Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Essential Emergency Fund And More Decluttering - R2BC

Some minimalizing progress and some less good events that, with a bit of Pollyanna attitude, I can turn around to be a R2BC. I'm joining the R2BC linky over with Becky on Lakes Single Mum.

Decluttering Books

I wrote the other day about sorting out all my books and letting go of my academic dreams. In addition to all the academic books, I got rid of 20 year old guidebooks to various cities around the world, children's books that DD has grown out of and which we didn't love, various out-of-date reference books, and a few novels that I'm never going to read. About 100 books in all.

In addition to the books in the photo which are all being given away, donated, or possibly sold; there were also a pile of magazines and the city guides that went straight in the bin.

That seems incredible as I sort and donate books every year for the Yedidya Bazaar in March. Only two years ago I got rid of 200 books (although that was the first cull in about 25 years). I think it's a process and some books it takes you longer to realize and come to terms with the fact that you don't need them anymore.

Empty Furniture

I decluttered a whole chest of drawers out of its usefulness and sold it on facebook. The guy who bought it also took an old armchair down for me and put it by the bins. Within half an hour I saw a man stop and load it into his car.

I also have one empty bookcase but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet.

Gone to a better home in the back of a passing car

Not So Wonderful

I had a blocked sink so I had to get the plumber in. It cost not a trivial amount of money. On the other hand, he changed the crappy IKEA drain set-up underneath to a much more efficient arrangement that goes straight into the wall without the long, narrow pipe, which is the part that gets blocked.

I swallowed that cost and moved on. However, I was then alerted by a neighbour that my solar heated water boiler on the roof was leaking big time. Having established that the tank that was falling apart was indeed mine, I needed to get it fixed. I bought this apartment 16 years ago and inherited all the equipment on the roof. I've never had to fix or replace any of it, so it was time.

Yesterday they came with a new boiler, two new solar panels, and a new stand as the old one was rusted through. All new. All fully guaranteed for 5 years. All costing an absolute fortune. But I chose the best and not the cheapest in the hope that I won't be dealing with this again for another 20 years.

Emergency Fund

This is when you fully understand how important it is to have an emergency fund. And how important it is not to dip into it for months that are a bit tight or if you want to treat yourself. It's not for an impulsive holiday, a new sofa, or even the new fridge which I had to buy only a few months ago and which could be put on 12 monthly payments without added interest.

The new solar boiler had to be fixed asap as water was dripping into my upstairs neighbour's apartment. And I had to pay all of it up front. Luckily I have been paying small monthly amounts into an emergency fund all year.

Usually I need to use some of it to get us through the summer as I don't get paid for teaching my summer courses until the end of September and I don't get paid an August salary for teaching in school. I was getting excited because we didn't go away this summer and various tax rebates came in so I thought I was going to get through the whole summer without touching the fund. I had dreams of rolling it over for another year. Man dreams and God laughs.

It still makes things very tight for September as the emergency fund won't cover the full amount of the waterworks. But it makes it doable instead of impossible. So we'll do it and be cheerful about having the foresight to save for emergencies.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Teacher Drawings And Real Art

DD had a good week. Friends came over, she went to a movie, she went to the pool, we went to a birthday party, we bought her school supplies and then this happened:

I found it as I was decluttering my books, bought in 1985 as a newly qualified teacher. My students often tell me what a good artist I am but I know it's just 'teacher drawing'. It's not hard to learn simple line drawings to illustrate your lessons on the whiteboard. There's no shading or detail involved or even much perspective. Anyone can learn to do teacher drawings.

I gave the book to DD as she loves drawing. She has spent hours drawing detailed landscapes and roomscapes full of animals, plants, furniture, and people. Here are just a few of her creations:

 I think there is a definite point when teacher drawing becomes art. Don't you?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Letting Go Of My PhD

Have you ever wondered why people talk about 'my degree', 'my M.A.', or 'my PhD.', when they haven't even got it yet, or even not 'yet'? It's like everyone has a Ph.D. by the mere fact of thinking about it, it's just a matter of whether you've actually done it or not.

I got my B.Ed. at the usual time after A'Levels and a gap year. I went back to do my M.A. in my 30s which was almost 20 years ago now. At that time I remember saying, "if I ever start talking about doing a Ph.D. please shoot me." It's a bit like childbirth. After a while you forget about the trauma and start to think about diving into academia again. And exactly like pregnancy and childbirth, it's not the doing of it that one yearns for, it's the having it at the end.

I was never a good student at school. I could have been but I didn't have the sitzfleisch to actually do all the studying required. At college I did ok, but only ok because I didn't get what they were looking for in an academic essay. When I did my M.A. the tutor explained it to me and after that I did really well. Why hadn't anyone ever explained it to me before? Why hadn't I thought to ask? What I learned from that experience was that anyone can do a Ph.D., you just have to find a subject that you're sufficiently passionate about to devote up to five years of your life to it.

I never found that passion although I did rather like the idea of being Dr Rachel Selby, or Rachel Selby Ph.D. So I coddled the dream in the back of my mind and bought a 'how to' book but essentially, I did nothing about it because having an M.A. was enough at my level of academic career. And then it wasn't. Suddenly the colleges only want to hire teachers with Ph.D.s and Head of Department is out of the question.

