Monday, April 30, 2012

IOC What Are You Waiting For?

At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a moment of silence was held at the Opening Ceremony. Georgian, Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died during training when he lost control of his sled and crashed into a metal barrier. On entering the Olympic stadium his seven teammates recieved a standing ovation for their courage in deciding to continue with the games from the 50,000+ spectators. Then the minute's silence was observed in honour of an Olympic athlete, one of the Olympic family.

At the 1972 Olympics in Munich 11 Althletes were murdered by terrorists who broke into the Olympic Village at 4am and raided their quarters. You can read the full story of the Munich Massacre here. The International Olympic Commitee has never officially memorialized these athletes in any way at any Olympic Games since. The families of the murdered athletes have been asking for a moment of silence in their honour for 40 years.

The German Olympics in Munich was the first Olympic Games to be held in Germany since the Nazis and Hitler himself hosted the Games in 1936. In Israel there was much debate about whether they should attend. Would it be offensive to the survivors of the Holocaust? In the end it was decided to attend in the spirit of  putting sport above politics and to acknowledge that Germany was now run by a new generation with whom we were re-building relations.

No one is quite sure why the IOC will not honour the Israeli athletes who died on their watch but, as we mark the 40th anniversary of their deaths, enough is enough.

“These men were sons; fathers; uncles; brothers; friends; teammates; athletes. They came to Munich in 1972 to play as athletes in the Olympics; they came in peace and went home in coffins, killed in the Olympic Village and during hostage negotiations,” writes Ankie Spitzer (widow of fencing coach Andrei Spitzer who was killed) in a petition to the IOC for one minute of silence after 40 years.

To the International Olympic Committee, they came to honour your Games in the spirit of peace among athletes and nations. They died on your watch. Is one minute of silence in their honour too much to ask? What are you waiting for?

Please take a moment to sign the petition you can find it here. Also please share this post on your facebook and twitter pages by clicking on the f and the t below.

Friday, April 27, 2012

#ArtIHeart 7 - Deluded Mother

Art I Heart
Share the art you love from your walls, a birthday card, what your child drew at school, that you saw in The National Gallery in London...

1. Choose one piece of art that has a short personal story behind it. It could be something on your wall, something you've seen in a gallery and love, homedrawn, on a postcard, on a birthday card, something by Degas or something by your DS.

2. Take a photograph, scan or download a picture of your picture and post it along with the short story about why you are drawn to it, have it on your wall, bought it, or hate it. Don't forget to link back to the linky so your readers can see the other entries.

3. Link up (it's open till next Thursday, 4pm GMT), leave a comment, et voila!

Here's mine:

Not the best focussed photo of the artwork but you'll get the picture (pun intended) even it's a bit blurred. A year and a half ago at 20 months, DD started Nursery. This is the drawing she did on her first day. The Hebrew at the top of the frame says: My First Picture At Nursery. I have it up still on our 'gallery' on the back of the door.

This particular one always makes me smile and laugh at myself. It represents one of those 'I know I'm a mother' moments. Why? At the end of the first day the teacher put all the First Pictures up on the wall. When I came to collect DD I looked at the display and I honestly thought that DD's picture was the best. And I honestly thought I was being objective.

Later I laughed when I realized that I had been a typical mother. I was so happy to have been a typical mother and to have, finally, gained some insight into the minds of those deluded women who think that their perfectly average children are more amazing than everyone else's children. My only saving grace was that I didn't go round telling everyone what a gifted artist my daughter is. Since then a degree of objectivity has returned and there are some very gifted 3yo artists at the nursery. However, I don't think that DD is one of them at the moment.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Holiday Letting Your Home - Tips And Observations

This month I rented out our apartment when we went to London for two weeks. I wrote about the work involved beforehand in this post about Pesach Cleaning. Even though most people wouldn't have to contend with Pesach Cleaning, we would all like to leave our homes as clean and decluttered as possible for paying guests (or indeed any guests).

Maybe not quite as decluttered as this.

I found my renters through facebook as the husband is the brother of a friend and someone I've known for years. He was coming with his wife and 3yo son - perfect for our toy, book, puzzle and bike collections. It also meant that I was not embarrassed by the drawing on some of my walls and they felt comfortable letting their son loose with the crayons without fear of spoiling anything.

