Sunday, August 11, 2019

R2BC - Actual Colouring

On Friday I wrote about clearing out DD's bedroom and how one pile of art supplies, artwork, and school books was left to do. Today we tackled it together. And then we went through the list of things she needs for school. Read on, it was a very pleasant experience all round and definitely worthy of Reasons 2B Cheerful.

The linky is with Mich on Mummy from the Heart for the whole of August.

School Supplies
Amazingly, from the long list, we only need to buy a geometry set (compass, two set squares, and a protractor) and a pack of 10 A4 ring bound notebooks. Everything else we have left over from previous years - even school t-shirts that still fit and sticky labels. We agreed that we'd forgo a new school bag and pencil case this year as she'll want to have new ones for Secondary School next year. We also already paid for the full set of textbooks and workbooks that will be given out at school in a couple of weeks. Sorted. 

Down to the last pencil
Reader, we organized DD's room down to the last pencil. Everything now has a home and all the rubbish has been thrown out. She hasn't said it, but I can see that DD is enjoying being in her room now. I caught her just sitting on the bed and looking around appreciatively. Later she came and asked if she could have a rug. It was very sweet. 

We also dealt with all the pens, pencils, highlighters, and felt tips that were in a hundred different pencil cases and boxes. They're still in several cases and boxes but are now more consolidated. We also found a book of cards and envelopes to colour. DD got it as a present and used it once. It's lots of fun. You colour the card and the corresponding envelope (which you fold yourself ) and there is a matching sticker to seal each one. 

I'm going to a birthday dinner and a wedding this week. At the wedding I'll see my friend's daughter who has just had a baby. And in January I did a Paying it Forward game on Facebook. The first five people to reply to the announcement could expect a surprise at some time during the year. Well it's pay-forward time and three of my recipients will be getting their surprise within the next two weeks. So that's six cards and envelopes to colour and make. I did three of them today. It kept me out of the fridge so win-win. (Incidently, it happens to be a fast day in the Jewish calendar today. It's a full 24 hours, sunset to sunset, when we remember the destruction of the Temples and the beginning of the exile from Jerusalem. I started late but I'm going to finish late too so all's good.)

Have a good week y'all.  

Friday, August 9, 2019

Coloured Pencils

I can't believe I put DD's name on every  pencil she took to 1st Grade.
As she goes up to 6th grade, we have finally come to the end of some of them.
Where did that eternal (well nine weeks)  summer holiday go? We only have three weeks left! How did that happen? In my defense, my teaching assignments never really ended.

The grande finale involved a surprise intensive course last week. I taught for six hours a day, spent my evenings  grading and preparing the next day, forgot about the diet completely (there's only so much intensity you can take without pizza for supper, and cold for lunch the next day) and I let DD watch tv all day and half the night (whilst eating said pizza). And of course there was no blogging. But we got through it and the extra money will be welcome.

On Thursday afternoon it finished. I came home to an apartment in a state of chaos, and not clean. Overflowing laundry baskets and no food in the fridge, freezer or cupboards. It was time to take back control, big time!

On Thursday evening I reorganized DD's bedroom. I'd already culled a load of books the last time I did a big sort out about two years ago. Since then her bedroom has degenerated into low-grade tidy and less tidy mode. There was lots of confusion as to what each drawer was designated for and a mish-mash of 'stuff' in a number of storage boxes.

All the books went onto the bed and I did a real Conmari on DD's behalf. Some books were siphoned off for my school library, some to pass on to friends with younger grandchildren (yes I am that age), others to my teaching resources, and a few to throw away. (Yes you can throw away books.) It's strange how books that we absolutely had to keep only a couple of years ago, don't interest us at all now.

The storage boxes now contain 1. Lego (because it's just too expensive to give away), 2. Art supplies, and 3. empty to be decided. The games are all in the living room sideboard. Also culled - we no longer need "Who Am I?" or 300 piece jigsaw puzzles. DD's clothes were already organized so nothing to do there.