So I looked into starting a Ph.D. last year. My mother even offered to help pay for the tuition (it's much cheaper to do it in Israel than in the UK). However, the problem is not the cost of the tuition, it's the cost of the time you won't be able to work, the babysitters you'll need for late afternoon/evening courses, and the quality time you won't be spending with your child. Added to this, I'd be nearly 60 by the time I finished. I saw the amount of work involved and scared myself out of the whole idea.

It was too late for a Ph.D. for me. If I'm going to spend that amount of time on a project, it needs to be something lucrative. Why not just write that novel, not have to pay for the privilege of writing it and not have supervisors telling you what to write? And no costly books to buy or find online in order to read everyone else's research before you start - you make it all up. Ha! Why not indeed?

There are five more photos like this - 30 books in total!
Meanwhile my decluttering went up a notch yesterday as I tackled the books. More about that later but suffice to say, I let go all of most of those academic books about linguistics and education. I even let go the 'How to do a Ph.D.' book. I've read it after all so what do I need it for? LOL.

They are all up on the local facebook 'buy, sell, swap' group.

P.S. If I were to do my Ph.D. these books, which are all 20 years old, wouldn't be any use to me anyway so there was absolutely no point in keeping them. I leaned this lesson when I tried being an academic advisor to Benny Lewis for his book, Fluent in 3 Months. I got a mention in the acknowledgements nevertheless but it was all very embarrassing.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Shopping In My Closet And Other Simple Pleasures - R2BC

"We are more interested in making others believe we are happy than in trying to be happy ourselves." Francois VI Duc de la Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac (Paris, 1613 - 1680)

Can you believe that this was written almost 400 years ago? I don't need to explain it to you but if I were to comment, the words Face Book, Instagram and social media would feature heavily.

Becky on Lakes Single Mum, who's hosting the Reasons 2B Cheerful linky this month, wrote a low key post celebrating the simple joys of a summer break with no pressure and luxurious time to organize your life. I was inspired and relieved as we've done a lot of nothing this past week and I was hard pushed to know what to write about.

As Catherine from Escape with the Family (about recently moving to live in France), beautifully expressed it last month, "It was another simple day but these are the type we enjoy and we have nothing to prove and nobody to impress."

New diary and pencil case for me
New Diary
It's that time of year again when I search for the perfect diary. A whole year full of promise and hope in one little book. As an extra bonus, it starts on August 27th as that's the Sunday before September 1st. Two weeks, two days, I can hardly wait to get started. Except that I'll have to go back to work. Remember that our New Year is in September, which is very convenient for the academic year and makes a lot of sense. 

Last year I made my own diary. I had loads of fun drawing and colouring in and making my own designer pages but I abandoned it when I realised that I do in fact need to know the Hebrew dates, Shabbat beginning and ending times, and whole host of other information that's much easier to have printed for you than to copy out yourself. Not to worry, that creative activity kept me out of the fridge for a few hours.

DD already told me that she wasn't coming with me for the great diary hunt. So while she was riding her bike in the park with a friend, I found this. It's actually very similar to the diary I ended up with last year. A full year spread, each month as a one page table, and each week on a two-page spread, with room in all sorts of spaces for additional notes and lists.

New Pencil Case
My old pencil case, bought in WH Smith about 15 years ago, finally fell apart. This new one is in fact a make-up bag that came with a tote that someone gave me once. The tote is long gone but I found the make-up bag in my collection of toilet bags and small pouches that I sorted, decluttered, and partially repurposed. I believe it's called shopping in my closet. I won't be able to do this once I'm a true minimalist but meanwhile I love the surprises at no cost. Did you notice how it perfectly matches my new diary? I'm so ready for this year. 

New school bag for DD
The Spudy
Following my successful declutter and organisation of all my lotions, potions, and other bathroom and dressing table stuff, this week I tackled the spudy. So successful was this that a large chest of drawers was emptied and removed and replaced by a small three-drawer cabinet. It's a small room and the difference makes it a much more comfortable space. 

School Backpack
We found a new school backpack for DD with a matching pencil case, for 99 nis. Those of you who know about school bags in Israel will know that this is a great price as the discount stores are selling them for not less than 199 nis and the chain stores in the malls have school bags for over 200 nis only. (Israelis - the shop is Griffin on King George St, in Jerusalem, a few doors down from The Bell Center).

In the great bag reshuffle, I gave one of our two carry-on cases to my nephew to help take all his gap-year stuff back to London with instructions to throw it out on arrival as the zips were all broken and the pull out handle didn't. I've commandeered DD's school backpack from last year which I bought because it was also on sale for 99 nis but was actually far too big. This will now be our second carry-on bag (the one we don't offer to check in). Because I tend to choose red, all our luggage now matches. Very pish posh even if we're only going on Easyjet to Luton Airport. (How many of you thought of Lorraine Chase? Naaah, Lu'on Ehpawt. LOL)

Marathon Paydate
DD's friend asked if she could come over in the morning as her mum had to go to work. She came at 8.30 am and left, reluctantly, at 7.15 pm. I think you could call that a successful play date.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What's Your Special Power?

Imagine if every family had a guardian wizard who is one of the family and takes over the responsibility from one of their grandparents at age 10. That is the background to The Wishwell's Family Wizard by Maya Resnick and Noa Covo.

