Saturday, March 31, 2018

R2BC - Why I Probably Won't Be A Travel Writer

We made the papers. Well, one paper
We arrived in London late on Sunday night (after midnight late) so we were in no fit state to hit the ground running on Monday morning. I didn't even make those all important phone calls to friends to ensure that I get to see my friends while we're here.

My mum suggested we go to shopping with DD and get all her shopping done. She lives equidistant from Watford and Brent Cross shopping centres (right in the middle of the 142 bus line). So it was either Primark and a light, airy shopping experience or H&M and claustrophobia. We chose the former and went to Watford (although by car not on the 142).

DD was kitted out in Primark so we only had to go to M&S for the obligatory cup of coffee and slice of cake. On the way out DD noticed the menu displayed above the counter with a photo of the fish and chips. "I didn't know they served meals here," she said. "If I'd known they serve meals I'd have ordered a meal."

On Tuesday DD's cousins came round to play. They're 17 and 20. They horsed around with DD for a while, showed her how to find her place at Hogwarts via the Pottermore website, and then left her to it while we played Kalooky.

Wednesday was supposed to be our big day out sightseeing and exploring London. It was pouring with rain. We hung about the house all morning and eventually, in desperation, I took DD to the cinema to see 'A Wrinkle in Time' and out for pizza afterwards. (Incidently, including a detour into Waterstones, this little outing cost more than kitting out DD for the summer in Primark.)

On Thursday I went to my sister to help her cook for Passover while DD helped Grandma bake cakes and biscuits for the festival.

And yesterday was the first of two Seder Nights. We finished ours at about 1.30 in the morning and DD stayed over with her cousins while I came home with my mum. We are going back again later for the next and final Seder.

It's been a very slow week and not helped by the constant and often quite violent rain. But I ordered some books from Amazon Prime which amazingly really did arrive the next day, so I've been happy enough. And it takes the best part of a day to get through the Daily Mail that is delivered to the door every morning.

Talking of deliveries. We also get The Jewish Chronicle. This week's paper provided some excitement (apart from the long overdue tackling of Jeremy Corbyn and co) in that I had an article in it. It's also in the online version so here's the link.

So these are my reasons 2B cheerful this week. A lazy week near London in the rain. And this is probably why I'll never be a travel writer. As well as being #rubbishphotographer I'm just far too fond of hanging out. I feel no urgency to rush around seeing everything and visiting museums. I like watching the weather from the kitchen table armed with a cup of coffee.

Apart from the JC article and Seder Night, the most exciting thing to have happened is that we finally finished the giant bottle of Johnson's Baby Shampoo that was bought for my first visit with DD nine years ago, when she was four months old.

Now I must go and make some of those phone calls before we get on the plane to go home. And you are invited to visit the R2BC linky on Mich's Mummy from the Heart. Happy Easter and Passover from a decidedly wet London.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Facebook Is Watching You, I Have Proof

The news about facebook is absolutely correct, Facebook does access your private messages, emails, etc... We are in London but I purposely didn't mention that we were coming here on any public forum because I didn't know if our apartment at home would be empty or not. (It's not empty. Friends are staying there for the duration, or I wouldn't be writing this now.)

I asked Angela Murder She Wrote Lansbury to look into this.
On the day of our flight, facebook and You Tube suddenly started showing me adverts for the Duty Free shops at the airport.

On previous occasions I've clicked on an advert for e.g. sandals or sofas and suddenly I'm inundated with adverts for locally available sandals and sofas. That was actually quite useful because I was looking for sandals and sofas. It saved me looking for companies that I'd not heard of before.

Slightly more suspect was when I looked at some property site to play a little personal game of 'Escape to the country.' It was nothing to do with facebook and I certainly didn't mention it to anyone. The adverts for country cottages in the UK started appearing on facebook and You Tube.

But this Duty Free thing was very unsettling because I purposely did not mention that we were traveling for a very good reason. Even if I don't text or message anyone about our plans - I can't avoid booking tickets online with Easyjet. I can't avoid receiving travel insurance contracts by email. And I have to convey our arrival times to my mum somehow. Now I'm wondering if phone calls are also bugged to pick up key words like - Easyjet, London, dates, etc...

I don't mind if my interests and whereabouts are noted and recorded on the ether. I make it a point not to post anything that could come back to bite me later. I don't even sit in front of my laptop without an adequately covering top on in case someone has control over my camera. All that said, I'm not celebrity status (or standing for election or going through a divorce) so no one is actively trying to dig up or pin some dirty on me. I am also not trying to hide any illegal activity, which would be the counter argument for data sharing.

I do mind. however, if it means that potential criminals can find out when my apartment might be empty. This time it's not empty and actually, we often have friends staying while we're away as lots of people are looking for places to rent in Jerusalem over the Passover and Easter holidays.

Privacy is sometimes just a right or a [misguided?] feeling of control, but at other times it's a matter of safety and personal protection. So if one's home was burgled while you were away and following a strew of adverts about Duty Free, hotels, car hire, etc... over your media accounts, who could you blame? Is it facebook or google or You Tube? Will insurance companies stop paying out if your plans appear on social media? This is impossible to prevent it seems. Will you be required to employ house sitters?

