Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Wandering Laptop

Diningroom study with a pile of papers on the chair and notebooks on the table. 
Is your study a spudy, a bedroomudy, a loungeudy, or even a balconudy? Or do you, like me, just have a wandering laptop that travels with piles of papers that invade every room of the house?

When I had bought my apartment but not yet moved in, I spent an inordinate amount of time roughly drawing the floor plan and filling it with sketches of furniture to decide how I would live in my new space.

I soon realized that I was drawing the furniture smaller and smaller in order to fit more in. By the end I could have had a hotel dining room and lounge in my 3m by 7m living room - but only if the guests were Barbie and friends. But what magnificent ceiling height they would have had. I could have built stairs and added an extra mezzanine floor.

Laptop in the Lounge. Spot the pile of papers. 
Back to reality and 15 years later, I have never found the optimum layout and usage for this apartment. In my old place one extra metre of width in the living room allowed for a study area as well as a dining area and sitting area. Here the positions of the doors and windows just make it awkward. If you could throw out all your furniture and start again, you could buy or have made to measure the perfect set-up for the space, niches, and quirks available. But I, like most people, can't afford to do this.

The bottom line is that in a flat with a defined footprint you can't have everything. I can't have an open balcony in which to enjoy some outside space and also enclose it for a study. I can’t rent out my spare bedroom and also have it as my study. I can’t chop off some of the living room for a study area without compromising on dining and sitting space. I can’t have a tranquil bedroom only for sleeping, dressing and reading and use a corner of it for the computer. And the computer in the bedroom would entail the dressing table becoming the desk. So it ends up being a choice between a grown up bedroom with a dressing table or a teenage bedroom with a desk on which to do my homework. I'm 53. I refuse to have a teenager's bedroom. 

Dressing table or work station. Not both. 

If I lived in a house I’d consider an attic conversion or a garden extension. Sometimes I go looking for building inspiration and see all sorts of wonderful solutions for that extra, elusive room. Designs where the windows are positioned for your convenience and comfort. Designs that accommodate all the niches and quirks of your particular abode. Irresistible property candy. In my next life.

Meanwhile I sit with my laptop on my knees and dream of the day all my papers and bills will be out of the living room and my nomadic computer will have a designated place to call home.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

No Costume For Purim

Purim again. Ho hum. Carnival time, big parties, lots of sweets, dressing up. Well if you've been reading this blog for the past five years you'll know that dressing up and DD do not get on. You can read about past costume failure (or should that be failure to costume?) here.

So this year we are older, right? This year we understand what it's all about. This year we don't want to be different from everyone else. This year we don't want to be the only person in the school, including all the staff, not in costume. Right? WRONG.

It started last Wednesday with Mad Hats and Masks day at school. I got out all the hats in the house and offered to decorate one of them. DD enjoyed trying them all on and has even taken to wearing some of them at home. However she would not wear a hat or mask to school.

That evening was the 2nd Grade Purim Party at school. They dressed all the girls as Queen Esthers and all the boys as Persian Princes. DD too was dressed up and I even got a photo or two - hooray!

Thursday was animal day in school. That is, dress up as an animal. DD: "I am not an animal. I don't even like animals. I'm not doing it."

Friday was transgender day boys dressing as girls and vice versa. (I had to laugh at the article in the DM about the fuss over the proposed transgender day at a school in the UK. In Israel a thousand schools had such a day this week and they've been doing it for years.) As it happened, it was also Marathon Day in Jerusalem so only 30/300 children turned up for school.

Sunday was Pyjama Day. DD wore her school uniform as usual.

Monday was witches, wizards, devils and ghosts. Nope, not us.

Today was everyone wear whatever costume you like day. There was to be a parade and a whole day of festivities. It's a bit like the last day of the winter term before Christmas in the UK. So 299 children and all the teachers, the secretaries, the Headmistress and even the school guard wore fancy dress today. Just not DD.

Of course I prepared a costume for her just in case she changed her mind. We have 50 stairs from our flat to the ground floor and this morning I must have asked her on every second stair, if she was sure. She was sure.