There are two connected stories. The first is about Mel Wishwell receiving her wizardship and the second is 50 years later when Mel's grandson, Liam, takes over as family wizard. We like books spanning generations, seeing how everyone grows up and how their lives pan out. It also gave the opportunity for a heroine and a hero in one book.

Another wizard book yes, but one with a difference. Resnick and Covo were only 11 when they wrote this novelette (107 pages) and 12 when it was published in 2015. Yes it is self-published and it could have done with some proof-reading and editing but that's not the point. For me this is the point, or the points:

1. How wonderful to have your book in print. Anyone who has had to have a university dissertation or thesis professionally bound knows that you can go to a printer and have your work made into a book. That's how I did it way back when, and now there are all sorts of online services that make it even easier.

2. The kudos is for actually writing a story of sufficient length to make it worth publishing.

3. And never mind the length, feel the quality. The story kept us reading 100 pages over four nights. DD looked forward to it every night, urging me on to read her a few more pages each time I wanted to stop.

It's a book full of humour and some of it had DD rolling all over the bed in fits of giggles. Long after we finished reading last night she kept saying, "and don't wish for Great Aunt Penny's cat to talk, to be covered in polka-dots and for it to take over the world." She even explained to me why this was so funny. "Because there are lots of general rules like 'be nice', 'don't hurt anyone', 'don't wish for more power', and then suddenly she tells this very specific rule that he probably wouldn't even have thought of doing." And then she dissolved into laughter again.

There are lots of Rowlingesque details that get revealed later in the stories. Though we know why not all of us have a family wizard - we used to but over the years wizards have lost their power and then the line is broken forever - we find that there are other families besides the Wishwells who do still have their powers. We find out about family Keepers and Relic Collectors, about the book of Wizard Traditions and the book of Family History. There is a Memory Eraser and a mysterious wishing well. I was very impressed by the writing skill involved in not revealing all the information too soon and allowing the reader new discoveries at intervals along the plot.

For me the best thing about The Wishwell's Family Wizard is the suggestion that not only the designated wizard, but all the members of the family have special powers. They just need to discover what they are and awaken them. Even DD caught on to this idea. She pondered, "I wonder what my special power is?" What indeed? And what a wonderful thought to be left with on finishing a book.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tuesday Tidbits #46 - That's Entertainment

Last night we watched Swallows and Amazons. The four children and their mother arrive for their holiday in The Lake District and as the children run off to explore, the mother calls after them, "Dinner is at 6!"

DD then started chatting about the film as is her wont during every film we watch. Even while I'm reading to her she stops me three times a page to discuss something distantly related to the story, or to tell me what she would do if she were in the book.

DD: Do they go back in time?
Me: No it's not about time travel.
DD: But do they go back in time?
Me: No, they go camping and sailing on the lake.
DD: But do they go back in time?
Me: The story is set back in time. It's in 1929. That's 88 years ago, the year before Grandpa was born.
DD: Noooooo, do they go back in time for dinner?

Another night as she was dropping off to sleep she asked, although she already knew the answer, "We're not a wizarding family are we?"
Me: No.
DD: Aww. Too bad.

Listening to Nat King Cole's L.O.V.E. and hearing the lyric: Love is more than just a game for two...
DD's response: "That's true. Supposing you have three children. You love them all, right? So love isn't just a game for two, it's a game for as many people as you've got in your family."

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Slimming Sunday - IF Only

DD's salmon with rice, mine on sauteed beet leaves.
I admit I mixed the leftover rice with my greens after DD had finished.
(btw, DD had more salmon but she copes best with it in small portions)
Last Slimming Sunday was five weeks ago because we're posting only on the first Sunday of each month. It was my first time joining this linky and it helped to know that I was going to report back in a month. A month ago I wrote about Vegan Vs Keto. Read it if you haven't already - there are strong supporters of both types of diet. Proof of this was the first comment, a lengthy explanation of why I was wrong to favour the keto method.

In fact, athough I favoured keto over vegan, I didn't stick to it religiously. I ate my salads topped with either hard boiled eggs, tuna, sardines mackerel, salmon, herring, or cheese. I made dressings with vinaigrette, low-carb mayo, evoo and lemon juice, or tehina. Each salad was definitely a meal in itself and very filling. We didn't have bread at home as DD doesn't like bread anyway so that was one temptation less for me. However, I did eat a felafel in pitta with chips one day, I finished DD's pasta, rice or wheat based vegetarian sausages on other days, I occasionally had a Danish pastry with my coffee, and yesterday I had dessert after lunch. It was apple pudding and cream, how could I not?

On the other hand. I was religious about the Intermittent Fasting (IF). After a black coffee in the morning, I drink water, lemon water, or hot lemon-cider vinegar water only until well into the afternoon. I have been IFing for at least 16 hours a day and many times longer. I aim for one meal a day but often have to eat something little a couple of hours before just to see me through. The hunger only starts after about 16 hours of no eating. And I can ride it through if I'm busy in which case it goes away after an hour or so.

I lost 10 lbs (4.5 kg). So that's 10 lbs in the first 'month' (always the easiest in which to to lose), playing at keto (meaning I reduced carbs drastically but probably didn't reach a state of ketosis), and absolutely doing IF. It seems that IF on its own is enough to lose weight in the first month. This coming month, until the linky again in four weeks time, I'm going to be stricter about not eating carbs.