As we were staying with family in London, the money earned covered our trip entirely. It was a lot of work preparing the flat beforehand, as I said, but I also gained something from it. It felt great to have all my clothes sorted and neatly folded, all our books neatly arranged on the shelves, and all the clutter removed from surfaces. Add to that the clean factor and my home suddenly felt twice as big. Btw, if you are wondering how I set the price... I looked at what other letters were asking and adjusted the rate/day by comparing the apartments on offer with my own.

So what about the returning home after you've had people in your space and using your things? I must admit I was a bit worried about what I'd find. The guests were responsible, honest, capable and clean people - I knew that, but still I was a bit worried as I'd only ever done this once before and it was a disaster (space to link when I write about it one day). I was happy to read a status on fb halfway through my holiday saying how much they were enjoying the place and thanking me. This helped and after that I was only a teensy bit still apprehensive about returning home.

I'm going to be very honest here but I'm treading carefully because there is a good chance they will read this. However, in the interests of sharing useful information, I think honesty is important. We've exchanged emails since my return and both sides agreed that it was a good experience and would be willing to repeat it if the opportunity arises. So here are my tips and observations after leaving my home to 'guests' and returning to it afterwards.

1. Before you go you need to clean and declutter. You also need to free up an adequate amount of wardrobe and drawer space for the number of guests. If you fold all your clothes neatly it is often easy to double up on shelves for the duration and so leave enough hanging space and shelving free.

2. Write a list of important things they need to know. It can be detailed intructions for all appliances or less detailed if you have time before you leave to walk the guests round and show them everything (preferable). I left a street-map of the area but my guests were familiar with Jerusalem so I didn't need to explain about buses, local attractions, shopping, etc.

3. You should leave a list of emergency phone numbers such as the plumber and electrician. I didn't as I don't have a regular plumber and there's not much electrical damage that can be done - I'm pretty low tech.

4. Put away anything valuable enough to you that you'd rather not share it. I put away my laptop, our personal towels, and some of DD's smaller toys like beads and her toy computer. However, you can't  be stingy. The guests are living in your home already so you have to trust them to use your things and look after them. I knew my guests but if you are renting to strangers you might consider taking out letters' insurance.

In my dreams

5. A wealthy friend suggested I put away my fine linens and towels and buy cheap ones for the duration. I laughed to myself as my situation was more a case of throw out my old, worn sheets and buy new ones for the guests to enjoy (and for me to continue enjoying on our return).

6. Don't be stingy with household items such as washing detergents, toilet rolls, cling film and sandwhich bags, etc. Also salt, pepper, and any other opened bottles of cooking oil, herbs and spices, condiments, etc. Remember that they are paying you so it doesn't hurt to be generous. I didn't leave much as I had been using up supplies for weeks but they were welcome to anything left in the cupboards. I did put away a few rolls of toilet paper in order to ensure a supply for the day of our return before I had the chance to shop.

7. On the day of the hand-over I made sure that DD was out of the house. I think it was important that she didn't see me handing our home over to strangers (to her) and that she didn't know that another child would be playing with all her toys. DD is 3, obviously older children would understand and younger babies won't care.

8. On your return (and this is the sensitive bit) be prepared for a lot more work than if you'd had nobody to stay. We walked in to a very tidy flat and I appreciated this enormously. However, there was stuff to do.

When we left I hadn't wanted to leave my laundry for the guests to deal with so, on preparing the beds for them, I put our dirty sheets, towels, pyjamas, and the clothes we had worn the previous day, in an out-of-the-way place to be done when we got back. They had the same dilemma about what to do with sheets and towels as they left a few days before we returned. They didn't want to leave my stuff out on the line for days with the threat of sandstorms, etc. They made the correct decision and I returned to about seven loads of laundry before I could even start on what was in our suitcases. as I don't have a dryer and had to wait for each load to dry before hanging out the next, the unpacking and sorting took the best part of a week to complete.

I wish
All the toys were tidily stored in the toyboxes. However, you can't expect guests to know how many plastic bales of hay go in the Fisher Price farm or which furniture goes with the dollhouse stuff and which goes in the Playmobil box. It was actually an enjoyable afternoon spent emptying everything out and organising it according to my obsessive code. I didn't mind but it was something that had to be done.

And of course after guests you want to clean thoroughly. As I said, my guests are not dirty people, but after guests you want to clean, fact.

