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.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Enjoying The Slow Life - R2BC

The empty pots are where we've planted seeds.

The summer full of long days to fill with inspiring and productive activity isn't panning out exactly as planned. No surprise there - it never does. However, it's still a lot less hectic than during the school/college year and a lot of what of what I do during the summer can be done in my pyjamas. Facilitating online English courses if you're wondering. Obviously not with video calls. So all in all, still plenty of Reasons 2B Cheerful this week.

The first full week of the summer holiday was an exercise in easing in slowly. Except for the first day when I was up at 4.30 am. Well that never happened again. As I write, I am still in pyjamas at ..... quite late in the morning. But how wonderful to have the luxury to be able to do that. (Or should that be to not do that?)

My herbs are beginning to sprout.
We skipped the bit with the soaked cotton wool #nopatience
This week I met a friend for breakfast, another friend came for lunch, we finished planting the balcony and some indoor planting too. We've been sitting out of an evening to welcome the cool air that breezes in after 6 pm, admiring the twinkling nightscape view across the hills, and enjoying our little garden oasis. (And being a tad overly poetic it seems :~p. )

I've been spending my mornings grading away and sending reminder letters to my students in a futile desperate attempt to have them mostly done by the end of the month. DD has been at her Summer Camp from 8 till 1. It's at her school so she leaves in the morning and arrives home all under her own steam. She even has a key so I don't have to be here on the dot of 1pm.

Here are some photos of our horticultural activities.

I'm joining the R2BC linky which is back with Michelle on Mummy from the Heart for the month of July.

All is good.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Shhhh It's 4.30 A.M.

Gardening on the balcony
One thing I am determined not to do this summer holiday is to let DD and I waste the whole nine weeks doing nothing. By doing nothing I mean eating, sleeping, and watching screens. DD's last day of school was Friday. She finished at noon and went off to her youth club for a couple of hours (the final meeting of the year). She came home to throw her shoes off, scrutinize her end of year report card (it was fine) and then crumple into the back of the sofa with her tablet where she marveled about how she could theoretically stay there for two months.

I let her have Shabbat to wallow in a false sense of security and then I burst her bubble. But in order to follow through with my dastardly plan I had to also get myself ready. On Saturday night I did the dishes in the sink, folded and put away all the clean laundry, and generally tidied up the whole apartment. This should be a nightly activity I know, I've seen all the You Tube vlogs. Trouble is, these You Tubers are full time, professional You Tubers. All they have to do all day is wash the dishes, fold the laundry and tidy up and then they sit at the computer for eight hours editing the footage. When I'm working I just about get some supper on the table for DD and I'm done for the night. Every three days or so we run out of dishes so I have to wash up.

Anyhoo, back to the holiday. On Sunday morning I woke up to a clean and tidy home which meant I was ready to hit the ground running rather than spend all morning doing the previous night's chores. DD was home for the day as her Summer School starts tomorrow. (It's a day camp till 1 pm for three weeks.) I did have some work to do on my own summer course (facilitating not taking) and trying to get my year course students to finish already by issuing a final final absolutely non-negotiable extended time. And then I dragged DD out to the plant nursery.

Remember those celebrations and projects I embarked on in January? No? Oh all right then. Well April was supposed to be making the balcony bloom. More about that another day because DD had actually made a start on it, but we combined the continuation with the first project of the summer and off we went.

Two 'trees' waiting for permanent housing.
I'd popped in earlier in the week to ask if they make deliveries and they do. Like kids in a toy shop we picked out what we wanted and I didn't even look at the prices. I collected all the planters, chose a 'tree' for inside (now that I have so much space to fill), and found out how much soil we needed to buy. DD went forth with a cardboard box to collect the plants she wanted. I let her get on with it. Apart from being told by the man (what is he - the horticulturist?) which plants are suitable for a west facing balcony in the Middle East, she had free reign to choose any 10 plants she fancied. We have room for so many more but we also have seeds and we want to try growing our own as well as just using transplants *giggle*.

Having walked in the heat of the day to the plant nursery we were more than happy to accept a ride home from the delivery man. And then we got to work. I say we, but I had some emails to attend to and DD was more than capable. I commandeered a few of  the planters for specific things and she dealt with the rest. We've not finished but DD has done her bit and she had a swimming lesson to go to so we left the rest for me to do today.

We walked to swimming. DD had a private lesson because her swimming partner has broken his arm. I'm only mentioning this because it's much more exhausting to have a private lesson than to share a lesson. We walked home via the felafel shop and bought supper. DD was starving as apart from all the exercise, I suddenly realized that she'd only eaten a bowl of watermelon for breakfast and a banana before swimming. We seem to have forgotten about lunch.

And then we couldn't keep our eyes open We both got into bed at 7.30. Suddenly we weren't tired at all so we laughed about that and five minutes later DD was asleep. Ten minutes later it was 3 am so I guess I also fell asleep. I rolled over and went back to sleep for a while but eventually got up at 4.30 feeling ever so virtuous and Miracle Morning. It's now actually 6 am. DD is still asleep. I'm going to finish this blog and then ...... well I have to do last night's dishes in the sink, finish gardening, do some work on my Summer Course, get DD off to Summer School at 8, and meet a friend for coffee at 10.