I did notice that on a day when I ate even a bowl of plain rice, the scales jumped up significantly the next morning. This corroborates reports that the weight goes back on quickly after a ketogenic diet. I accept that but I also believe that the way to go is low-carb for life.

The Slimming Sunday linky is with Michelle on Mummy from the Heart and co-hosted by Emma on Life According to Mrs Shilts. You can pop over to either of these blogs for other slimming posts for inspiration and encouragement.

Friday, August 4, 2017

In By Day And Out By Night

Painting on the balcony
We're night owls anyway but even if we were the adventurous types who are always off exploring, this summer has been a killer with temperatures over 30 degrees every day. Luckily in Jerusalem it cools down in the evenings and it's very pleasant to  go out.

This week in the evenings we've been swimming, been to a show, been to a concert, played in the park with friends, and sat on the balcony playing games.

Maths Workbook
But how do we fill our days apart from getting up late? Well I have work to do, meals to provide, shopping to get ingredients for the meals, and housework to do. Other than that I'm happy with a good book. DD's not quite there yet with reading for pleasure though I do make her do some reading every day.

Surprisingly DD has found things to do other than watch dvds and it's been a blessing in disguise that the computer she uses broke at the beginning of the summer. I come into the living room to find her painting, drawing, doing craft projects from boxed sets we had but never used, and from the craft magazine my cousin gave her a few months ago. She does her two pages a day of maths without too much fuss, usually, more or less. OK, there is a bit of fuss.

Craft projects from Girl Talk Art Magazine
My favourite thing is that she has made a whole world on the coffee table and sofa, overflowing onto other small extension tables, out of the dolls' house furniture, figures and models from Playmobil, Lego, Kinder eggs, Sumsums and Shopkins. It provides hours of entertainment. I remember that we used to do the same with the railway set, my brother's cars, Lego and, in emergencies, the airing cupboard hanging sticks to lay out the road system.

It's still annoying that the summer holidays are in the summer when it's too hot to go anywhere, but we're actually quite content to stay at home. You might notice a recurring theme in the photos involving pyjamas. I know, but I'm picking my battles and she does get dressed to go out.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Whole Summer In One Day - R2BC

Walking into Narnia through the wardrobe
Except for the fact that we didn't swim or go camping, today felt like a mini summer holiday all squeezed into one day. We visited friends, went on the train, shopped, lunched, went to a show and a concert. And on top of that I had a day of free taxi rides.

This morning I had to go to a shiva across town and out to one of the satellite suburbs of Jerusalem. It was either going to be three buses in the heat of the day or, so I thought, about 200 nis (45 GBP) in taxis there and back. But I've know my friend who lost her mother since we were 10 and 11 years old, and I'm also friends with her sister. We don't often see each other now as lives get in the way but we do manage to meet for coffee occasionally. Anyway, it was important to me to go to the shiva.

We headed for the bus stop with the intention of getting a bus if one came quickly. But it didn't so we hopped into a taxi. I was also watching the time because it was already 10.30 and some shivas take a lunch break in the middle of the day.  Added to that it was the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem today and they were closing the roads near us from 2.30.

The taxi driver 'invited' me to join Gett Taxi and he talked me through downloading the app on my phone. This gave me 100 nis in rides as a gift for joining up and 20 nis off the first five rides until August 24th. He also told me their rates to the airport and other longer distance journeys I sometimes take and they were very favourable. Our journey this morning only cost 60 nis and I paid 40 plus a tip.

For the home journey another shiva caller gave us a ride to the light rail station that I didn't even know went out that far. We got the train back into town where DD and I both got new bags (me for everyday and her for school with a matching pencil case) and we picked up felafel and chips for lunch. We got the bus home and ate in comfort on the balcony as it was close to 2.30 and I didn't want to get caught behind the closed roads.

DD sitting next to Mr & Mrs Beaver's younger brother
At 6.30 we left to go to a performance of Journey To Narnia. We made our first booking with Gett Taxi. My screen told me that there were seven taxis in the area. One of them accepted the fare straight away and I was given his name, his car (make and colour) and registration number, his phone number, how far away he was, and how many minutes it would take him to get to us. I looked to find out what he'd had in his sandwiches for lunch but it didn't say. He arrived in seven minutes. The journey cost 30 nis and we paid 10 nis plus a tip.

Journey To Narnia is an original play based on, but adapted from, The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe. It was performed by the children in the JELLY (the people who publish KIDS READ) Summer Drama Workshop. Of course we know Narnia intimately. I was impressed by the creative set, the costumes, and also the added humorous scenes like a Miss Narnia Pageant and a Beaver-Faun Rap. It was a lot of fun and DD giggled in all the right places. We were very honoured to be invited. Of course we met friends there and we knew two of the cast, welcome to Anglo-Jerusalem.

I could have danced all night... and other songs from musicals and the 1960s
We came out at 8.15 into a cool Jerusalem evening. It was so pleasant we decided to walk home via the First Station. This is a sort of Covent Garden type place on the site of the original Jerusalem railway station. We arrived just in time for the beginning of a free concert by the Harel Orchestra - The Jerusalem Municipal Orchestra. We found friends and sat with them and we even knew the tuba player, we're still in Jerusalem remember.