We live in interesting times and only the future will tell. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Minimalist Game: Days 21 - 23

I think I'm done for this month with The Minimalist Game. I have a house guest who is using the spare room so some of my study stuff is in my bedroom which makes it hard to organize the bedroom. I also can't go rummaging around in the study. And it is Pesach (passover) at the end of this week which  involves all sorts of preparations that take priority over decluttering. That said, I still keep seeing things I could get rid of and I fully intend to pick up days 24 - 30 (or even 31) after the festival. 

The running scores are 276 for The Minimalist Game and 661 for the 500 Clutters Challenge. (Now revised to the 1000 Clutters Challenge.) 

March 21st: Random objects from around the house. 2 more English language textbooks, 2 youth leader handbooks (going to my nephew who is a youth leader), a game that we never opened (into the re-gifting cupboard), 6 glass fish from the Arab shuk, a Harry Potter passport from Warner Bros. Studio, some coloured metal rings from a wristwatch long gone, a box of seashells (plenty more where they came from), a bag of rubbishy bits from a collect-all dish (moral: don't have collect-all dishes), a glass vase (I hate cut flowers anyway - much rather have plants), a glass box, a bottle of bubbles, and a wine rack.

About the wine rack. I used to pride myself on having stock. I entertained a lot and for many. Each week we could go through a couple of bottles of wine and the guests would bring more as a gift. This is no longer true. I entertain much less, there are more children around my table these days, and many people no longer drink alcohol. Even I hardly ever drink alcohol anymore. I say 'even I' although I never drank much but I did like a glass of red with my dinner. So nowadays, if I ever have one bottle of wine leftover from a dinner party I tend to keep it in the fridge (yes even the red).

If numbers are your thing, you may have noticed that the items only add up to 19. That's because the other two are 200 piece jigsaw puzzles that DD never does and they're very easy for her. But she won't let me pass them on. So I have to wait until she's not around and then I'm going to put them away for at least six months to see if she even notices. Which she won't.

March 22nd: I went through all my sheets. Here is a pile of 22 mostly sheets and duvet covers in white, now dull white. I've kept a few in a high up cupboard to use as dust sheets when I next have the place painted. There is also a pile of cushion  material, some of which I am going to use to re-cover a director's chair I have waiting patiently to be re-covered. One old white skirt and another old flannel washcloth.

March 23rd: Into the kitchen. That enormous box of cereal was on sale about six months ago and it's still three-quarters full. I thought it would be a good snack as were're not breakfast people. Turns out we're not cornflakes people either.

Also in today's haul... 9 plastic syringes from children's medicine, 2 medicine measuring cups, one plastic measuring spoon, an ice-lolly mold, an icing set, a cutlery tray, 4 wooden utensils, an old candle end, a plastic separator from the juicer jug (that I forgot to include when I sold the juicer), and a pile of ice-lolly sticks.  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

DD In Concert - R2BC

DD is second from left on the clarinet
This week's Reasons 2B cheerful should include that we broke up for the Pesach (Passover) holidays yesterday, that the sun is shining, that we have guests coming for dinner tomorrow night, that I've finished all my freelance work, grading is up to date, and I've completed 23 days of The Minimalist Game. However, all that is eclipsed by the THE CONCERT!

Oh my, I'm so proud I can't tell you. And DD is pretty pleased with herself to. So here's the story. After four months of learning clarinet, DD was in her first concert yesterday. There was a lot of build up.

They had to have to have white shirts with buttons down the front. Apparently the buttons were very important. We couldn't find one so in desperation we bought a boy's shirt in Fox. I thought she looked like a waiter in it but I didn't say anything. When we got home she tried on her new ensemble (we had to buy black jeans and shoes too), looked in the mirror and declared, "Hello! And welcome to Masterchef!" So it wasn't just me. But it was only for one evening so we just got on with having an argument about practising (or not practising) for the concert.

The next day I got a tearful phone call from school. "Mummy I hate my shirt. Can we take it back and get one that's more girly?" Luckily I'd just shown my students the fantastic film, "Shine like a Star" Watch it here on You Tube if you've not seen it (click on settings to turn on English subtitles. There is an English dubbed version but I couldn't find it.) You'll do anything for your child to make her happy after watching it. And actually, I also hated the shirt.

So off we went again to the mall. Luckily Fox took the shirt back. Then we went into almost every clothes shop and found nothing. Eventually we found one plain, white shirt for £30. I refused to buy it. DD was in tears. "Sam won't let me be in the concert if I don't have a white shirt with buttons," she wailed. I phoned the clarinet teacher to find out how important the buttons were. He didn't pick up.

Finally, we found one suitable shirt in the whole mall. £15 if you're wondering. We came home exhausted but not too exhausted to argue about the lack of practising for the concert. I was getting seriously worried about it.

Before the concert
The next morning DD went off to school with her concert clothes in a bag. She was so excited. I got a frantic call from another mother. "I'm at the mall in Fox. Did you buy the boy's shirt? My daughter was in tears last night because her white shirt doesn't have buttons." I saved her life by directing her to the one reasonably priced white shirt for girls in the whole mall.

At 5.30pm me and another mother shared a taxi down into Hell. (Literally, the Jerusalem Music Centre is in the Gehinom Valley - otherwise known as the Biblical Valley of Death.) There we met our excited offspring. They were bouncing off the walls.