So summer so good.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Made It To The Finish Line - R2BC

Random photo of a fun sculpture, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
A quick Reasons 2B Cheerful this week as it's been a tough month. The heat and the end of the school/college year was grueling. I could deal with each of them individually but both together was a challenge.

I have to admit that two of my favourite  things about being a teacher in Israel are July and August.

I know that it's hell for many parents who have to juggle childcare and pay thousands of shekels for summer camps. I acknowledge that the system that encourages us to have big families does not allow for stay at home mothers or give enough holidays to cover the school breaks. And this is most difficult for single parent families and those without active grandparents.

On the other hand, I accept that even with two degrees, my teaching salary does not reach to the end of the month. There are ways of making ends meet of course - if you take on more responsibilities at school or have side hustles. I have freelance writing work on the side (but not under the table in case the taxman is reading this) but I still only scrape the national average salary. All worth it for school holidays.

It's swings and roundabouts but I chose the swings and I'm looking forward to two months of playing like a lady who lunches (apart from my online college summer course).

That's it. I'm too tired to continue with this tonight. I'm letting go of the fact that I only wrote four blog posts in June. It is what it is and I'll be back with a vengeance on Sunday, with coffee, probably in my pyjamas, with nowhere to go and nothing to do (not 100% true but in theory).

Happy Holidays!

I'm on the laid-back linky with Becky's Lakes Single Mum. And relax.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

I Was Wrong About The Clarinet - R2BC

Jerusalem Orchestra

Reason 2B cheerful are plentiful this week.

We Break Up
It's the end of the school year. One more week to go and I'm actually in school for only two more days. And one day in college will have almost half my year course students passed and signed off. DD has to return all her school textbooks tomorrow and she has her end of year party in the afternoon. I will be working on a summer course and meeting with another 18 students from the Year course but without four days a week in school it's all much more relaxed. I have plans - of course. :)

School Orchestra

Clarinet Soloist
DD had her end of year concerts this week. The Jerusalem Cub Orchestra was fantastic and the kids were so excited to be playing in a real theatre and with other older orchestras and bands. The next day they had the school orchestra end of year concert. In this one DD had a solo. The girl who wouldn't be part of any school assembly because she was too shy, had the first solo.

The children who are in both orchestras performed a surprise rendition of 'Toy" from the Eurovision Song Contest. I never knew it actually had a tune until I heard this orchestrated version. It was a lot of fun as all the children started clapping and singing along.

One of the fathers said to me afterwards, "weren't you the parent who complained at the beginning of the year about them having to take up a new instrument when they can't play the recorder yet?" I still think a recorder ensemble is lovely and worthwhile, but I admit that I was wrong about the clarinet. We will be continuing next year.

School solo

Family Visits
My nephew stayed with us last week, on his way to be a leader for a group of school children from his old school who are touring Israel for two weeks. It was sharav weather last Shabbat (over 36∘C) so we just stayed in, enjoyed each other's company, and played contract whist. We do love our card games. And this week I'm looking forward to seeing my cousin who's here for a wedding.

I've joined the linky over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum
along with the other cheerful bloggers.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Minimalism Phase 2 - Treasured Books

Getting rid of books is a basic part of minimalism and firmly planted in phase 1. I got rid of loads of books. However, getting rid of books is not the same as letting go of treasured books. Treasured books are books you once loved and maybe still do. You can't let them go the first time round but, as I've said before, the more you purge the easier it gets and the less you want to keep. Here are some books I let go of recently. It feels good.

In the photo above are seven books from the cookery and coffee table collections. I still have four other big illustrated vegetarian cookery books so the one in the photo could go - it's the least interesting. Good Cooking, from about 1982 is full of meat and seafood dishes that aren't relevant to me. I don't bake and if I do want to bake in the future (and the internet is down) I have a small cake book that I'm keeping. The Book of New Israeli Food doesn't say anything I don't know already. I'm never going to make sweets and chocolates as I don't even like chocolate and sweets are just sugar. I never treasured the herb book but I found it among the other cookery books so it's going.

I don't know why I held on to the illustrated biography of Elizabeth Taylor. I did read it cover to cover once and I enjoyed it but I wouldn't say that she is one of my idols or life mentors.

That brings The 1000 Clutters Challenge to 952 clutters decluttered and only 48 to go.

Two other books I let go recently but have already counted, are:

Mrs Fytton's Country Life by Mavis Cheek, St Martin's Press, 2000. I loved this book. Angela Fytton gets dumped by her husband of 25 years who goes off to marry his young mistress. He cleverly gives Angela the family home in lieu of any other payments because his teenage children can continue to live there while he and his pregnant new wife start over. But Angela decides she wants to go and live in the country and start over herself. So she sells the family home in London and buys a cottage in a village in Somerset. Obviously she has room for the children to join her. Obviously they don't want to and insist on moving in with their father. Obviously his new wife cannot object and everything in the love nest begins to fall apart.

