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.