I thought it was going to be classical music so I promised DD we'd only stay for 10 minutes if she was bored. But turns out, it was more Big Band than concert hall. They played classic sing-along Hebrew songs, songs from the musicals, The Beatles, The Beach Boys. We stayed for almost an hour. People were singling along and dancing. There were lots of families with children even though we didn't leave till about 9.30 pm.

Then we walked the 20 minutes walk home with lots of reasons 2B cheerful and, as usual I'm joining the R2BC linky which is back with Becky on Lakes Single Mum for the month of August.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Lotions And Potions

Well not potions, unless you count 35 drops of vitamin D once a week and a supply of Acomoli (Calpol). Yesterday I decided to sort out the combined contents of my dressing table and the top drawer of my chest of drawers in the bedroom and two large bathroom cabinets. Using the KonMari method, I collected everything together and chucked it on the bed. All the lotions, potions, creams, bottles, palettes and tubes, not to mention the brushes and combs, razors and shavers, earbuds, shower caps, old glasses cases, hair accessories, and medicinal items. It looked like this.

Where did all come from? From gifts. From house guests returning abroad who didn't want to schlep unnecessary bulk home with them. From lodgers (we used to have lodgers) who bought themselves large bottles of stuff. From deals, sales, and bogofs in the supermarket that by some mysterious magic, wipe your memory clean of the nine tubes of Colgate you already have in various places around your bedroom, bathrooms, store cupboards and unpacked toiletry bags lurking in various weekend cases.

I was delighted with the tidy drawers and cabinets after my declutter and tidy. I am overjoyed about the fact that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. I love my cleared surfaces. However, I was little surprised and disappointed that the throw away bag only amounted to one plastic supermarket bag. Perhaps if I'd heeded some of the expiry dates I would have got rid of more?

Out went three big plastic traveling soap holders, a soap dish, syringes (without the needles) from when I had to inject myself with hormones during IVF and pregnancy (my daughter is 8 1/2), and a thermometer because DD is old enough to put it under her tongue and this one must surely have been up her bottom at some point. The 600 sachets of single portion creams and lotions collected from magazine ads, free samples, hotel rooms, and boxes of diy hair dye, stayed. I solemnly swear to use every single sachet just as soon as I work my way through some of the half used bottles of goop I already have.

Today after my shower I smothered on the moisturizer. It's a start but there are still foot scrubs, mud masques, deep cleansers, exfoliating gels, toners, and creams for every tiny localized body area, to tackle. I have before sun, during sun, and after sun screens. I try never to go out in the sun - I hate it. My morning grooming routine has lately been shower, brush teeth, brush hair and go. Most days I don't even look in the mirror anymore. My evening routine is just shower and brush teeth. This has to change drastically because I refuse to throw away all that good goop and so it must be used.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Girl Who Could Fly

After abandoning Narnia, I read to DD, The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester (2008, Square Fish, Macmillon, New York). We both loved it. We laughed we cried. I'm not kidding. There was one point when DD was beside herself, sobbing, because it looked like the girl, Piper, was going to die.

The Girl Who Could Fly is about a young girl who can fly. Duh. When she accidently shows her special talent to the local townsfolk all hell breaks loose. Piper agrees to go away to a school where lots of other children with special gifts are taught together and protected from exploitation by greedy and ruthless individuals and/or governments.

What fun eh? A school where every child has some sort of super power. To be honest, I wouldn't like to teach in such a school but DD and I both said we'd love to be a pupil there.

I chose as my power, to be able to understand and speak fluently, every language in the world. DD can't decide on hers.

Problem is, things at the school are not exactly as described on the box. Bullying, betrayal, heartbreak, daring, suspense, conflict, but also friendship and teamwork, and ultimately ........... (no I'm not giving it away) all feature in this great novel for 7 - 11 year olds (approximately).

I'm stoked that DD shares my love of science fiction. She has a whole collection of John Wyndham waiting for her when she's older. And not too much older - I started with The Chrysalids at age 12 when we had to read it for English Literature at school. From then on I was hooked.

A sure indication of how much DD loved this book was that she made me Google it to see if there is a sequel. There is: The Boy Who Knew Everything. The first book leaves just enough intrigue in the form of one big unanswered question to make you want to go running to get the sequel. However, The Girl Who Could Fly is also a complete story on its own with a very definite ending and most of the loose ends tied up.

DD also made me look to see if there is a film of the book. We found loads of comments along the lines of: As yet there is no movie but there jolly well should be. We totally agreed.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Fasting For Love And Reconciliation

I spend much of my life trying to find a meaningful way to participate in a religion that I feel is increasingly outdated and bogged down in unnecessary ritual. One of my biggest problems is that if we are living the 'right' way, then everyone else must be 'wrong'. Another bugbear of mine is the insularity and exclusion of others encouraged by the laws of keeping kosher and the strict rules of keeping Shabbat. I am Jewish but I want to live a life that is relevant to humanity and the planet Earth not just to a small sect within it.

The 9th day of the lunar month of Av is designated as a Jewish day of mourning. We observe a 24 hour fast from sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow evening.

There are seven fast days in the Jewish calendar. Five of them are minor fasts - from sunup in the morning till sundown in the evening. They all commemorate various events in Jewish history and I don't really identify with any of them. It actually annoys me that we are told to fast on these days but no rabbi has the power to instigate a fast for victims of the Holocaust. As if Judaism as a dynamic religion died some time in the Middle Ages. Others argue that the Holocaust is included in the mourning of the 9th of Av.