9. Don't go looking for faults. Luckily we had already left scribbled on walls so our standards aren't that high. Rather than find anything broken or lost I think my guest may actually have done some diy while he was here. There are definitely a couple of things that are tighter than when I left. (If so, thank you.)

10. In effect you are getting a free (or subsidised) holiday in return for all the extra housework before and after. I think that's fair and I would certainly let my flat again. Thank you Gideon, Michelle and Aaron for making this a good experience all round. We hope to see you again soon.

*All pictures from Google Images

Saturday, April 21, 2012

#Listography - Hot Chocolate Award

The biggest frustrastion about being an expat is the competitions, promotions and events that either I'm not eligible for because I don't reside in the UK, or I'm just not there to participate in. When Kate Takes 5 announced that prizes had been offered for the Listography posts about our favourite mugs, I noticed that there was no smallprint. I wrote to Kate and told her that if I were considered for a prize, it would only have to be posted to London (rather than the Middle East) and I would pick it up at my sister's house in April.

Reader, I won one of the prizes! For this post:- Mugs I Have Loved. When we got to London this was waiting for me:

Along with this:

The hot chocolate was indeed frothy top! It was delicious made with water (made slightly stronger) but positively decadent when made with hot milk. So thank you Kate and Galaxy for awarding me the prize and for not being expatphobic.

Friday, April 20, 2012

#ArtIHeart 6 - Rabbis Learning

Art I Heart
Share the art you love from your walls, a birthday card, what your child drew at school, that you saw in The National Gallery in London...

1. Choose one piece of art that has a short personal story behind it. It could be something on your wall, something you've seen in a gallery and love, homedrawn, on a postcard, on a birthday card, something by Degas or something by your DS.

2. Take a photograph, scan or download a picture of your picture and post it along with the short story about why you are drawn to it, have it on your wall, bought it, or hate it. Don't forget to link back to the linky so your readers can see the other entries.

3. Link up (it's open till next Thursday, 4pm GMT), leave a comment, et voila!

Here's mine:

My Grandfather had an enormous square diningroom table that you could expand using a crank to unwind the screws that held it together. The legs are on castors and with the two extra leaves added, it can seat up to 14 people. He bought it second-hand probably in the 1930s but definitely had it by the 1950s. For as long as I knew it in his house, it had this painting of Rabbis Learning hanging above it. When Grandpa died and his wife moved to a small flat, we inheritted the table. My Aunt had no room for the table in her house but she wanted the painting. Without hesitation my mother informed her (with the necessary authoritative tone of voice) that the picture goes with the table. Funnily enough, when my parents down-sized and had no room for the table, my mother had no difficulty in separating the table (which went to my sister) and the painting (which they kept).

The picture itself is apparently quite famous with numerous reproductions in varying compositions and with varying backgrounds. Ours is signed but I'm sure it is not the original. It's also difficult to see exactly what the signature is: S. Leyon? Leijons? Lejons? Leyons? I've googled it and found other reproductions of the same painting but no information about the original. If anyone can help me on this I'd be very grateful.

Grandpa used to tell me a whole story about what each of the rabbis was thinking and saying - with voices for each character. If I were to choose a painting that most reminds me of my childhood, this would be the one.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today Israel and the Jewish People remember the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust (The Shoah). Last year I wrote this post about trying to take a photo during the siren. This year I went out and took the photo.

The most moving and poignant part of the day is the memorial siren. At 10am for two minutes everything stops. The traffic on the busiest streets stands still with the drivers standing on the road next to their vehicles. The pedestrians in the street become statues. The lights change from green to red and back to green again but no one notices. There is an eerie silence. You feel the weight of remembering on your shoulders. You try to remember harder. Most of us today weren't even born then - but still we remember.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Back To The Blog

Whilst we were away I took loads of photos and mentally composed a blog post for each set. I couldn't wait to share our holiday online. However, having returned to Jerusalem, I am now finding it hard to muster up the motivation to get back into blogging. I probably just need to jump in and start swimming. So to get me (re)started here are a selction of pictures from England - mainly of DD with her cousins and grandparents.

We had a lovely time and DD thoroughly enjoyed having her three teenage (male) cousins at her beck and call for two weeks. She's not stopped talking about her cousins and her Grandma and Grandpa. So thanks for the hospitality and the babysitting and the new sandals for the summer (Mum). I will write in more detail over the next couple of weeks.