Reader, the concert was delightful. There were four clarinets, five flutes, a couple of trumpets, three saxophones, one trombone and a percussion section. Half the orchestra had only been learning for four months and the others were old timers of one year's standing.  They played short, simple pieces like, 'When the Saints Come Marching in,' and 'John's Brown Body,' although they are Israeli so no one else knew the words like I did. And there were some Israeli folk songs and nursery rhymes that everyone knew.

Each child or pair had a solo or a duet. One of the drummers, who looked about six, took a turn conducting. It was just lovely. At the end the musical director gave a speech about how every musician in every professional orchestra, even the army band that plays at every national ceremony,  started off playing nursery rhymes in a children's concert like this.

Afterwards DD said to me, "do you think I could be in the army band?"
"You'd have to start practising every day," I replied. And then I went back to sending video clips and photos from my phone to everyone I could think of who would tolerate it.

More R2BCs on the linky at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Minimalist Game: Days 17 - 20

Day 17
The Minimalist game is going swimmingly. The further in I get, the easier it is to let things go. to see the Days 1 to 16 click on The Minimalist Game and up they'll pop. 

Days 17 to 20 saw another 74 items leave the apartment. (Well some of them haven't left yet but they are in high up places waiting for the next opportunity.) The running scores are 210 items in The Minimalist Game and 595 for the 500 Clutter Challenge. I think the 500 Clutters might be expanding to 1,000 Clutters. 

March 17th: The study was pretty much done so I went back to my bedroom. for another round. I cleared out the top drawer of my bedside table on day whatever. You remember it was filled with Hebrew language textbooks and dictionaries. So today I went for the drawer below it which contained all my French textbooks. I kept a lot of then but I'm letting go 4 French grammar books. And 7 French children's books are going to my colleague at school either for her own children or to lend to her French speaking pupils.

I found 3 picture frames. One has broken glass but I filled the other two with paintings that a little friend of ours did when she was visiting. She left them here to dry and she's getting them back in frames.

I also found a pair of sandals in the box, never worn. And two denim items of clothing for a little girl. DD never wore them and I don't like them enough to re-gift so they are going to a second-hand sale.

Day 18
March 18th: 10 scarves. (Don't worry, I still have another 10 that I'm keeping. Why oh why?). 2 first rubbish reading books. A bag of homemade bookmarks that are going to school for a reading lesson exercise. A pile of papers and notebooks to throw out. A picture that if you look at it cross-eyed it says Rachel. An old earpiece from an old phone. A dangerous wire bookmark. And an old flannel mitten.

Day 19

March 19th: 7 orphan or damaged parts of several matryoshka dolls. I wrote about my matryoshka collection here. Now I'm only keeping the undamaged dolls and I only have four with various numbers of babies inside them.

2 copies of The Little Prince that I never enjoyed and one copy of the same book in French. A duplicate copy of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. The Family at Red Roofs which will get a whole blog post to itself.

A poppy from Poppy Day about 30 years ago - it's an old paper one. 2 little pots, one folded paper crane made into a brooch, a strap from a suitcase I no longer own, and 2 bags.

Day 20

March 20th: 12 English language textbooks. 4 maps of Jerusalem. And 4 maps of other cities - Leningrad, Amsterdam, The New York Subway, and Milan. (After writing this I decided to keep the Leningrad map as the city is now St Petersberg again so the map has some historical value. Instead I threw out an old book of Gary Larson, Far Side cartoons.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Only In Israel

Random schoolbag in our hallway
All the schoolchildren in Jerusalem get a course of swimming lessons during the school year of 6th Grade. The schools don't have their own pools but the kids are bused to a local public pool or to the University which has a pool on each campus. My 6th Grade girls are currently missing every other lesson for this event.

Last week I asked one of them, "how was swimming today?" She replied. "I didn't go because the army blew up my swimming bag."

Bizarre? Not really. I immediately knew exactly what had happened. "Silly girl. Where did you leave it unattended?"
"Outside the Community Centre."
I rolled my eyes and she continued, "with my schoolbag."
"What?! All your books too?"
"Yes..... and teacher, also my book report."

No one questioned the excuse for not handing in her book report. It wasn't even a big story. We've all seen schoolbags left in public places by kids - usually outside the school gates. An obvious action would be to take the bag into the school where they could open it and identify the pupil. But we are taught not to approach unattended bags or packages. We call the police and they close the road for 200 metres or more each way. The police call the bomb squad and the bomb squad blow up the bag in a controlled explosion. Nothing unusual, it happens all the time.

P.S. I told her she still had to write me a book report but I gave her extra time to do it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I'm Free-ish!

We have entered a new era here at the Selby household. Whole new vistas have opened up for both me and DD. And we didn't plan any of it.

DD's school finishes at 2.20 on Sunday afternoons, after which she has an art class in school followed by the Learning Lab until 5pm. My school finishes at 2.55 and it takes me an hour to get home on the bus. (On the days when DD has no after school activities, she goes to an afternoon programme costing £100 per month.)

Today both art and the Learning Lab were cancelled. I was going to call the afternoon programme teacher and ask if DD could go today for a couple of hours. I've done it before, it's not a problem.