The big problem area is years of accumulated colouring pencils and felt tip pens. We never throw them out, of course, and every year there are new sets received as gifts or just to start off the academic year with pristine supplies. There are now boxes and numerous pencil cases filled with perfectly good coloured pencils but just not in sets.

I take one pencil case-full for teaching and I regularly top it up from the supply of orphan pencils. Sometimes you get a pencil that won't sharpen because the lead is broken all the way through. Those do get chucked. And very occasionally a pencil will be absolutely finished down to the quick. These are also lovingly chucked into the bin.

I had to get the room tidy as one of DD's friends turned up for an impromptu sleep-over. This turned out to be an amazing incentive not to just leave half of it for the next day. There's one pile of colours, school supplies and artwork left to sort out but I told DD she'd have to do that herself over the weekend.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Day At The Pool In 1982 - R2BC

This week's reasons 2B cheerful comes to you from 1976 - 1987, a swimming pool just outside Jerusalem, I was in Seventh Heaven, and we missed the final week of July R2BC linky so this one is with the August linky on Mich's Mummy from the Heart. So traversing time and space, lets go...

On Wednesday we went to the pool at Messilat Tzion, a village just outside Jerusalem. We went with friends who are early risers and movers so we left at 8.30 in the morning. Arriving as the place opens allows you a prime spot near the pool, but not too near. Our children can swim so we want to be able to see them but we don't have to be actually at the poolside. Also, at that time of the morning there are only a few children in the pool and two lifeguards on duty.

We found a shady spot on the grass under a tree and made ourselves at home. Then the music started. Blaring. It could have been a disaster. But as luck would have it they were playing my own personal favourite playlist. A medley of pop from the 1970s and 1980s.

It was all I could do to stop myself getting up and dancing. I did sing out loud though. Every song held a memory for me from 40 years ago.

Summer 1976 - the longest and hottest drought in the UK in my lifetime, so far (I was 14). The grass was yellow, some rural areas had standpipes for water at the end of the streets, washing your car and watering your garden was banned. We sang, "skyrockets in flight, afternoon delight." It's just as good now as it was then.

Summer 1978 the movie Grease came out and my sister and I and the girls next door, sat with our heads almost inside the cassette player singing "You're the one that I want," over and over again until we knew the words by heart.

There was the winter camp 1979, where my friend Mandy and I were the cooks. Ohoh ayay, I love you more than I can say. We changed the next lyric to "and if our food is hard to swallow, oh oh, we'll give you twice as much tomorrow."

Summer 1980, camping in Lanarkshire, Scotland. My baby takes the morning train, he works from 9 till 5 and then, he takes another home again... What they lacked in sophisticated lyrics they made up for with sing-along potential.

Come on Eileen, was the wet weekend in July that I spent with Sharon in Liverpool. It was 1982 and we'd just returned from our gap year on a Kibbutz in Israel.

They just kept on coming. I gazed out across the pool and the palm trees, towards the Jerusalem hills. The scenery and the music carried me back to the summer of 1987 spent in California. La Isla Bonita, and Yeh, I wanna dance with somebody, with somebody who loves me.

The kids (what kids? Oh yes, we had three kids with us) frolicked in the pool. They had ice-creams and later hot dogs and chips for lunch. We left at 2.30 pm just before the heat of the day and the afternoon crowds arrived.

It was the best pool day ever. Except for maybe the pool days back in the real 1970s and 80s.

Monday, July 22, 2019

R2BC - Tackling That Debt

Reasons 2B Cheerful is late because we didn't do very much anything last week. As most of DD's friends were still busy with some type of day camp, we mostly hung out and went to gymnastics. There were a couple of teas out where DD loves one particular cake (the butterscotch cheese cake) but there was also one day when a horrendous heatwave sent the temperature soaring to over 100०F. (About 36०C in Jerusalem but over 100 sounds so much more heroic.) We were very cheerful home-bodies but it wasn't interesting to write about.

Today I'm more interestingly cheerful and joining the linky at Becky's Lakes Single Mum. DD has gone to a friend and I'm making practical plans for tackling that 30,000 debt I wrote about yesterday. Here's what I've come up with so far.

