that's more your style, the whole thing takes almost three years. They had over quarter of a million people sign up to the website and commit to reading along. This was then, I didn't know about it, and anyway it was all in Hebrew. 

However, two weeks ago they started again and this time there is also an English website. If you follow the link you can see that today we are on Genesis Chapter 12 - where god tells Abraham to leave his family and go to an as yet unknown destination. (Is this the Bible's idea of suspense?).  The English website, like the Hebrew one, has articles, commentaries and maps to help you if you really want to study as you go along. A friend of mine has set up a small facebook group of friends where we share thoughts. There is probably also an official facebook group but I've not looked for it. It's not too late to join in and you don't have to be Jewish. 

So this time I'm really reading the whole Bible. This time they are scheduled to finish on 2/2/22 or 22/2/22 - one of those memorable (ha!) dates. I'm so holy that I have two Bibles on the go. The bigger book is the whole thing including the NT in bigger print and a slightly more modern translation. The smaller, but thicker, book is only the OT parts but with the original Hebrew on the facing pages. Sometimes if something is ambiguous, I read the Hebrew to try to get to the bottom of it.  Of course I'll have to tackle the NT on my own (and only in English as I don't read Ancient Greek) but I don't have to think about that until 2022!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Summer Fun - R2BC

The Forest Pool, Jerusalem
We've managed to fit in lots of summer fun despite me having to be in college three days this past week. So here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful. If you came here via Michelle's Mummy from the Heart, welcome and here's to the power of the linky.

Cooler weekends
The weather here has been unbearably hot (up to 36 degrees) during the week but so far every weekend for the past three weeks it has cooled down to a manageable 28, and it will be 28 again tomorrow.

So far DD has been taken to a theme park one week, a fun fair another week, and to the pool with me the third week.

I am also grateful for the cool evenings and nights in Jerusalem. By 7 pm the heat is off and by 8 pm it's almost cold outside.

We had a lovely day by the pool in the Jerusalem Forest. We went with our Summer Holiday Family and some others so we were a group of five adults and seven children. The kids had a blast with a bouncy castle and a (very small) water slide to add to the fun.

The only downer to the day was that I bought DD swimming goggles from the kiosk there and one lens fell out after 10 minutes. They wouldn't replace them as I'd looked at them first and had been told that there was no guarantee. But 10 minutes! So we will be going back because it's a lovely pool but we won't be buying anything from the kiosk.

The Mermaids in the Lagoon
Peter Pan
We were invited to go and see the Jelly Workshop production of Peter Pan. Last year they did Return to Narnia and it was excellent and very creative. They hung coats in the entrance doorway so the audience felt like they were entering Narnia as they came into the theatre.

This year was just as creative and just as much fun. The workshop is a group of kids from 9 to 14 (? I'm guessing) who come together for three weeks in the summer, meeting every weekday for a number of hours. The director writes a basic play but they adapt it, make all the props and scenery, and finally perform the finished play for parents and friends.

It was lovely and DD is thinking about joining it next year.

I only took one photo so as not to interfere with the show - it's the mermaids in the lagoon. Very cleverly done.

I'm hoping this qualifies as a Cultured Kids event as I'm joining the linky over at Emma's A Bavarian Sojourn. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Holiday Families And Fasting For Love - R2BC

5. Living in the Desert.
I went to visit my friend who lives in the desert.
Seriously, the real desert is at the end of her street. 
Lots of reasons 2B Cheerful this week despite the seemingly overwhelming hateful, political events happening in the world. The linky is with Michelle on Mummy from the Heart where we celebrate the small things every week.

On Sunday there is fast Day in the Jewish world. It's the second biggest fast day after Yom Kippur. It's supposed to commemorate the destruction of both the first and the second Temple in Jerusalem. And they added a load of other sad or tragic events to make a day of religious mourning. Delve a bit deeper and we can find reasons to make Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av) a day we can all relate to.

They say that the Temples were destroyed as the result of baseless hatred among people. I suppose it meant among Jews in particular but let's be inclusive in this day and age. Either it means as a punishment from God or as a natural result of baseless hatred - take your pick. I can relate to a fast against baseless hatred. So.....