Meanwhile Angela is embracing all things country. Until she finds out that the country also has its problems and deceptions. Hilarious characters like the baker who gets his bread from the dumpsters behind Tesco. He warms it in his Aga and delivers it to the villagers in a large wicker basket. "Of course it goes stale quickly - it's real fresh bread, no preservatives see." His wife spins and dyes wool which she knits into jumpers. Except that the wool is actually unraveled from jumpers bought in local jumble sales. Another family that moved to the country for more quality family time end up with an isolated and depressed wife, an absent husband because he found a convenient pied-a-terre in London, and sending their children to boarding school so that they don't have to mix with the local children.

I re-read this book. I loved it all over again but I don't need to read it a third time. So I gave it to a colleague who is retiring and I think she will love it too.

The Family at Red Roofs by Enid Blyton. This was a childhood favourite of mine and I kept it all these years. I read it to DD a few months ago. She really got into it. When the snobby friend was obnoxious DD sprang up in bed, wagged her finger at the book and scolded, "that's not how you treat your friends young lady!" On the other hand she asked why the girls aren't allowed to do anything and the boy was in charge of paying the bills even though he's younger. An interesting thing is that it was first published in 1945 but there is no mention of the war, or of there having been a war if it was published after September 1945. As I said, it was a childhood favourite of mine but it has somehow lost some of its magic. It won't be a childhood favourite of DD's even though she did enjoy it. The story has been republished many times, the last time being 2013, so DD could find the book again if she wants to (she won't want to). My copy was just about falling apart so out it went.

By the Way. As I was going through the cookery books I remembered A Proper Tea by Joanna Isles. I loved this book so much that I blogged about it here. I remember that a friend wanted to make a proper tea party for her birthday so I lent her the book. Now I can't remember who the friend was. Dear friend, if you read this post can I have my book back please.

And yet, if I don't get my proper tea book back, so be it. Minimalism does that to you, It's just things.

UPDATE: I remembered the next morning and my friend who has the book told me in the afternoon. All is good. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Minimalism and IKEA - R2BC

I've been very quiet on the blog for a couple of weeks. It's that time of year when teachers are writing reports, marking exams, planning and attending final parties, recitals, concerts, and presentations for everything (that goes for mothers too), and for me, setting up my summer course to start the day after school finishes. I'm finally, not finished but up to date with everything as of last night.

Today I went with two friends to IKEA. You have to understand that 1) there is no IKEA in Jerusalem. 2) I don't have a car. 3) Outside of IKEA everything in Israel is very expensive. And 4) the last time I went there with a car was five years ago! Now you see why this is my Reason 2B Cheerful this week.

We were three of us in the car so there was no big furniture buying, but boy did we stock up on other stuff. We left Jerusalem at 8 after the kids had gone to school, and arrived in Rishon at 8.50. First stop was coffee and a pastry. Apparently coffee is free between 08.30 and 09.00. I suppose because shopping only starts at 9 and the tills only open at 9.30.

We compared lists. Then, having warmed up with coffee, we went to the starting line. Two of us turned right and headed for the furniture displays. The smaller items were to the left.
"Hey, where are you going? We don't need any furniture!"
We looked at our friend in disbelief. "We want to walk round and see everything."
"But we have lists!"
I suggested she go have another coffee and meet us at the end but she threw her hands up in resignation and came with us.

Yesterday a colleague asked me how I can reconcile IKEA with minimalism. Well, most of what I bought was to replace stuff. One in - one out. You do need a new shower curtain, toilet brush and non-slip shower mat every so often. The plastic stool in the kitchen was 16 years old and looked it. The sheets for DD's bed are the sets that my mother bought me when I left home 30 years ago. There's nothing wrong with them but they're primary coloured stripes and DD wanted something pretty and flowery. (Bring back your chintz your chintz - oh the irony.) I bought nice storage boxes to replace the old plastic vegetable rack drawers I'd been using in my wardrobe. New kitchen scissors, a new frame for DD's painting, new place mats, and two rectangular storage boxes to replace the round plastic bowls in my fridge that I use for fruit and vegetables.

Entirely new things included: a big white pot for a tall plant in the now empty corner of my living room, two pyrex dishes and three plastic food containers, all with lock'n'lock lids. A small salad bowl for when I want a bigger salad than a soup bowl but smaller than a serving dish. Ice-lolly molds, And a few little presents for DD - some felt pens, paint brushes, a tablet holder, and I gave her the purse I was given for making a donation to charity.

I don't count the serviettes, the plastic straws, or the light bulbs as they will be used and thrown out. So actually I didn't buy too many new things. But if you want to nitpick, I also threw out or passed on (eventually - some items are in a holding pattern) 21 items this week in addition to the things that were replaced from Ikea.