However, on Wednesday evening she is playing in a concert. She and a friend have a duet which they have to practice together and today after school was the only opportunity. The friend is not in any afternoon programmes and goes home by herself on the bus at 2.20. We live opposite the school.

The best solution was for me to give DD a front door key and let her and her friend come to our place after school. I wasn't a hundred percent comfortable with it but it was the only solution.

At 2.20 I was teaching a class of 4th Grade girls at my school. I asked them how many of them have a front door key and go home by themselves, letting themselves into an empty house. 25 hands went up. Right. Ok then.

I let them out early as I was anxious to get home. I left school at 2.50 and was about to call home when I met a parent I wanted to speak to. Then I stopped to chat to another parent. Well it was outside the school gates at home-time so obviously I'd meet the parents. Then my bus came pretty promptly so it wasn't until I was on the bus that I could make that phone call. But actually, I was confident by then that if I'd not heard from DD (via her friend's phone) that she can't open the door or she's lost the key, then all was probably ok.

I called and guess what, it was fine. They were at home eating crisps and playing, Not playing the clarinet and flute as they were supposed to, but you can't have everything. More importantly, they were safely inside the apartment.

I often leave DD at home alone if I pop out to the shops and she also walks home from school by herself as we live opposite the school. But this was the first instance of latchkey-kid life. And I like it.

I sat on the bus knowing that next year we will be saving £100 a month on the afternoon programme. This made me happy enough but then I realized that even from tomorrow, by putting a door key into the secret pocket of DD's schoolbag, I no longer have to worry if I'm delayed getting home, I can get off the bus and go shopping on my way home after school, I can go out for coffee on a Friday morning and be back around the same time as DD - give or take 10 minutes. The pressure to finish everything I'm doing by the clock according to DD's schedule has just vanished. I'M FREE-ish!

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Minimalist Game: Days 12 - 16 (R2BC)

Day 12
It's been a busy week and I've not had time to blog so I'm making Days 12 - 16 of The Minimalist Game my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. What's not to be cheerful about getting rid of  70 items out of the spudy (spare room/study)? Epecially as it marks half way through the month. By the way, if you missed the previous days, just click on The Minimalist Game and all the posts will come up.

March 12th: I found the following things in one cupboard: a beach bag, a school bag, an IKEA stand (never used because the cupboard was mounted on the wall), 2 folding changing mats, the wires from the DVD player (because I used the wires from the old machine), a triple photo frame that DD brought home from nursery once, 3 wooden frames from IKEA that my nephews painted for me about 18 years ago (I took out the photos of them aged 4 and 2), a triple photo frame that someone gave me when DD was born, and the stabilizer wheels that came with her previous bicycle and we never used because she could already ride without them.

Day 13

March 13th I tackled all the filing and paperwork that should have been done in January as part of the January Project. This vastly reduced the shelf space taken up.

The photo shows 8 plastic folders. An enormous pile of bills and receipts from before 2011 (you're supposed to keep these things for seven years) together with guarantees and instructions for items I no longer own. 1 plastic receipt pouch, 1 old filofax, 1 wooden notebook holder, and a pile of old business cards.

March 14th: still in the spudy, I went through a three drawer storage unit that the printer sits on.

I got rid of 5 plastic envelopes that airline tickets used to come in, more cables for a DVD (not the same ones as on day 12, I promise), a banner saying "Happy Birthday" in Hebrew, a UK plug, an old address book, a postcard, an old computer connector, and a skull cap (yarmulke or kippa) with Spiderman on it.

I also found 2 cushions in the cupboard which I will never cover.

Day 14

Day 15
March 15th: Here are more than 20 plastic envelopes with copies of various lessons and tests that I need for school. Some of them are doubles and some have only one or two sheets of paper in them. I'm calling it 15 items and I already took them to school to be stored in the English cupboard.

Day 16
March 16th: Some small items from the drawers. 8 CDs of old Teletubbies and Sesame Street episodes that my neighbour copied for DD when she was little. 7 double connectors for the phone sockets. And an old pair of earphones that don't work.

So that makes 70 items. The running totals are 136 items for The Minimalist game and 521 items for the 500 Clutters Challenge. So I guess I've won that challenge.

I have cheerfully joined the Linky over at Michelle's place - Mummy from the Heart. Pop over for some other cheerful posts.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

In The Greenhouse

The greenhouse is enormous
 My school is run by a kibbutz. They are an urban kibbutz but the founding members came mostly from farming kibbutzim (pl) and they have continued with their values of being connected to the land. We have a large greenhouse, a large vegetable garden, and we recycle the grey water for cleaning the floors and watering the gardens. (We also have animals but I don't go there.) To be fair, many schools, including DD's, have animals, growing walls and vegetable plots, but ours is on a grand scale and we have projects running with many other schools and colleges all over the city.

Behind the wall in a workshop
They make everything themselves, including the furniture.

There are three fish tanks in the greenhouse.
Right at the back you can see auditorium seating for lectures.
It's also a big thing atm to take the children out into nature for all sorts of core lessons such as art, maths, language, science, etc... It's a nationwide initiative to move away from formal classroom and formal timetabling, to a more holistic learning environment. I don't understand exactly how it works but it involves a lot of beanbag seats on carpets in the classrooms. I watched a video about a maths lesson where they went out and counted the whorls on plants. I get that, and I remember the maths involved from own my biology lessons in school. After that though, I have no idea how you could teach the whole maths curriculum in the park.