The 9th of Av (Tisha B'Av) is one of the two major fasts. The other one is Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement when we fast to concentrate on atoning for our sins made during the previous year and promising to try  better in the coming year. I can understand and identify with this fast and I participate in solidarity with Jews all over the world.

I was always taught that Tisha B'Av is the day that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (both of them, conveniently enough). And that this is a big deal because it lead to the dispersion of the Jews, the loss of a homeland for 1878 years, the loss of independence and the resultant suffering imposed upon us over the ensuing centuries (the Spanish Inquisition and expulsion, blood libels, pogroms, the Holocaust, etc...).

I can identify with this explanation and support it to a point. It still feels a bit like an enormous pity party though. Whilst I am sad about all the pain and suffering, I'm not so much into highlighting victimhood.

Dig a bit deeper and we are taught that the reason God let the Temple be destroyed was as a punishment for baseless hatred among the Jews of that time. In other words, corruption, greed, undue punishments, jealousy, and the pursuit of power for the glory rather than for the good.

My friend Rinat, wrote on Facebook today that she is fasting as a stand against baseless hatred. I can totally get behind that. This also appeals to my sense of global citizenship. We tend to be far too insular much of the time and Lord knows that the whole world could do with some love and reconciliation, not just us Jews who are, admittedly, also far from perfect.

So tonight at sunset and for the first time in many years, I will be observing Tisha B'Av and fasting for 24 hours as a protest and a prayer against all the baseless hatred in the world. I will try to focus on love, reconciliation, and peace for all mankind, for all religions, for all races, for all nationalities. This is my prayer and my hope for all of us on this beautiful planet.

Disclaimer: In 30+ degrees heat I do drink water. This is not an exercise in making yourself ill.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

New Skills - R2BC

The Reasons 2B Cheerful linky over at Mummy from the Heart (for the month of July), comes out on a Thursday. Posts come in slowly over the weekend and it's not unusual to see a new R2BC post on a Sunday or even a Monday. But this week I had some time so I started writing mine on Thursday. Only it came out as a bit of a moan about the holiday slipping away rather than R2BC. I posted it anyway but didn't link up.

Looking back over it now, I think the underlying problem was the heat. We're fine indoors because we have fans and it's shaded of course. But the heat outside means that though we have free time, we are essentially trapped inside for the best hours of the day. And we don't have big houses here -  most of us have modest apartments. It's frustrating.

Thanks to Candi who said it's ok to have a moan and then find some R2BC. She's right of course. No one's life is perfect so it's maybe more realistic to say so and then be cheerful about other things despite the annoying stuff.

Here are my R2BC for this week.

Game Strategy

DD has been playing Mancala by herself a lot. I can't always be available to play with her and as there are no siblings, she plays both players - herself against herself. By doing this she has explored all the possibilities and has even come up with an opening move that can't be beaten. This makes me think that one of our rules needs modifying though. Mancala is an ancient game traditionally played in Africa with seeds and holes in the ground. It can't be possible that one opening  move always wins the game or there'd be no game. We absolutely need to fine tune our game.

DD knows all the moves so well that whenever I go to pick up some stones she immediately tells me the outcome of that move and whether it's worth doing. I feel we ought to get a chess set as she seems to be good at game strategy. But I hate chess - I find it boring. On the other hand, it's almost a life skill - like riding a bike, you need to at least know how to play chess.

I used to know three different games you can play on the Shesh Besh (Backgammon) board. I think I remember two of them - I should try to refresh my memory or Google it.

Individual Salmon

I discovered individually packed portions of frozen Salmon. DD is a sworn vegetarian for about 18 months now but she loves salmon and finds it hard to resist. So I make her have salmon once a week just to be sure she getting some good quality protein. (She does eat eggs, cheese, chickpeas, avocado and potatoes but I feel safer if she eats the salmon aswell.)

I think they always did have individual portions of salmon, and of course you can buy it fresh and have them chop it into portions for you. Someone once told me that if you buy a whole frozen salmon in a supermarket with a fresh fish counter, they will chop it into portions for you while it's still frozen. Despite all this, I always bought packets of three or four slices. Great for when we have guests but unnecessary for just the two of us.

Portion size is a big issue in recent years in a climate of mass production and easy access to food. When I cook three portions of fish I have a whole slice to myself and DD eats about a half slice. Then I eat the leftovers the next day and DD might possibly have another bite if I make her. But we actually don't need that much. Half a slice of salmon each is plenty when served with greens and rice or potatoes. It saves money and its healthier to have smaller portions. Win-win.

A Good Disher

DD is in to washing the dishes. I don't mind washing dishes myself but when you don't have a dish washer [machine] it seems that five minutes after I've cleared the sink it's full of more washing up to do. So it's great that I have back up and don't have to deal with every sink full of dishes myself.

As DD told me, "I'm actually a good disher."

And she sings to herself while she washes.

Understanding the Questions

I mentioned before that DD is doing two pages a day of a maths workbook and reading a book or chapter of a book in English. Her reading has improved a lot recently. Regarding the maths, it's not so difficult as it's mostly going over what they learned in school this year but still important that she practices it and doesn't forget anything.