There are 17 things in the photo but I took back the wok and one of the four broken watches. Also the scissors don't count as I replaced them. However, I gave away a book and another photo frame as gifts and put a bag and a purse in the 'donations' box. And three more serving bowls didn't make the photo. So that's 21 items which takes the 1000 Clutters Challenge to 945. Only 55 items left to find and I still have all my cds and loads of dvds.

I am very cheerfully joining the Reasons 2B cheerful linky over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Minimalism Phase 2 - Furniture

One of the best pieces of advice I read or saw on a minimalist vlog, was not to worry about the furniture until you've minimalized your stuff. Before you're almost done decluttering, it's impossible to know what you will or won't need. I actually wrote a blog post a few years ago about how I saved hundreds of shekels on new furniture by tidying up. Minimalizing is the same - you think you need a storage solution to get all that junk off the floor and neatly behind doors, when in fact you're about to get rid of most of the junk.

I got rid of most of the junk. Last count I was on 910 clutters for The 1000 Clutter Challenge. I can't seem to stop myself - I found 16 more items to go. 2 shoe boxes, 2 photo albums, 4 toilet bags, 4 plastic shelves from my old fridge that I thought I might use for planters but I won't, 1 orphan sock, 1 coffee mug (the last of 8 bought in LA, USA in 1986) that was on DD's desk as a pen holder but she told me she didn't like it and could she have a flowery one like mine? "Of course my darling, let's add this one to the donate pile." That's 14.

15 and 16 are two big items of furniture. I've been stalling on these because they are both parts of sets. It's so difficult to break up sets. It feels like a wicked bureaucrat splitting up siblings for adoption. And then you just do it and get over it surprisingly quickly.

The display cabinet goes with the sideboard and a smaller display cabinet. I don't need all three pieces and the one without the usable surface for framed photos or candlesticks, has to go. A dark bit of wall has suddenly become white again and the room seems to have grown wider.

The chest of drawers was part of the set of a five door wardrobe, and two matching chests of drawers. I bought two because my feng shui savvy friend old me that if I wanted to bring another person into my life I had to have space for his things in the bedroom. Well he turned out to be a she and DD keeps her things mostly in her own bedroom. Seriously though, if I ever do want to live with a partner, we'll buy new bedroom furniture. Not enough storage in my bedroom will not be the deal breaker.

The five door wardrobe and one chest of drawers fit snugly along one wall and by using all the drawers and shelves recently freed up, I can do away with the other chest of drawers. The room feels luxuriously spacious. I may even get a bigger bed to fill some of the space.

The 1000 clutters Challenge is now at 922. I'm not counting 4 of the items above because when I recently read back over all my decluttering blog posts, I found that four items had been counted twice. Somehow they'd made it back into circulation and come round again. That makes only 78 items left to find.

One last word about furniture. There are three or four other pieces of furniture that I'd like to change. I have an IKEA wish list. However, those pieces will eventually be replaced by more functional and/or prettier pieces. They will be sold or donated but they won't count as being decluttered as they will be replaced. Decluttering only counts if you end up with less. Decluttering should not be confused with remodelling.

Friday, May 25, 2018

R2BC - Summer Choices

Culture is cool peeps. 
This week's Reasons 2B Cheerful are back with Becky as Michelle is away. You can find the linky at Lakes Single Mum.

Hans Christian Anderson
We went to see the musical last night. One of my 5th Grade girls is in it so we've been looking forward to it for a long time. Being Jerusalem, I knew four of the cast and another four of the crew. We only knew three other families in the audience this time - it must have been a slow night.

We danced home afterwards, singing The King is in the Altogther and Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen. We picked up pizza from the new favourite pizza shop that just opened near us. DD went to bed at 11.30 and neither of us got up for Stupid Friday at school this morning. (Friday school finishes at 11.45. I should say here that I don't teach on Fridays.)

English Summer Camp
The summer holiday is long here in Israel - 9 weeks for 1st to 6th Grade and 10.5 weeks for High School. 1st to 3rd Grade get a free summer school for the first 3 weeks of  July so thus far we've only had to deal with 6 weeks at home.

There  are all sorts of camps and programmes for 1, 2, or 3 week periods. There are sports camps, art camps, cooking courses, sewing, science and computer camps, drama, music, and just plain all round fun. Some children are booked solid from July 1st till the end of August.

As we have August pretty much covered with visitors and short trips, I told DD she could choose one Summer Camp in July - I didn't mind how long it was. Some of the camps are very pricey and can cost hundreds, even thousands of shekels. But I only have one child so I was happy for her to pick whatever she wanted. She didn't pick anything. She wanted to do a self-defense course, which I am in favour of, but the courses for her age group are all in August overlapping with dates that we'll be away.

Then she came home from school and said that all her friends are going to the English Day Camp at school. I asked about it last year and I was told that it wasn't suitable for children who already know English. This year they changed their minds and decided that it is suitable for English speakers. It's 3 weeks, Sunday - Thursday, 8am till 1pm, total cost 600 shekels. Woohoo! Sorted. And as it's just down the road from  us at school, DD can go and come home by herself. She can even let herself in if I'm held up at my college where I'll be teaching a Summer Course.