A computer and screening room for classes.

Some of the children made this traditional mud and straw wall.
They put in a window, a seat, and a cubby or shelf.
Now they use the window to get into the workshop when it's locked.
We were also encouraged to have English lessons in the greenhouse. We did one lesson at the end of last year where the kids had to go round and find things in the greenhouse beginning with each letter of the alphabet. It was fun for one lesson but what about teaching the Present Progressive. I can't imagine doing that without a whiteboard.

There's also a lab/planting room for hands on projects.

All these plants are watered with drip irrigation
So last week my colleague asked me to join her with a class in the greenhouse. Each pupil made a booklet with different types of simple sentences in singular and plural, positive and negative forms. On each page they had to complete or write a number of sentences. E.g. There is..., There are..., There isn't..., There aren't... and: In the greenhouse I..., ....I don't...,  My friend..., She doesn't..., In the greenhouse I can see..., I can't see..., or In the greenhouse I like..., I don't like..., I want to..., I don't want to..., etc...

These plants are watered with a misting system overhead. 

This area is dedicated to hydroponics
(growing plants in water instead of soil).
It was a very successful lesson. The kids really enjoyed it and the value of practicing all those sentences in a more interesting environment was amazing. It got me thinking how I could perhaps teach the Present Progressive in the greenhouse.

And a wall garden of course.
Each graduating 6th grade class build a legacy for the school.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Minimalist Game - Days 8 - 11

Day 10 (one magazine already donated to school for an art project)
I went into my bedroom to find clutter for days 8 and 9. I thought it was going to be a struggle but I easily found enough stuff for four days! That's 38 things! The running totals are 66 for The Minimalist Game and 451 for the 500 Clutter Challenge.

Here are The Minimalist Game posts to date:
Days 1 - 4
Days 5 - 7

Day 8: I have two bedside tables, each with two deep drawers. On my side of the bed I had my Hebrew Language textbooks in the top drawer and my French Language textbooks in the lower drawer. I cleared out the top drawer. Here are three of the books I'm passing on. To make up the 8 items there are three belts (from the other bedside table), and a jar of face cream that expired in 2013. The other item is not pictured as it was a gift and I don't want to offend.

Day 8 (one item not photographed so as not to offend)
Day 9: Hahaha, so you thought I'd only collected three Hebrew textbooks over 30 years of trying to master the language. Here are another 9! These books are over 20 years old. I worked my way through some of them when I took various language classes and kept them to go over and review. I never did go over and review anything. I will never need Hebrew grammar as in-depth as these books teach. I will never read Hebrew novels in Hebrew - I no longer even want to. If I return to language studies it will be to French. (I did keep one book of comprehension texts to read, just to see if I can still understand them, and a couple of dictionaries.)

Day 10: Magazines from various years of The Economist's yearly round up of the state of the world. I bought this for the first time in 1992 and continued, not every year, until 2008. I especially liked seeing the population changes listed for each country. However, all this information is online so out they go. (Only 9 magazines are in the photo as one already went to school with DD for an art project.)

Day 9
Day 11: Old issues of Reader's Digest and 1 old mobile phone. The Reader's Digests went to my school where the team of English teachers happily took them.

This is going so easily that I may extend it till the end of the month and do all 31 days. If I have to start resorting to throwing out, for e.g., 25 paper clips, then I know it's time to stop. But so far so easy.

Day 11

Friday, March 9, 2018

Everything Is Happy In The Sunshine - R2BC

It seems that all the heaviness of the winter just evaporates with the return of the spring sunshine. And this past week has been particularly warm. People were even spotted out an about in sandals!

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. I'm a day late because I just had to write about Inspiring Women yesterday for International Women's Day. Go and read it if you haven't already - you are probably one of the women I wrote about. And don't forget the R2BC linky over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart. 

I started of my social March with going to the Purim party last Thursday evening and then hosting friends for the festive Purim meal on Friday. I put out games on the coffee table to amuse the kids and it gave them something to do when they finished eating and got bored of the table. There really were guests but these particular friends don't like their photos on the internet so I had to take special blog photos without the people.

Not hosting
For this week I invited friends from London over for a mid-week supper and another small family for Friday night dinner today. The London friends suddenly had to return to London for family reasons and the friends for today were already busy for Friday night. So week two wasn't so social.

A half-hearted 2
The Jerusalem Marathon
Today is the Jerusalem Marathon. We usually go and cheer on the runners and see loads of people we know both running and cheering. There is music and street entertainment at the end of our street. Today we didn't get our act together to go out this morning. And it's cold out which is great for the runners but not so inviting for us. We did catch the end of it when DD went to her youth club and I went shopping.

More Teaching
As soon as the sun comes out they start talking about teaching for next year. I have agreed to my one day in college and two online courses as usual. For school I promised myself that I'd go back to three days a week. This year I'm doing 3.5 days and I felt that it was too much. So obviously I heard myself agreeing to do four days next year. And my stupid brain was in collusion with my mouth, thinking all sorts of time-management thoughts and vowing to be more efficient. Yes you can do it all but it's more comfortable and enjoyable not to. Oh well, another year towards paying off the mortgage won't hurt.