Tisha B'av
I'm going to fast on Sunday in solidarity with all those fasting against baseless hatred in the world and all those suffering from it. Not a reason 2B cheerful as such but a positive action. Of course I don't just fast, I also try to spread the love in real life and do my bit on social media to protest wrongs and get the truth out there where there is injustice.

The real desert
Work work
One intensive summer course is over bar the grading of papers. I really enjoyed it. 25 hours of frontal teaching to the same group of students in a week is exhausting but it was also a good experience. A certain amount of bonding happens when you're with one group for 25 hours within five days. And there is no time for anyone to lose momentum so they all worked hard and they will all pass once they send in their final  projects (bar any surprises with the grading).

For me it was an unexpected extra paycheck in the summer. I've already spent it of course as we need a desktop computer that DD can use and I promised her a smart phone for 5th grade.

House work
Yeah I know, but I've done practically nothing all week and it's nice to see the bottom of the kitchen sink and the laundry basket again. Seriously - we were washing up cups on a need to use basis. (I admit that this is where hoarders come into their own.) Next stop the bathroom.

Summer Holiday Families
We have our summer holiday family. We love them and we are grateful for them. Any single parent with an only child will know that holidays can be disappointing. I'm not talking about a trip to London or other places where there's lot's to do. I mean a traditional beach and pool break in a hot climate.

In a family with two adults and more than one child the adults have help and company, and the kids have playmates. But try taking your pre-teen to play in a pool or on the sand for hours by herself. It doesn't work unless you also want to spend hours playing with her. Call me a bad mother, but after a couple of hours I've had enough, let alone repeating it for days without another adult to step in so that you can at least read your book for a bit. Think of it like one parent taking one of the kids away. See what I mean? It wouldn't work.

So we have our Summer  Holiday Family. We go to the beach together, we go to the pool together, we're going camping for three days (yurting actually), we go to the zoo, the water park, and we even just stroll into town together of an evening to eat out. It's a simple concept but essential and we love it.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Work, Play, Stretch And Shop - R2BC

DD has discovered the joys of gymnastics.
I remember it so well.
Okay so it's not coming home but that's no reason not 2B cheerful. Life goes on and here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. The linky ladies are with Michelle this month on Mummy from the Heart.

Football Crazy
I was passionate about football for a whole 2 hours. Possibly less as I only joined the semi-final at half time. Although I was caught up in all that "Football's Coming Home" excitement and I have been singing it all week. (Note to self: Try to stop singing it now. Time for a new song.)

Someone on facebook posted a link to live coverage so I went there and was hooked even though I missed the first England goal. I saw the equalizer. Then I got bored. Even I could see that England weren't playing very well. I was flicking about between websites and I missed the second Croatia goal. But I was hopeful until the bitter end. However, England will be 3rd or 4th in the World Cup - that's still world cup football. And at least we weren't beaten by France, eh?

What Holiday?
I've said before that I'm always surprised in July when the college semester finishes and the work doesn't. Well my July just got more worked up as next week I'm standing in for another teacher on a summer course (another one as well as the one I'm already facilitating online). It was all at the last minute (personal reasons) but I've suddenly got to come up with 25 hours of frontal teaching from Sunday till Thursday.

This time next week I'll be extremely happy (never mind cheerful) as I send in my hours to the college bursar.

Latch-key Kid
DD has been taking her door key to summer school with her and I've been free to come home leisurely instead of racing against the clock. Still loving the new sense of freedom and life is so much less stressful without this rigid time constraint. I don't stay out all afternoon but I can be an hour late and she's fine. It's great that she can call me on my mobile - what did we do without them?

Independence Day - The Movie
Well not that actual movie but a different movie. This week DD went to the cinema with a friend. The friend's Dad took them, bought the tickets and made sure they went to the right screen. Then he left and they walked home together after the film. We're lucky that we have a Planet Cinema complex about 20 minutes walk away, along the main road. DD loved the whole experience. And so did I.

New watch.
I'm left handed and wear it on my left wrist.
This makes taking the photo tricky.
#rubbishphotographerstrikesagain #outoffocus
Which Watch?
After wearing DD's Barbie pink watch with a plastic strap, for weeks now, I finally bought myself a new watch. It looks more expensive than it is - which was the goal.

Does anyone know what film this comes from? My Dad used to quote it all the time.
Two men meet in an Arab shuk.
A: Which watch?
B: Two watch.
A: Two watch? Such much?!