Five Weeks Left
Only five weeks to go until the summer holidays start on July 1st. I'm counting the days. OK, I still have loads of work to do, reports to write, my summer course to prepare, and run it during July, ... But you know, always good to have something to look forward to. And I actually like the pressure of finishing everything off in a set amount of time. The Panic Monster and I are old friends.

Healthy Choices
With the undeniably summer weather that's upon us, DD and I agreed that instead of the weekly allowance of sweets and chocolate for her on Shabbat, we are buying a whole watermelon instead. To be eaten in place of snacks thoughout the week. The watermelon actually costs more than the sweets and chocolate but it also lasts longer so, "Yeah Us!"

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Minimalism Phase 2 - Loose Ends

Now that 881 items have been decluttered from my small apartment, and almost every piece of furniture has at least one empty shelf or drawer, it's time to begin Minimalism Phase 2. This involves moving stuff around in order to free up a whole piece of furniture or more.

However, before we begin, a loose end - that pesky renamed 1000 Clutter Challenge. 881 clutters is 119 too few. So today I found 29 more items to return, donate, gift, or chuck. I wrote last time that I struggled to find 30 and 31 things for the end of the Minimalism Game but a funny thing has happened. The clearer the apartment, the easier it is to get rid of more stuff. The less you have, it seems, the less you want. Anything superfluous suddenly sticks out like a sore thumb.

Here's what I found today....

To donate - 1 pair of new crocks (given to me and never worn), 2 flannel fitted sheets, 3 ornaments, 1 pile of Grace After Meals booklets, 1 rattan side table, 2 cake tins, 3 small games, 2 pairs of shoe shaper thingies.

To gift - 2 puzzles and a 1 big tub of Geo-shapes.

To return - 4 wooden puzzle toys that we no longer play with.

To chuck - 1 ten year old and obsolete printer, 1 bowl with a chip, 2 items of clothing with holes in them, 1 bag of sachets of creams and lotions collected over the years and way past their expiry dates, 1 old director's chair with a ripped seat, 1 bag of material I was going to use to recover the director's chair but I know I never will. (And if I did recover it I could probably sell it for £20 but the relief of not having it sitting there to do is worth more to me atm.)

So that's 910 clutters decluttered since last October. #1000 Clutters Challenge.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Reasons 2B Cheerful In A Turbulent Week

The school wheat field ready for harvesting.
Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. From entertainment to politics to war to harvesting to love. It's been a turbulent week. 

Last Saturday night Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest for the fourth time in the history of the event. The singer, Netta Barzilai, is an example of how you don't have to be stick thin to be successful. She's a lovely person - modest, kind, and unspoilt by all the glitz. I hated the song at first but all my pupils at school and my DD at home are playing it and singing it constantly. I admit it's growing on me. I can't argue with the song's message.

The US Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to the capital city of Jerusalem. It's positioned within the Green Line - the pre-1967 borders - so it doesn't touch or any way alter East Jerusalem which can still be the capital of Palestine in the future, if that's what is wanted. All the two state solutions are about Palestine being all the land allotted to it in the 1947 UN vote for partition (i.e. before Israel took it over in the 1967 Six Day War). So it's only a provocative move if you want the whole of Jerusalem to be Palestinian and not a shared city.

This week my friends who live near the border with Gaza, again within the Green Line of course, were safe because the IDF stopped thousands of terrorists crossing the border with the express purpose of murdering Israelis. And yes I am happy that 53 of the 60 who died were Hamas activists who will not be able to try again.

I'm also angry at the parents of an eight month old baby with a serious heart condition, who took their child to the front lines of a war zone where they knew there would be violence and tear gas - as  there has been on every Friday for the past few months. I am sorry that the other six casualties and the many others who were wounded, did not heed the IDF warning leaflets to stay away, that were dropped over Gaza at the beginning of the week. But most of all, I'm sorry that the Gazans have to live under Hamas because the Israeli Arabs that I know do not want to live like this. I suspect that most Gazans would also choose to live and prosper rather than wage war and suffer.

Partially harvested. Each class harvested a patch. 
The Wheat Harvest
This weekend it's the festival of Shavuot. We celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai and also the wheat harvest. My school is very agricultural as it's a kibbutz school so we do actually have a small wheat field for educational purposes. This week we harvested the wheat. Each class did a small section. They threshed the seeds out of the chaff, they ground it to make coarse flour, and they cooked with it. We use the straw to .... something ... with the animals (I'm not an animal person so I don't go there), and also to build mud walls strengthened with straw. I learned loads.

Love and Gratitude
Today hundreds of Israelis filled their cars with food and other supplies for the holiday and drove down to the border areas with Gaza to feed our boys on the front line. It's not just the food of course, it's the outpouring of love and support after a difficult week. It's acknowledgement that they are in a shit situation and they do it to keep the rest of us safe.