DD has started practicing her clarinet at home if I nag her enough. She's in two orchestras and I got an invitation to the first concert later this month. This means, see how wonderful this is and if your child wishes to continue, from now on there will be a monthly fee. Of course we'll continue but there's no such thing as a free Legato.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Women Getting On With It - International Women's Day

Two of my favourite women in training.
R2BC will have to wait until tomorrow as today is International Women's Day. My cousin, Doreen Samuels, a women's activist, innovator, and initiator in Education and Interfaith work, issued the following challenge on facebook. That we should write about a woman who inspires us on International Women's Day. As the challenge didn't require any sports equipment, I readily accepted.

Since accepting the challenge I've been wracking my brain trying to think of someone to write about. It's not that I don't know any inspirational women, it's that I know so many. I have friends who are experts in their fields and friends who run charities and friends who work in government and friends who are doctors for the sick and lawyers for the poor. They are all inspirational women and we tell them so. They all chose their inspirational work and we are grateful that they did.

Then there are inspirational women who did not choose to be inspirational. I have a friend who is battling serious cancer whilst holding down a full-time job and holding it all together for her young children in between chemo treatments. Believe me, we would all rather she didn't have to be so inspirational even while we admire her courage, her strength and her determination.

I have a friend who is a single mother with a severely disabled daughter and another child with autism. I have more than one friend who adopted children with neurological and behavioral problems like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, attachment disorder, ADHD, autism, and any number of other challenges that they didn't know about before the adoption. And other friends with disabled children. All of them endlessly caring and advocating for their beloved children with little thanks and little help. One friend in particular started a major organisation to include disabled and abled children in joint social activities. It's called Shutaf, take a look. She is a true inspiration.

I have a friend who lost her husband when their children were young and she brought up five children on her own, through the traumas of a sick father, the death of their father, and continuing to live without him. And every one of those children is a wonderful young adult. She is an inspirational woman.

I have friends who escaped from abusive marriages and started over with very little. Their courage is inspirational.

All these women inspire me and others. People say to them all the time, "you are amazing." And they answer, "what choice did I/do I have?"

And it doesn't end there. What about all the women nursing all sorts of trials and traumas in private that we know nothing about? Nobody even tells them they are amazing and still they carry on, putting family, children and jobs first. They just get on with it because there are bills to pay, children to love, educate, feed and clothe, a household to run, and a community to contribute to.

Women on their own who tirelessly give to society and to other people's children. Women with disabilities themselves or chronic illnesses who put on a brave face and carry on. All inspirations.

I sometimes watch "inspirational" videos on You Tube where female life coaches, expensively groomed and clothed and with million dollar teeth, tell you how you can have it all. You just have to get up and go for it. Sorry Honey, but the women that inspire me can't just get up and go for it because they have cancer or children with special needs or not enough money to step off the treadmill even for the time it takes to watch your dazzling white teeth dancing in front of the camera.

Not everyone can work in a corner office overlooking a Los Angeles marina. We need teachers for special education, we need nurses, we need social workers in deprived areas. (I know that men also do these jobs but today it's about the women.)

So Doreen, I'm writing to honour the inspirational women who just get on with it. The  millions of women without fame or fortune who stand by their families and responsibilities, who put themselves last and who do whatever it takes to keep the system working and to survive. I see them all the time around Jerusalem. I work with some of them. They are the backbone and the heart of society and they inspire me.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Minimalist Game - Days 5 -7

The matttress and sheets as posted for sale on facebook.
Read this post about The Minimalist Game if you've not read it as it explains what I'm playing at. 😁

Day 5: A single sponge mattress from a child's bed and two fitted sheets to go with it. (I put these 3 items up for sale on a local facebook page.) And 2 glass jars that DD painted and gave to her friends.

The Child's bed was bought for DD when she graduated from the cot. It has undergone a couple of transformations. It originally had a trundle bed underneath for sleepovers, and two large storage drawers under the trundle. All these heavy additions have long gone and we swapped the child's mattress for a regular single suitable for an adult.

One of the things I realized a while ago is that I don't want heavy furniture. I've said it before but we live in a desert and there is a lot of dust. I don't want a load of furniture that you pull out once a year for cleaning underneath. I want to be able to get the hoover or the mop under the beds and sofas. It's cleaner and the rooms look more spacious when you can see the floor extending under them. It's a lighter, airier look and feel. (See the new sofas)

The child's mattress had been standing next to the bed, alongside the wall for a couple of years. I admit that it was a useful little shelf for putting your specs and your book on when you go to sleep but without it the room is wider. A small bedside table does the same job and is good for a lamp and a glass of water too. It's amazing how an extra 10cm of room makes so much difference.

With the old sofa that was the size of a single bed, DD's bed and the trundle, the mattress (and in fact I had another similar mattress that I gave away with the old sofa), my double bed, and another small double; I could sleep nine people in this apartment! Even when my sister brought her family of five to stay (only twice in 17 years since the 'baby' was born), we were only seven people. And although I have two toilets, I only have one full bathroom and probably not enough hot water in the tank for nine people to shower anyway.