Olga Korbut
DD is into gymnastics. More about that later but the photo above is pretty much standard at any given moment, if she's not perfecting her splits or doing a backbend.

Wishing you a great weekend and a cheerful week ahead. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Seven Books I Have Loved

Mrs Fytton and Skallagrigg are missing. 
A friend tagged me on a facebook challenge to share one book a day that I have loved. I usually pass on these things but as I wanted to do a blog post about some great books anyway, I'm doing it here. And all in one day. Thanks Laura.

1. Mrs Fytton's Country Life by Mavis Cheek. (St Martin's Press, 2000)
I mentioned this book a few posts ago because although it's probably my favourite book, I gave it away after re-reading it first. I passed it on to a colleague who is retiring and I'm sure she'll love it. You can read what I wrote about Mrs Fytton here.

2. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. (Doubleday, 1995)
Another favourite because I never saw it coming. The ending I mean. And that the sisters grow up in 1960s England, with many references to the food, tv, and culture that I remember from my childhood.

Ruby, the youngest of three sisters, believes that she is the least important of the three. When asked who's there she always replies, "it's only Ruby." She tells her story of growing up in a working class family in York in alternate chapters. The other chapters tell us about six generations of the family through which we see a pattern of secrets, misery and lies. It's only when Ruby grows up that she's able to break the pattern and discover he missing pieces of her own life.

3. Chocolat by Joanne Harris. (Doubleday, 1999)
How could I not love Chocolat. And I don't even like chocolate that much. I think I fell in love with that single mother, being one myself and quite similar to Vianne Rocher. I also loved the two sequels, The Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur le Cure.

Warning: Do not just watch the film and think you know the book. The book is far richer than the film. Far more intrigue and the whole thing about the power of the Church is missing from the film. Seriously, you need to read the book.

4. Skallagrigg by William Horwood. (Viking Press, 1987)
There is whole canon of stories about the Skallagrigg that is shared by physically disabled people when they meet in schools, in care facilities, and in hospitals. They pass on the secret stories between themselves. No one knows how the stories started. Who was the Skallagrigg? How did he become the superhero, champion, and guardian angel of the physically disabled community. Because they are a community who worship the Skallagrigg like a God.

One day a  teenage girl with cerebral palsy decides to search for the Skallagrigg. She narrates her incredible journey, collecting the stories and tracing them back in time until she finds the Skallagrig himself. This is a life changing book, and I don't say that lightly.

I gave my copy to a friend who gifted me her very favourite book - Like Water for Chocolate. Fifteen minutes later and after I'd given her Skallagrigg, she came and asked for her book back as she couldn't bear to part with it. I didn't have the courage to say that I actually wanted my book back too. I thought it would be too rude.

5. Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. (Poseidon Press, 1994)
A girl growing up in a small village in Nazi Germany. The girl is not ordinary (I won't spoil it) and you only understand how she is different about half way through the book. She uses her differences and her special powers to deal with being different, rejection, the Nazis, and life itself. This book is full of insights into human nature and the secrets we all share.

6. Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressman Taylor (Souvenir Press, 1995)
A very short book (only 54 pages) that was originally published in 1938 to show people how the Nazis were operating in Germany. It's written in the form of a series of correspondence between two business partners, one of whom is Jewish and has escaped to the US. He writes asking his erstwhile partner and friend to help his sister who was still in Germany. The German partner declines to help the young woman so her brother skillfully enacts his revenge by missive. A brilliantly crafted and frightening masterpiece.

7. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking, 2016)
Count Alexander Rostov is tried by the Bolsheviks in 1922 and sentenced to life imprisonment in the grand Metropol Hotel in Moscow. The imprisonment lasts an incredible 32 years. On the other hand, if you're going to be imprisoned there are worse places. Instead of going stir-crazy, although he is not confined to his room, he rises to the occasion and creates a whole world for himself in the hotel.

I'm still reading this one. I bought it in London over Pesach (Passover) on the recommendation of a friend. Only 100 pages in I mentioned it to my cousin who raved about it. "He totally reinvents himself, it's amazing!" I'm all for reinvention and half way through the book as I write, I can see it happening. I'm finding it hard to restrict myself to one chapter a night.

Now I'm going to publish this post and then spend the next week remembering a whole load of other books that I loved and should have included. But the challenge was seven books only so another book another post.