So there you have it. A roller-coaster of a week. I'm joining Michelle's linky on Mummy from the Heart. 

I'm exhausted from all the facebook activity and trying to explain what's going on here after the BBC and other media channels unfairly reported that Israel massacred 60 peaceful and unarmed civilian demonstrators. There was nothing peaceful, they were mostly not civilians, and they were armed. I'm done with explaining so I won't be accepting any challenging comments on this post. Just so as you know, I'm up for discussion on facebook but my blog is my home. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Minimalist Game Days 30 & 31

This is the end of The Minimalist game. There are never more than 31 days in a month so we're done. The Minimalst Game total is 412 items removed from the house. And the renamed 1000 Clutters Challenge has reached 881. I will go on to find those remaining 119 clutters and I've decided that they will be cds and dvds which I'll find some way to store digitally.

Day 30
3 cables with obsolete connectors, 1 bag of old telephone wires, 1 door knob, 1 telephone wall socket, 2 telephone double sockets, 2 books that I like the idea of but I know I'll never read, 3 more kitchen utensils, 1 broken head-torch, 2 tubes of cleansing lotion, 1 pile of rubbish from the key dish, 3 toy d.i.y. tools, some 15 amp fuse wire from when I rented a flat with a 1950s fuse box, and 9 items of clothing from my wardrobe.

After taking the photo I decided to keep the telephone wall socket as I might be changing the position of the phone in the salon. Thus, day 31 actually has 32 items to compensate for the wall socket. 

Day 31
The Eagle of the Ninth - I read it in school, I read it again recently, and I blogged about it. It is extremely unlikely that I will ever want to read it again.

2 other pamphlets from exhibitions, 4 books of plays from the days when we had play readings, and 5 60p mini-books from Penguin Books' 60th birthday.

4 old and dried up thingies that you hang in your wardrobe to deter moths, 2 more items of clothing, and 14 hangers.

So am I now a minimalist? I don't feel like a minimalist. However, I do feel that I'm not hoarding a load of things I don't need. I've kept some ornaments and sentimental things. DD's room is not included as, though I try to keep the clutter at bay, she's not interested in getting rid of much. 

I have loads more space in my cupboards. In fact, almost every piece of furniture has an empty shelf or drawer - sometimes more than one. What's needed now is a thorough tidy with the aim of consolidating stuff to free up one whole piece of superfluous furniture. I already know which pieces I'd like to get rid of. And of course there is still that dream of a capsule wardrobe.... Maybe this summer.

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Brilliant Art Class For 1000 People - R2BC

One big Reason 2B Cheerful again this week, DD's art class participated in the Art Class Finale at the Israel Museum.

First some background. It had been one of those days. It was raining and chilly in the morning so I left the house in my winter boots and with an umbrella. By midday it was over 30 degrees under a heavy gray sky. I finish teaching at 12 but I stayed for an extra hour to organize the new English Library. At 1.15 I dragged myself away from a job half done to go to the Income Tax Office. I got off the tram a stop too early and had to treck a kilometre in the heat. When I got there I found that it closes at 1pm. I went into town to buy sandals. Then I made my way to the Israel Museum for DD's event.

Our class found a shady spot for instructions.
The Art Class is a group of 15 children from 4th to 6th Grade who love art. They meet once a week after school for an hour and a half and they have trips to the Israel Museum as well as painting and drawing lessons. They try to choose those with some talent as well but the main thing is supposed to be a passion for art. (DD has both, in my humble Mum opinion.)

The class met us at the Museum. As we walked up towards the sculpture garden, I kept seeing people I knew. It's popular here today, I thought. It wasn't until we got to the top that I realized the scale of the event. Who knew that Art Class is a school-wide initiative including about 45 schools from all over Jerusalem? I certainly didn't. There were 1000 people there! I suddenly heard, "Teacher Rachel! What are you doing here?" It was children from my school. Had I known, I would have stayed to finish the library and come with them straight from school.

We were so proud of ourselves.
I have to admit that among our little group of mothers. none of us were into it. We were hot, wearing winter clothes, after a long day, the end of a long week, etc... We were told that the event was outside (i.e. no chairs and no coffee). And it was due to go on until 7pm. We half joked about bunking off and taking the kids for ice-cream instead. We'd had some warning that it was going to be hands-on art with children and parents. I imagined a sort of stations thing where you go round and do a bit of craft work at various tables. Along with 1000 people. We were so not into it. Reader, we were wrong!

Each school was given a wooden grid, 20 wooden squares, a picture cut into 20 squares, and boxes of pastel oil crayons. Each child and parent pair took one of the squares and had to replicate their bit of the painting onto the wood. At that stage we had no idea what the finished painting looked like, only that they were all paintings from the Israel Museum Collection.