This is key because it frees up any extra income to go towards debt repayment. Accounting for all fixed income to cover all monthly costs and allow for a certain amount for debt repayment every month.

Debt Repayment
Tomorrow I'm going to open a Bat Mitzvah bank account with the monthly amount automatically transferred.

Spending On Wants
The only two places to cut monthly costs are food and spending on wants. I have no more wants after going clothes shopping a couple of weeks ago. There is a certain amount set aside for DD's wants and for entertainment like going to the pool and other summer stuff.

After a year of buying far too much convenience food, I'm determined to switch to more cooking from scratch. Yesterdays's weekly shop was full of fruit and vegetables. And today I'm going to make a batch of pizza dough to divide and freeze. It's more time consuming. Last night I cut up a fruit platter for DD whereas I never have to help her grab a packet of crisps or a biscuit. It's also a health thing so I'm excited about it.

The money saved doesn't directly add anything further to the debt repayment but it will help to make the budget balance so that everything else is covered by fixed income.

Extra Income
All extra income from occasional work, tax returns, and the annual Single Parent Education Grant, will go towards debt repayment.

The 10 Shekel Jar
I'm not cutting up my credit card and living out of cash jars like Gail Vaz-Oxlade advises her clients. we're doing a reverse jar savings. Every time I have a 10 shekel coin in my purse at the end of the day, it goes into the jar. I thought of doing it with coppers or 1 shekel coins but I'd end up with a full jar worth not very much. I'm hoping the 10 shekel jar will eventually add up to 1,000 shekels.

That's it so far. So far so good.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

30.000 In Debt

Confused? Us too but it's an idea....
I've been considering my finances recently and with the help of three of my financial heroines - Elaine Colliar, Darci Isabella, and Gail Vaz-Oxlade, I've made the decision to go into debt to the tune of 30,000 shekels (about £7500). In addition, I want to cut my teaching hours next year to free up an extra stay-at-home day. At first glance this all seems totally counter-intuitive, but read on. All will be revealed.

I used to follow Elaine Colliar on her blog Mortgage Free In Three (which seems to be down atm but here's her most recent update vlog). After having the rug pulled out from under her by the bank, Elaine, a single mother of two young boys, found herself at rock bottom and in debt. She lived extremely frugally and intelligently in order to pay off her debt in record time. She then used the lessons learned from this to extend her lifestyle in order to pay off her mortgage in three years. Once free of that albatross the aim was to soar without any financial burdens holding her back.

Elaine is an accomplished seamstress, she's handy and artistic, very tech savvy, she has a garden in which to grow vegetables and she's a great cook. (my favourite post ever was The Rubber Chicken about how one chicken provided the protein base for seven meals for the three of them.) One of her top pieces of advice is that you have to be willing to learn new skills towards being more self sufficient. It makes sense. You're not going to save as much money if you have to buy services all the time.

I am not at all handy so I can't do half the things Elaine accomplished, albeit with the occasional help of her handy Dad (covering her sofa, building partition walls to create an extra bedroom, making all her Christmas presents and selling homemade items online). However the biggest difference between Elaine and I was the time factor. I once asked Elaine why she didn't just take a part time job to help with the pennies. She explained that the loss of benefits and all the costs involved with working (travel, childcare, work clothes, socializing with colleagues and collections) made it better for her to stay at home and use the time to live frugally and build up side hustles.

I also had no debt apart from my mortgage, I also took in paying guests for a while, and I was also the single mother of a young child. DD was in childcare because I had to go out to work. But you can only work very restricted hours when you have a young child and no back up (no partner and no family nearby). And here's the thing about teaching (I'm not complaining, just explaining) - you only get paid for the hours you are in the classroom but half the work has to be done before or after hours (planning, preparing, marking, paperwork, co-ordinating with colleagues, meetings, and speaking to parents/students about individual matters).