The thing I'm most pleased about is that she can read and understand the questions. This is the big jump forward for us this Summer. We use English workbooks and even as recently as the Pesach holidays in April, I had to read the questions to her. Now she just takes the book and gets on with it. It has made her feel independent and more willing to do it. Interestingly, it has also boosted her confidence in doing the maths. Whereas before I was only reading the questions to her but not helping with the actual maths, DD saw this as needing help with maths.

When I did my dissertation on reading skills, I remember learning that fluent reading is essential for success in every subject, including maths and sciences. It's obvious of course, that you have to be able to read the material, but it is fascinating to see it actually happen and proven.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Walking Out Of The Wood

My Dad used to like a riddle that went: How far can a bear walk into a wood? The answer was: Halfway. (Because after that he'd be walking out of the wood.) I feel a bit like that about the summer holidays.

I've been announcing the beginning of the summer holidays for weeks if not months already. There was the week my 6th graders finished school early every day so my timetable was suddenly cut by a third. Then there was the final college lesson which meant no more teaching on Tuesdays. Then my school finished. Then a day later DD's school finished. But she had three weeks of summer school in the mornings only and I had my summer course and meetings with students from last year who were finishing off assignments. Then DD's summer school finished but I still had another 10 days of meetings in college. And actually I still have one more day of meetings on Sunday - and then it really is the summer holiday. Really really really.

Such a lot of activity before the real holiday starts and by then it's half way through.

All work and no play
This week DD has been coming into college with me. I commandeered one of the small computer rooms off the library and she has sat with earphones on, playing on a computer while I work. Same as last year.

It's not been all work though, well for me it has but DD has had some after college activities - a birthday party, the outside movie, and swimming. (Three things is enough isn't it?) The weather is excessively hot - in the 30s every day.

People keep asking if we are enjoying the holiday - what holiday? I've been in college at 8.30 a.m. almost every day this month. And on Tuesday it's August 1st and we begin walking out of the wood. How did that even happen?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Necessary Reaction?!

This isn't the post I was going to write today - I had the whole week planned in blog posts. But then this happened on Friday night.....

Friends who I used to be very close with about 20 years ago when I was flatmates with the wife's sister for four years, were sitting down to their Friday night dinner when they heard terrified screams from the house opposite. Their son, who is in the army, ran to the safe to get his gun whilst simultaneously shouting at his father, who was heading out the door, not to go out without a gun. The son ran across the road and climbed up to the kitchen window where he saw a terrorist stabbing his neighbours. He shot once through the closed window and brought the man down, injured but not dead. 

The neighbours, grandparents aged 70 and 68, had been hosting their son, 35, their daughter-in-law, their daughter, 46, and five gandchildren for shabbat. After dinner they had invited friends and neighbours to drop in for a 'lechayim!' (ironically meaning, 'to life!'), a schnapps to celebrate the birth of a new grandchild. It was already 9.30 and they were preparing for the party so the front door was unlocked. 

The terrorist, a 19 year old from a local village, walked into the house and stabbed Yosef Salomon to death, he stabbed Elad Salomon, his son, to death. He stabbed Chaya Salomon, his daughter, to death. Tova Salomon, the grandmother, was also stabbed but survived and is in hospital. Elad's wife, Michal, rushed her three older children, aged 11, 9 and 5, into a bedroom where her 1 year old twins were sleeping and held the door shut. She then called the police and described what was happening. 

The terrorist, not expecting to survive, had left a message on facebook saying that this attack was to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque. 

From what did he need to kill a family at dinner in order to defend the Al-Aqsa mosque? 

Here is the background to the recent unrest surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque, copied from Wikipedia.

 "Following the 2017 Temple Mount shooting on the Friday the week before the attack in which three Muslim Israelis attacked and killed two Druze policemen outside and inside the Temple mount, Israel increased security measures in the area before the entrances of the Temple mount, including placing metal detectors. Muslim leadership refused to accept the new measures, and called on their followers to protest the new measures, and to pray in front of the Temple mount declaring that prayers of those who pass through the metal detectors are null and void. In rioting on the day of the attack three Muslims were killed in and around Jerusalem.[3]"

What sort of God is Allah who cannot accept prayers from men who have passed through security gates. And why can he accept the security gates in Mecca but not in Jerusalem? We know why  of course. But Israel, like at the Western Wall, like at The Vatican, like at the Albert Hall, like at every airport in the world, places security measures where they are needed. If you are not intending to hurt anyone these measures are slightly inconvenient at the most. Nevertheless, Hamas responded thus: 

"Hamas issued a statement calling the attack a "necessary reaction" to the new Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount. Additionally, in a tweet, they called it "heroic."[11][12]"

The four funerals will be held this afternoon. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Playing Games And Other Reasons 2B Cheerful

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. Pop over to Mummy from the Heart for the Linky.  

Wall of fame
There is a wall of photos up in DD's school and I found DD on it. I think this one is from 1st Grade. I love it - including the wet patch on her t-shirt where she would chew it in times of stress.

Up When We Like.
DD's Summer School has finished so we don't have to be up and dressed to get her there at 8 am for another six weeks! Hooray! We are not morning people. Although I'm thinking of trying some sort of Miracle Morning again. I can do all the stuff, it's just getting up to be there to do them is the problem.