It was so exciting to see it coming together.
DD and I found a bit of wall to work on. We started off arguing of course - "You need to draw a grid on the wood and on the picture." "No you don't, you just draw it!" "Yes you do!" I drew the grids. "You're doing it too small, you need to look at the grids." "You're not helping me!" "OK, I'll help you but we need to just outline the nose and mouth so we know where they go." "No, you don't do that!" "Yes you do!" I drew the outline of the nose and mouth. "You're doing it wrong!" "Ok, I'm not helping you anymore. You do it by yourself." "You need to help me." "But you keep shouting at me!"

Coming together with Moriya
In the end we had only a short time left to finish and DD had only done a fraction of it. She'd spent a lot of time mixing colours as we didn't have the exact shades we needed. So I dived in to help. We worked fast and furious together. I covered vast areas in the base colours and she went over in various other colours to create the different hues. Then DD showed me how to blend the edges together with your finger and also smooth out the crayon lines. We were a team. She ran to her friends to borrow a brown, a white, a darker green.... I smoothed and smudged and filled in the gaps. I am no artist by any means but by the end I was so proud of our painting.

We took it to the main board where the teacher, Moriya, was starting to put it all together. It was magic! And amazing how it really did all fit together. Apart from being a bit wonky around the chin, but that actually added to the authenticity of the project - doncha think?

The more original than the original.
All the 45 finished paintings were brought together for a closing ceremony. We loved doing ours - Sonia Delaunay-Terk's Finnish Woman - but I suddenly wanted to do all of them. I wish I'd been able to photograph more of them to show you as they were all spectacular.

The original.

Our finished painting will be brought to the school and displayed. I'm hoping there will be an exhibition of all the paintings together, at the museum, or maybe a photo-booklet. We would certainly go and see it or buy the book. I'm already looking forward to next year.

On a clear day you can see forever
 Here are some of the others...

I'm joining the R2BC linky over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Minimalist Game Days 27, 28 and 29.

I'm stretching the rules a bit as my days now have no connection to the days of any month. However, in my game I'm up to days 27 to 29. With these hauls (or reverse hauls) The Minimalist Game total is 351 and the 500 Clutters Challenge score is 820. (Now revised to the 1000 Clutters Challenge.)

Day 27
Day 27
I went back to the towels and sheets. One bath towel and three small hand towels going out. We only have two bathrooms so I've kept four hand towels - two in use and two to switch when they go in the wash. Any more small hand towels are superfluous (not including the separate set for the kitchen). I still have too many bath and beach towels but this is a process.

In the sheet department we have nine old pillow slips. If you remember, this is the second time I've gone through sheets and towels. Like I said, it's a process.

On the right is DD's winter coat that's too small and too heavy for one week in London per winter. I promised her that the next winter coat will be lighter and with room to wear with a sweater underneath when it's really cold. For the rest of the time in a Jerusalem winter you don't need a such heavy winter coat.

On top of the coat is a jacket with a broken zip. And on the right of the picture is an old bath robe of mine that I never use. In between we have 10 items from the beauty cabinet - old nail polishes, make up and some hair accessories. Next to them, a Jewish Spiderman skull cap that my nephews gave to DD when she was little. (Girls don't usually wear them but she wanted to as they were all wearing theirs. When I was little I had one that my Grandpa gave me for the same reason.)

Lastly, the bag. What is in the bag? I have two food processors. One I bought myself and have only ever used the knife blade to chop and mix. The other was given to me by a friend and I use the blender attachment on it. I've kept the bowl and the knife blade for the second processor as a back-up. In the bag are a whole range of graters, kneaders, juicers, and goodness know what. I don't even know how they work. This could have been about 20 items but I'm not looking for shortcuts here - it's one bag.

Day 28
Day 28
Two more towels. I got these out to take to the beach with us last week. And I didn't want to take them because I didn't like the colours. If you can't even take them to the beach for the kids to use, then they have no business in your house. Also in this pile are two old face cloths and a pillow slip that I missed yesterday.

Three old and too small sunhats of DD's. A pair of white tights that she wore once - possibly. A pile of nine items of clothing from my wardrobe that I will never wear again.

Finally a bag of 10 toiletry items - creams, lotions and potions. I was keeping them because they were in their gift boxes but the truth is that I don't use masks and scrubs. I tried an anti-aging callogen cream a couple of weeks a go and my skin broke out. This may or may not have had something to do with the expirey date being 2013.

Day 29
Day 29
Today I really struggled. I was wandering around the flat looking for things to get rid of. The stained t-shirt was easy, it's not my colour anyway. Two old bras about 35 years too small. Four belts - yes one of them still has the label on it. Four kitchen utensils - wash up more often instead of having three of everything. 10 teaching English books - can you believe I'm still weeding these out? Five dvds - slowly picking out the movies we don't love. A double cd of the complete Nomi Shemer (a famous Israeli singer). An old glasses case and a glass soap dish - who uses bars of soap these days?

Add that up and you'll find it comes to 29. But it wasn't easy.