So I followed Elaine's advice the best I could. I built up a store cupboard to keep food costs low, cooked from scratch as much as possible, meal planned, cleaned my own apartment (still do - in theory), tried to grow some vegetables on my balcony - not very successfully, rented out my spare room to paying guests, took on no-spend challenges for months at a time, saved every spare penny, and looked for side hustles to bring in a little extra income. The effort nearly killed me but we survived those early childhood years which are the hardest. (Luckily kids that age are so cute that you'd do anything for them.)

The years passed and both our very young children grew a bit and became more independent. There were more free hours to work with. I built up my work load and Elaine was able to take a job locally that suited her. We both elevated our families from the bread line towards the cakes and biscuits. And then Elaine stopped writing her blog. I understood that as well as the time constraints, it's hard to live so frugally every day when you don't actually have to anymore. We also enjoyed more convenience foods, evenings out and material treats. It's true what they say about needs must. And it seems that the opposite is also true. Don't need, why kill yourself over it?

With my mortgage nearing its end and the emergency fund in place, it's not a matter of getting out of debt. Otoh, only 10 years away from retirement is not the time to take a gap year and live off savings. Otoh, I'd spend less money if I had more time to shop at the cheaper but further supermarket and cook from scratch. And I'd have more time to take on better paid work at home.

I now follow a lifestyle blog by Ameican, Darci Isabella, who recently decided to become debt-free. By making small changes for herself and her large family, she shifted thousands of dollars of debt in eight months. Here's how she did it. I was inspired but (unfortunately?) I'm not in debt.

I've been binge watching Gail Vaz-Oxlade's Money Moron  and Till Debt Us Do Part programmes on You Tube. She's another of my financial heroines. At times I almost wished I was in debt so that I could take on her advice about getting out of it. Then it dawned on me that I could be in [imaginary] debt if I waned to be. The great thing about imaginary debt is that you can owe as much as you like - and no interest.

Imaginary debt is just saving up with a goal sum. Calling it a debt makes it more urgent. And in a way, it is a debt in the sense of a deficit of funds needed for future use. So I'm henceforth in debt to the tune of 30,000 shekels. I aim to be debt free in 20 months, with no borrowing from currant savings - it all has to be earned and saved starting from now.

When I've paid it off, the money will be used for (or towards as I've no idea how much these things cost) DD's Bat Mitzvah in 18 months.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Slimming Sunday - Slow But Steady

Some more beautiful Chihuly. What?
D'ya think I'm going to show before and after photos in my underwear?
Hahahaha. Not a chance.  
Yes I know it's Monday again but I don't have much to write, other than a weight loss update, so I procrastinated on it all day yesterday. This morning I decided to just start and see where the post goes.

To re-cap, I started Intermittent Fasting on April 28th, the Sunday after Passover. I lost 12 lbs in the first 5 weeks (5.5 kg) and wrote about it here. Fast forward another 6 weeks and I've been losing about 1 lb/week. So I'm 18 lbs down (8 kg) and getting a bit frustrated that it's going so slowly now.

I have to admit that the slow progress is entirely due to some spectacular diet failures. For example, schools finish early on Tuesdays here so DD's friend has a standing arrangement to come to us for lunch as her mother works late on Tuesdays. One Tuesday I couldn't be here at lunchtime so I had to leave them something ready and cold (we don't have a microwave).

On the Monday afternoon I bought a whole baguette and was planning to leave the girls a selection of filled 'rolls'. That baguette taunted me all evening. In the end I succumbed and reasoning that the girls didn't need more than 1/3 of a baguette each, I could have one sandwich out of it. Of course we all know that a carb addict can't just have one sandwich. Within half an hour the whole baguette was inside, and the smile on the face of the tiger.

Tuesday morning I had to go out early and pick up another baguette before dividing it into six 'rolls' and preparing three with tuna-mayo and cucumber, and three with egg-mayo and cucumber. I set them on a dish, covered them with cling-film, and lovingly put them in the fridge before going to work. Fir me that would be the perfect lunch. I love sandwiches.