I sent a text message to the teacher promising her that I had organized a costume and asked DD a hundred times if she wanted to wear it but she would not. That's how insecure I was feeling. Not so DD. When I collected her at the end of the day I asked her if she had minded being the only one not in costume. "No, why should I mind?" was the reply.

On Thursday evening we are going to the Purim service where we read the story of Esther and then have a big party with many of our friends. Most of the adults dress up or at least put on silly make-up and wigs. I doubt DD will dress up. I won't be dressing up either because I hate dressing up.

Monday, March 21, 2016

One Simple Pizza/Bread Dough

My new favourite You Tube channel is Cooking With Plants. It has amazing vegan recipes and it's not complicated or boring. Anja Cass gets straight to the point and cooks the food without minutes of introspective blabbering about other things on her mind. And her kitchen is clean - I like that.

DD's favourite food is pizza. Seeing as she eats very little of anything, I try to give her what she likes. Obviously I don't want to give her the sugar/salt loaded commercial pizzas and (also obviously) she won't be fobbed off with my pita bread pizzas or plain cheese on toast.

I wanted to be that mum who made homemade pizza from scratch but the dough bit seemed like such a bother. Until I saw this no knead pizza dough recipe from Cooking with Plants. And then I noticed that she used exactly the same dough for her country style bread. It looked so easy it would have been rude not to try it. So I came over all earthy and had a go.

First I made the dough. I dug out a solitary packet of instant yeast from the back of the cupboard. I mixed it with the flour, salt, and some other herbs, and then added water. Nothing had happened after nearly two hours so I concluded that either the yeast was so old it had died, or it was not in a warm enough environment.

As I'd made the dough in a plastic bowl I couldn't put it in the oven (on low) so I put the whole bowl into a bigger bowl and poured boiling water into the inter-bowl space. That seemed to do the trick.

Then DD helped me make a traditional pizza with corn and olives. Guey dough everywhere. Ugh! Next time we agreed that I'd roll the dough and she can put on the toppings. I admit the tomato sauce came out of a plastic cube that looked like tomato puree when I bought it but turned out to be spaghetti sauce - I absolutely do not buy spaghetti sauce.

Then we made a pizza blanca with olives and cheese because we'd run out of tomato sauce. And actually we like that better.

After that we had no more tomato sauce or cheese so I thought I'd try the olive bread. I made rolls and they were delicious.

It was so easy I will be doing this again often. I've already bought more whole-wheat flour and new yeast. Watch this space for Earthy Midlife Singlemum. :~)

One inevitable drawback to being so healthy.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Buying Back My Childhood And Other R2BCheerful

My college had a bring and buy sale last week. Every item 5 shekels, which is just under a pound. Most of it was the predictable sort of stuff decluttered from various homes. A lot of baby stuff that was snapped up as most of the students are young marrieds and many of them pregnant or with babies. However, someone must have been clearing out their granparents' apartment or something similar as there was a big box of antique looking cutlery, other kitchenware, ornaments, etc...

I'm in de-cluttering mode myself so I wasn't even going to take a look but the tables were arranged in the foyer. I couldn't help but glance as I passed from the main front door to the lift. That's when I saw this. I've not seen one of these for years. We used to have one in the bathroom cabinet at home when I was a child. I even used it a couple of times when I had an eye infection,

Ours went somewhere - probably in the downsizing move that my parents made 10 years ago. Ours didn't look like this exactly, ours was more bevalled glass. But something struck a chord. Maybe it wasn't to do with my childhood at all but just a small piece of history that went out when eye droppers came in. And it's small and pleasing to the eye (nice pun). And it won't take up much room. So I dug out the 5 shekel piece that I keep handy for supermarket trolleys, and I bought it.