I don't know why I kept all those bed options. I think I forgot that I'm no longer a student with whole crowds of friends descending for weekend parties. I now have sleeping accommodation for five people, including us two, and that's quite enough. My sister's family no longer all travel together as two of the kids are grown up. And if one day the whole family plus my Mum and my brother all want to come at the same time.... there is a lovely little boutique hotel around the corner. Sorted. (I'll offer to make dinner so they can book B&B),

The other 2 items to make up the 5 for the 5th of the month, are two empty Nutella jars that DD painted and gave to two of her friends as part of their Mishloah Manot for Purim. Sorry no photo but she painted a rainbow coming out of a cloud on one jar and a panda bear in a forest on the other. They were rather cute actually.

If you read the linked post about Mishloah Manot, you should know that the days of making a million of these are gone for the moment. DD made two for her best school friends and that was it this year.

Day 6
Day 6: Three ceramic bowls, one painted enamel cooking pot, one pottery planter and an old silicone loaf baker. These have been sitting on the balcony since I read one woman's account of collecting all sorts of coloured containers to plant things in on her eclectic balcony. I never got round to doing that planting and although I do plan to plant loads for April's Project, I've decided that the eclectic gypsy caravan look is not what I'm after. It doesn't really go with the minimalist style. So that's 6 wouldbe planters from the balcony.

Day 7
Day 7: A tray, two milk jugs, two teapots (I used to collect them), a loose-leaf tea strainer in the shape of a teapot, and a gift from a friend (not pictured so as not to offend but nothing to do with teatime). I bought the tray and the yellow jug in 1985 when I left home to live with two other girls. There used to be a yellow sugar bowl to match the jug and there is still a red teapot that I kept.

That's 31 things so far from The Minimalist Game making a running total of 416 clutters since October.

Monday, March 5, 2018

My Science Project Homework

Here's an update to yesterday's post about the science project. I overreacted. Being creatively challenged, I could only imagine a wooden bird feeder like you buy in a garden centre. After posting my open letter to the science teacher a number of sensible friends pointed out that it's not a carpentry project. They put me in the direction of a much simpler affair involving egg boxes, milk cartons, empty toilet rolls, etc... Oh. Well this is my first child.

So I quickly finished a whole packet of crackers with copious amounts of butter and Marmite. I rescued the plastic tray which is the perfect size for a bird bath for the little tiny gray/brown birds that we have no idea what they're called. I found a shoe box and took the lid. I stuck the bath to the box tray with sellotape. I attached gift-wrapping ribbon and hung it from one of those back of the door hooks. Sorted.

DD wasn't remotely interested in helping me. I did it all by myself. However, I could hear the relief in her voice as she shrugged her shoulders and remained silent.

So Dear 4th Grade Science Teacher, 

I completed my homework assignment. No effort went into making it at all. I did not enjoy making the bird feeder. It was an exercise in making my child feel comfortable to go to school and face you. 

Having completed the assignment, I would like to point out a few features incorporated into the design. I tried to consider all aspects of the birds' lives - social, physical, and emotional welfare as well as their cognitive development. 

1. The plastic tray in the centre is a bath as well as a drinking well. Playing in water not only cleans the birds so that they are less likely to leave footprints on your clean laundry hanging out to dry, but it also gives them confidence in water. This is especially important if they have to land over the English Channel on their way back to the UK for the summer.

2. Place seeds and nuts on either side of the water bath. Please don't give them any sugary treats as this is not good for their beaks. In time the birds will learn that if one of them sits on one side of the tray, the whole thing tips over. They will use this knowledge to devise a system of pair-work, whereby two birds of similar mass balance each other on either side of the bath. Maths is the basis of all science you know.  

3. The ribbon and hook allow the feeding tray to sway in the breeze. This helps to develop the birds' sense of balance. The brighter birds might even learn to use it as a swing thereby strengthening their little muscles and improving co-ordination.

4. I didn't decorate the tray in bright colours on purpose. Rather we want the birds to rely on word of mouth in order to find it. Social skills are essential for little birds about to embark on a long journey. Learning to be part of the flock - giving as well as receiving help from each other - could be the very thing to keep them away from the TVs in the electrical shop windows. You know how too much screen time is destroying communication. 

Please could you give my grade to DD to pass on to me when she gets home. 

Thank you
Rachel (DD's Mother)

Sunday, March 4, 2018

An Open Letter To The Science Teacher

Dear 4th Grade Science Teacher,

DD came home from school last week with the following assignment: Observe a bird for a week or so and make a feeding table that is suitable for its needs. The example DD gave me was, "if it has a long beak you need to put the food in a long bottle." (I think she may be remembering the picture from the Aesop's Fable about the stork and the fox.) And then she has to present it to the class.

She or I may have misunderstood but as it stands, this assignment is not going to happen for the following reasons.

1. We can observe the pigeons that sit on our window sill. They are big, gray, and they have short beaks. There are lots of other little birds that come to our balcony. They are all grey or brown and they all have short beaks. No pelicans, storks, or flamingoes come to our balcony or window sills so I think it's fair to say that the birds we observe will all have short beaks.

2. Apart from the pigeons, I have no idea what any of the other birds are called in English, let alone in Hebrew. These are the birds I know: hen, penguin, ostrich, duck, swan, parrot, vulture, pelican, stork, flamingo. (I'd also recognise a Robin Red Breast if it were wearing its Christmas scarf and hat. 😉) None of these birds come to our balcony for observation.