I still have some pockets of clutter that I can go through for Day 30. In an ideal world I'd do that capsule wardrobe that I yearn for but I'm waiting to be an ideal shape before I can part with much more from the wardrobe. And I'd also like to get rid of about 100 cds and 50 dvds by upgrading to a digital streaming system - Netflix and Spotify or something similar, but I'm not ready to make that jump just yet. Perhaps over the summer.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Meghan Markle: Sabotage By Wardrobe

I don't know who is trying to sabotage Meghan Markle and set her up for failure but whoever, or whatever, they are doing a good job of manipulatively destroying her personality outfit by outfit. I saw Germaine Greer on the TV programme This Morning and immediately knew what she was talking about. I have been thinking the same for weeks.

You only have to Google Meghan Markle Images to see the difference between how she dressed before the engagement, when she presumably chose her own clothes, and how she is being dressed now.

Every outfit since the engagement has been dowdy. Heavy material in boring neutral colours. Too much material making her look like an old dowager rather than a young blushing bride. Most outfits are ankle length at the bottom and over the collar bone at the top. She is swamped in an effort, it seems, to erase any suggestion of a nice figure - or any figure. I am absolutely certain that Meghan would never have chosen these outfits for herself.

In contrast, Kate is dressed in light outfits showing off her youth and great figure. Bright colours, wonderful designs to just above the knees so we can see her shapely legs, and soft playful designs that many women of all ages would be happy to emulate.

I didn't just take Germaine Greer's word for it, I went to Google Images to see the full range. Look at Meghan Markle Images and then look at Meghan and Harry Images. Do you see it? It's as if Elizabeth Hurley morphed into the Queen Mother. I was more than shocked. This has to be a deliberate and manipulative ploy.

There is no reason why Meghan Markle shouldn't be a shining model of British fashion. She has the looks, the polish and the figure. Money is no object. Any designer would give their right arm to have the opportunity to dress Meghan to show off their clothes. She would do them proud, if only she were allowed. It's not like she's unaware of fashion - just look at the way she dressed before.

Someone is controlling Meghan Markle's wardrobe in a way that does her a major disservice. Someone is deliberately making her look the worst she can look without being blatant about it. They choose expensive couture so you can't say they're treating her like Cinderella in rags. No, they are waging a far more devastating and subtle campaign to crush Meghan Markle outfit by outfit.

I have no concrete motive. Maybe it's a test of her staying power. Maybe it's we the public who are being manipulated so that we shouldn't love her until we are permitted to do so. Or maybe they are really out to destroy her for her.... what? Her background? Her ethnicity? Her divorced status? Her Chutspah? Who knows. But something is going on here and I believe that the truth will out eventually.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Israel Independence Day - R2BC

70 Years!
It's been three weeks since I last wrote a Reasons 2B Cheerful post. Last week was canceled because or the tragedy that happened in Israel. Since then I meant to blog every day. I wrote lists of blog posts and assigned one to each day in my diary. And then I came home from work every day and didn't blog. I don't even know why. I just lost my mojo. Anyway, it's back and so am I. And this is why I'm only blogging about Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) three weeks after the date. I apologise to Becky at Lakes Single Mum for missing two Reasons 2B Cheerful  posts while she was hosting. (This week R2BC is back with Michelle at Mummy from the Heart for the merry merry month of May.)

On Yom Ha'atzmaut eve we went up to the Jerusalem Promenade overlooking the Old City and watched the fireworks. It's ten minutes walk from where we live and we met loads of our friends there. It was a spectacular start to the 70 year celebrations.

Go-karting in the morning.
Then came the actual day. The thing about being single, not having a car, and living in a flat without a garden is that it makes Yom Ha'atzmaut very traumatic. When you have a garden you just invite a couple  of friends for a barbecue and you've got a party. If you have a car you can go out of town and have a picnic. If you are without either but you have a partner, you can go out for lunch together, have a glass of wine and call it a celebration. As a single there is always this frantic hustle to find a party or invite yourself to a barbecue. I admit that before DD, I sometimes just stayed home alone and didn't tell a soul. I enjoyed my own company, watched movies, read books and pottered about, but oh the shame if  anyone had found out.

When DD was small we'd get together with my singlemum friends and we'd picnic in a local park. However, our children are now all between 7 and 10. A picnic in the local park just doesn't do it for them anymore. We had to go bigger. Luckily the others all have cars.

Sunny on Thursday
Reader we had the most amazing time. We went to an adventure park in the morning where we went go-karting. Then we headed to the beach at Ashdod where the kids played in the sand while we watched the Airforce flyover and the Navy flotilla.

As Yom Ha'atzmaut was a Thursday and Friday is a half day at school, we took the day off (as did half the country) and made a long weekend of it. We stayed at a hotel right by the beach and spent the next two days alternating between the beach and the pool. The weather turned on us and it rained. But it was still warm so we swam in the pool in the rain. Same wet so no big deal. The sea was rough so we paddled while the foam slapped our legs. The sky was grey - I felt quite at home. And the children loved it.

And guess what? Yom Ha'atzmaut falls on a Thursday again next year. I think we already have a plan.

Rough and grey the next day was also fun and we had the beach to ourselves.