Remember that baby lettuce plant we were given at school for bringing in our compost scraps? Remember how weak and unlikely it looked and how the birds had a feast with it? Well it survived and it seems to like the sunny weather. I don't know whether to cut our losses and harvest it now for a very small salad (more of a garnish really) or to leave it and see if it grows bigger. Of course I'll leave it. I'm all for giving time for everyone to reach their full potential. :~)

We've had a lovely lodger for two weeks. Apart from the nice company, she enabled me to get the handyman in and fix those niggling little things that we've been living with for too long. So now the bathroom sink is unblocked, two small tiles have been re-glued to the shower surround, the shutters in DD's bedroom are fixed, a table lamp that needed re-wiring is now working, and the netting on the screen door has been replaced. Cost to me: nothing except cleaning the spare bedroom and a couple of extra loads of laundry for sheets and towels.

Linking up with Reasons 2B Cheerful on Lakes Single Mum.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Marathon Day 2016

Many of the schools were closed in our neighbourhood as the marathon runs through it. DD's school was open and she wanted to go as it was going to be a fun day - obviously as they knew that only 30/300 children would attend. It's the same every year. I think if the Ministry of Education doesn't declare it an official holiday (like they do on snow days) then they have to give back a day if they close.

So we slept in for a bit and I dropped DD off at school half an hour late. The whole school was in one classroom doing various arts and crafts. Later they had some sports activities and watched a movie. I went shopping and picked DD and her friend up 20 minutes early at 11.25. (Yes Friday school is only till 11.45 - we call it stupid Friday.)

We went to see the tail end of the marathon from the bottom of our street. It was an amazing event with a full marathon, a half marathon route, a 10k, a 5k, a family run, and a communities run, and some people even biked the route after the runners had finished with it. Thousands took part. The weather behaved beautifully.

You can see an overview of marathon moments published by the Jerusalem municipality. The runners are impressive but I like looking at the views of Jerusalem best.

מרתון ווינר ירושלים 2016
הכי יפה לכם ספורטיבי!שבת שלום ירושלים ❤
Posted by ‎Jerusalem Municipality | עיריית ירושלים‎ on Friday, 18 March 2016

We got in one kif (high five), bought ice lollies, danced to the music and found all sorts of activities for the kids. We met up with another of DD's friends and the three girls came to us for lunch. I would have liked to see more of the runners but apart from that it ended up being a perfect day.

The last few stragglers
And there they go.
The bubbles were fun

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Power Of Names

There is something mystical about names. A person's name becomes them and they become their name. I once met a girl in California called Sparkle. She did sparkle. Was that an incredibly lucky coincidence or did she simply become her name?

Or are there other options? Are names divinely inspired? Do we take on some of the spirit of a person whose memory we are namd after? Can we change bad luck or bad health by changing our names? can we fool the Angel Of Death by naming a child Alta (meaning old in Yiddish)?

Last night on the news there was this story about a family in Miami who needed a name for their baby boy. Remember when I wrote one of my reasons to be cheerful about Sarah Beigal nee Litman taking an exam I was proctoring? Go back and remind yourself about her and then watch this video clip.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #39 - Godly Matters

DD: But how did Elohim make himself?
Me: I don't know.
DD: Nobody knows except for Elohim himself. That's the big problem, how did he make himself out of nothing?
Me: You're right.
DD: I mean there was no planet even.
Me: You're right.
DD: Just Out Of Space. Wait, did Elohim live in Out Of Space?
Me: I suppose so. By the way, it's Outer Space not Out Of Space.
DD: Hmmmm. Chilly out there.

We are reading Greek Myths.
DD: There's a lot of bad dying in these stories.
Me: What's bad dying?
DD: When someone died because they didn't do what they were told.
Me: Whats good dying then?
DD: When you lived a long and happy life?

Look no front teeth!
Pandora's Box
DD: Oh no! I can't bear it! She's going to open that box I know she is. Quick, read it fast, I can't bear waiting for it to happen.

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Kibbutz School

I started teaching at the Urban Kibbutz school in October. It was a difficult start as the year was already well under way and the school is - how shall I put it? - Different. I spent the first few months in shock and not really getting the ethos of the place. I'll explain....