3. DD doesn't know how to build things. When I was a child I lived in a house with a tool shed out the back. My father knew how to work all those tools and he was quite good at building things too. Had I ever brought home a school assignment for him to do, he could have done it very nicely and I would have happily helped him and then presented it to my class for him. This never happened as all my homework was stuff I could do myself.

4. These are the tools we have in our apartment: a hammer, an Ikea allen key, a vegetable peeler, a garlic press, a ladle, a fish slice, several wooden spoons, sellotape, sticks of paper-glue, scissors, colouring pencils, pens, and paints and paint brushes for art. I could find an old shoe box or a plastic water bottle but seriously, I don't know where to start making this into a bird feeder.

I am very happy for DD to learn about birds. If you want her to do some work at home please give her the name of a bird. We will look it up on the internet or even go to the zoo to observe it. Then we would happily read and learn about it. DD could write about it, draw it, and even present it to the class.

Instead of enjoying science, DD has spent a lot of time worrying about how she will face you without having built a bird feeder. Sadly I suspect this is not going to draw her into the subject or inspire a life-long love of science and nature.

Thank you for your understanding.
Rachel (DD's mother).

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Minimalist Game Days 1 - 4

Day 1 - a serving platter
I saw a couple of You Tube vlogs about The Minimalist Game and it looked like something I would enjoy. As I've been journeying towards that minimalist life but somehow have not quite arrived there yet, I decided to give it a go for three weeks.

First some background about where I'm at in the journey. After several years of major decluttering each year for the Yedidya Bazaar and for DD's School Fair, and helped by the fact that once you pass the baby/toddler stage a load of equipment and big toys become obsolete, my apartment had way less stuff than had been the case only four years previously.

In October last year I set myself a 500 Clutters Challenge to get rid of (donate, sell, or throw out) 500 items. I made it to 250 and stopped because I wasn't ready to tackle my wardrobe. Then came this year's Yedidya Bazaar (a month early) and DD's School Fair. I managed to find more stuff to go and reached a total of 360. Just recently DD's youth club announced a second hand sale (date tba) and asked for any unwanted items. I dug out 19 items and got to 379. Finally, last week I threw out 2 bulky and superfluous fridge dividers, I gave two of DD's outgrown dresses and a pink headband to a little boyfriend who needed to dress up as a girl for Purim, and I chucked the current IKEA catalogue.

Day 2 - two baking trays from a previous oven
At a running score of 385 I decided to play The Minimalist Game. You can make up your own rules. For e.g. I'm only doing 21 days instead of 30 because I'm not starting from scratch. The things that go out now are already from digging deeper than the first 10 days would be for most people. My rules are that each day you get rid of the number of items corresponding to the day of the month. So 1 item on the 1st, 2 on the 2nd, etc. 21 days of this will yield (or unyield) 231 items making a grand total of 616 items since October 2017.

The photos in this post are days 1 - 4 from March 1st until March 4th. 10 items gone and all from the same cupboard in the kitchen.

March 1st: A serving plate. I still have another 9 serving plates (not including quiche and pie plates, salad bowls and smaller serving dishes) and I never use them. Mostly I use ordinary dinner plates as serving plates as they are easier to handle and fit better on the table. I used to have big parties but I don't entertain like that anymore. When I do have people round it's usually a few people for a meal rather than a party. And if one day I do decide to have another big party here, I won't hesitate to buy a pack of disposable serving platters. (I'm not sure now why I'm keeping the other 8 serving dishes. Atm I just like them because they're pretty or have sentimental value.)

Day 3 - a serving tray and two microwave covers
March 2nd: Two baking trays from my previous oven. Yes they do fit in my present oven but I have another identical tray in this oven. I don't make batches of biscuits and when I do make a homemade pizza or bread, one baking tray is enough. I cover it in baking paper so that I can re-use it if necessary with just a wipe over and we are only two people in this household. Seriously, I'm not running a catering company.

March 3rd: A tray that came with homemade cookies as a present when friends came to stay for the weekend. I kept it to use when I want to give a platter of food for a present or take food items to a potluck meal. Again, we have disposable party-ware shops for just this type of very rare occasion. And I usually take a salad to these things as that's what I do best.

And two microwave food covers. I don't even have a microwave anymore and when I did have one, it was too small for these covers. They could also be used to keep the flies off plates of food but, like Israel itself, we tackle infiltration at the borders by having screens on the windows and doors so there are no flies in the house.

Day 4 - four pretty but never used fruit/dessert plates
March 4th (Yes I know I'm a day ahead of the game.): Four dessert plates. I've had them forever and never used them. In the days when I had a fruit bowl on display they would sit (unused... ever... ) next to it with some pretty fruit knives for a snack in front of the telly. Nowadays I keep fruit in the fridge where it keeps for much longer and it's more refreshing to eat cold fruit. I don't serve fancy desserts after a meal. I'm not a baker and I don't enjoy baking so I tend to buy a fancy ice-cream and some Danish pastries. If I ever do decide to make a fancy dessert, you can be sure that it will be for more than only two guests!

I'll be back throughout the game with updates. Play along if you like, it's fun if you're serious about getting rid of unnecessary stuff.