Tuesday evening I get home to find that DD's friend didn't come that day (actually I knew that by 1 pm) and DD still doesn't like sandwiches so she hadn't eaten any of them and didn't intend to. What's a girl to do? So that was two whole baguettes in two days and I wonder why the weight loss has slowed down?

I'm still thrilled to be 18 lbs (8 kg) down and we have no bread in our home at all atm. I'm still doing OMAD (One Meal A Day) and hoping to up the ante for a better result next Sunday. 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

R2BC - Clothes

Beautiful Chihuly glass because #Rubbishphotographer
can't get new clothes to look as good in photos as they do in real life. 
This week's Reasons 2B Cheerful are about an unexpected shopping spree and finally getting down to the bones of decluttering. The linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum for the whole of July.

A Chain Reaction
It was started with a bag of second-hand clothes. A friend of a friend is a serious clothes shopper. (It's cheaper than therapy.) Every few months she has to purge. Since we are of similar size and taste in clothes, they come to me. I take what I want and pass on the rest. I gifted myself a couple of floaty tunics and a couple of dresses from the bag, and put the rest aside.

A shopping Spree
I've hardly bought any new clothes for years. Apart from underwear, shoes, and the odd cardigan, my escalating weight made me totally disinterested. I always had enough hand-me-downs from my friend's friend and a couple of outfits for Shabbat and celebrations from years back so I made do.

Since starting to lose weight I've noticed a reawakening. Over the past few weeks I've bought a few new t-shits and some work wear. In a fit of fashion enthusiasm I donated my one Shabbat dress that was at least 10 years old and way past its prime. I needed a new one for the summer.

On Tuesday I went shopping. There is one shop in town that I used to love (Hagara) although it has become a bit dowdy over the years. I went there anyway and found a Shabbat dress. As there was a 1+1 sale I also got a tunic top for free. And a t-shirt and black, thin cotton trousers not in the sale.

I was done. DD was home from her summer programme so I called to say I was bringing falafel for lunch. On the way to the falafel shop I passed a small mom and dad shop with a lovely simple dress in the window. I fell in love with the soft cotton material  and went inside, not for one minute thinking they would have my size. They did. And it was very cheap. So I bought another one in a different colour as well.

Onwards to the falafel and no looking in shop windows! Would you believe it, in the very next shop were lovely dresses suitable for weddings, for example. As we have a family wedding coming up in September, I had to go in to take a look.

I've had my head in the sand about what to wear for my brother's wedding. The family have agreed to wear the colours chosen for the wedding so as not to clash in the photos. So I looked for dresses in the permitted colours and found some. Also not expensive so I bought two in different designs and I'll decide which to wear to the wedding nearer the date.

I am absolutely not buying any more new clothes for the next decade.

A Clothes Swap
Fortuitously, a clothes swap was announced on facebook. A couple of friends organize these events seasonally and a group of women turn up with clothes they want to pass on and nosh - because it's also a party. You can take whatever you want and anything left over gets donated. I've never been to one of these before but this one was around the corner and quite early in the evening. I decided to go and take DD with me.

I packed up the remainder of the clothes from my friend's friend, and I went through all my clothes adding to the pile of donations. We arrived at the clothes swap early but DD wasn't into it at all, so we left our clothes and went home. Result! I was looking forward to the social but I had no intention of bringing any more 'new' clothes into the house.

Project 333
With some rearranging, and even with all the new clothes I've accumulated over the past few weeks, I managed to reclaim the shelves I've wanted to use as a linen cupboard since starting the decluttering journey almost two years ago. This sets off a whole new chain reaction of shelves freed up somewhere else leading to the eventual downsized and desired minimalistic effect.

The magic happens as soon as you see a neat shelf holding all the sheets you own. You realize that a lot of them mix and match, every set has under sheets that go with it, and there is no need to buy any more bedclothes for the foreseeable future.

There are still clothes to go. I'm still holding on to some skinny clothes to see what happens. I'd like to think that one day I could do Project 333 but although I probably only wear 33 items in any one 3-month season, I own nearer to 333.