The Urban Kibbutz is a kibbutz in the city, in a suburb of the city actually. It was set up in the 1970s by a group of real kibbutznikim ('real' meaning from a real farm based kibbutz in the country). They moved into a poor city suburb with many social problems and combined community living with social initiatives to help the local population.

One of their ventures is a primary school open to everyone. The main themes of the school seem to be: Orthodox Jewish living, learning, and values; inclusion of all children; enriching and encouraging skills outside of the academic curriculum (especially music); and a connection with the land and nature.

So why was I in shock? First of all, when you emphasise 'inclusion' you have to include those children who for whatever reasons, don't fit into the regular school system as well as those who would excel anywhere. Because of the emphasis on extra-curricula activities, children are always missing classes for orchestra, choir, dance rehearsals, tending to the school pets, etc... Each class also has a nature walk of up to a few hours every month to celebrate the new month. As it's a kibbutz school, everyone contributes and everyone has a job. Some jobs need to be done during class time. For example there is a rota of 6th grade students to organise and distribute the hot lunches to each classroom which is done in the two periods before lunch. And, saving the best till last, there is the greenhouse and vegetable garden.

The green house is enormous with 3 fish ponds as well as auditorium seating.
I'd seen the greenhouse from some of the classroom windows but I'd not realized the extent of it until this week when my 6th Grade boys were asked to put in some hours in the vegetable garden. Here are some more pictures.

The vegetable garden with the greenhouse behind it.
6th grade boys learning to use the pick axes. 
Freshly harvested cabbages. 
1st grade pupils working and learning about growing vegetables.
This is celery (and my fingers).
Red spring onions. 
6th Grade boys working hard.

It was the sort of day where you come away thinking that you really wanted to be a farmer.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Happy New Year 2016 Take 2

Back in December I was eagerly awaiting the New Year. 2016 - an even number, a nice round figure, a leap year. All things that please a number geek like me.

My daughter had just turned 7 and was enjoying new independence and a blossoming social life. My employment situation had improved too, meaning we still have to be frugal but I don't have to worry about the regular bills. It was time to shift the focus from surviving to improving. And of course nothing could officially start until January 1st 2016. Of course. 

At 12.30 am on December 31st 2016 I got the call that expats dread. We spent the rest of that day getting to London for the funeral, and the first week of the new year sitting shiva

Returning to Jerusalem on January 6th I didn't feel like facing the new year with gusto. it was a strange feeling, not exactly grieving but a constant thinking about the new reality. It was hard to get my head round the fact that my father was gone. I thought about it and him every day. I still do - usually when I remember that I've forgotton to say Kaddish (the mourners' prayer)..... again.  

It was also cold and wet outside and apartments here are very much geared to summer weather. Having missed a week of work, it was taking forever to catch up. I'd put on even more weight during the shiva week as we just sat and talked to visitors whilst being offered endless cups of tea and cake. And at mealtimes my sister's community had a rota so that delicious lunches and suppers were delivered twice a day. 

I thought February might be different as the official 30 days of interim mourning finished. (It goes: intensive shiva for a week, 30 days of interim mourning, and 11 months of semi-mourning - each with its own customs). However, as the weather didn't change, neither did my spirit. 

Lavender growing in my school's garden
I've always felt that March 1st is in many ways more of a New Year than January 1st. I've written before about starting again in March. The sun comes out and it's warmer (I can put away the heaters), the trees start to blossom, the flowers appear, it's not too long until the spring holidays of Purim and Pesach. To use a cliche, you can fling open the windows and let in the warm fresh air. 

So here we are at the beginning of March and I embraced it wholeheartedly. There are Resolutions. I tried that 'choose-a-word-for-the-year' thing but it didn't work for me. I realized this when I was leaning towards the word 'discipline' and then went back to see that I'd chosen 'discipline' for both 2015 and 2014 (when it was invented). I've also bucked the trend of New Year guidelines and intentions, suggetions, or whatever. I've gone back to good old fashioned New Year Resolutions. 

1. To do with health and fitness (for a change). 
2. To do with work.
3. To do with home.
4. To do with fullfilment. 
5. To do with all the other stuff. 

I kept it simple.