Playing Mancala with DD.
There were a number of rules she picked up at school and a number of rules that I half remembered from when the game first came out. We watched some You Tube instructions and settled on our own set of rules by picking and choosing. We had to try a few variations before coming up with the set of rules that makes for the most satisfying game.

I'm going to encourage some more Kalooki and Shesh Besh (Backgammon). It's a long holiday.

Without resorting to long lists of jobs that must be done or sticker charts on the fridge, DD has accepted the fact that we don't play Mancala, or watch a DVD, or have a chapter of her book until she has read a book or book chapter in English and done some maths workbook. So far so good.

Goodbye to Narnia
Having written my definitive review on the Chronicles of Narnia, I decided that there is no point in keeping the full set of seven books. Of course you can't keep the two books you like (The Magician's Nephew and The Lion et al.) and expect to get a good price for the others. A set is a set. So I put up the whole lot on our local Facebook Buy, Sell, Swap group and someone came to pick them up, paying me 100nis. Nice.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bedknobs & Broomsticks Revisited

Welcome Angela, it's been so long, apart from Murder She Wrote of course.
Last night DD and I watched Bedknobs And Broomsticks on dvd. She's very funny in that we saw a film we liked on Saturday night and she only wanted to watch the same film again. She has a hard time believing that anything could be better than or as enjoyable as what she already knows. I, on the other hand, know of a few more films than she does and I refused to sit through the same film again.

We are on a movie quest to find something DD loves as much as The Last Mimzy. We have the dvd of this but it doesn't work. We lent it to a friend and it came back 'wiped clean', or so it seems. Probably the FBI destroying the evidence. 

Last Monday night we watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Wednesday night we watched The Lion. The Witch, and The wardrobe and on Saturday night we watched Mrs Peregrine's Children. I wanted to watch Escape to Witch Mountain last night but I couldn't get it. Then I hit upon Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which we did manage to get on dvd. 

B&B came out in 1971. I first saw it in Edinburgh in the summer of 1972, or 3, or 4, 5. I seem to remember that I was 12 which would have been 1975, but maybe I was only 9 in 1972? The film was released in the UK in October 1971 and I also remember it being quite a new film so maybe it was in 1972. 

We were on holiday in our caravan. We'd seen the Edinburgh Tattoo and the parade for the start of the Edinburgh Festival. We'd been to dinner with a cousin who was living in Edinburgh at the time. I remember the pink and white drop-waist dress I wore and that I read my cousin's three year old son a bedtime story. Then she asked if we didn't mind that we kids, (my sister, brother and I) sat on a separate children's table for dinner while the four grown-ups sat at the dining room table. I minded very much but of course I said I didn't. That feels like being 12. 

We toured Scotland a bit. I remember going to Oban and possibly the Isle of Skye - or maybe we didn't go over to Sky but just sang the song as we motored across country. I remember talk of getting to the Highlands where there are tropical gardens. I was eager for this as I'd never been anywhere where there were palm trees. I was thinking in terms of Brazilian rainforests and Hawaian beaches, LOL. Anyway we didn't make it that far north and I've always wondered about those tropics in Scotland. FYI, I googled it and it's call Inverewe

I feel cheated that I missed that whole evacuation thing. 
So back to Edinburgh and it was pouring with rain. My parents decided to kill the afternoon by taking us to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks. This was a huge concession - we never went to the cinema while on holiday, only at Christmas. It must have been the second or third or fourth.... day of rain. I remember my Dad queuing up for tickets while we sat in a cafe across the road and drank hot chocolate. The queue went around the corner - every tourist family in Edinburgh for the festival must have had the same idea. 

I don't think I've watched the whole film through from beginning to end since that rainy day in Edinburgh 42 (or 45) years ago. I certainly didn't remember all of it. DD loved it. "You see? I know some good films, you have to trust me."

I'd love to show her The Railway Children but we need to read the book first. So, on that premis, we can watch Heidi. I'm trying to think of other films from my childhood that I loved. When the heat is in the mid-30s (that's high 90s in old money) every night is movie night. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Chronic Ails Of Narnia

The full set of Narnia
A couple of weeks ago I wrote that we were on Book 4 of the Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian, and that we were still enjoying them. Reader, I spoke too soon. And interestingly enough, this is the same place I got to as a child before I got fed up with yet another battle and another quest and more talking animals and more mythical woodland creatures, and just more and more same, same, same.

Last night DD and I finally agreed that we weren't interested in finishing Prince Caspian. However, we did want to know what happened in the end. Not what happened to Caspian - he obviously became King Caspian and who actually cares? But we wanted to know what happened to the children so we read the final few pages of the book and were totally satisfied.

And then we needed to know what happened in the final three books, although not in so much detail that we had to actually fight the battles with them. So we read the blurb on the back and the slightly longer blurb inside the front cover, and the first and last few pages of each book.


If you, like us, can't be bothered to read through seven books of very similar plot, here is a synopsis of the Chronic Ails Of Narnia.

1. The Magician's Nephew (1955). Diggory and Polly, next door neighbours in Edwardian London, are sent into another world by Diggory's magician uncle. They find a dying world and wake up an evil witch who follows them as they escape and enter into another new world- Narnia. Aslan the lion (God) creates the new world in a similar fashion to the creation story in Genesis, and appoints a human King and Queen to rule over it. It's all very Garden of Eden. The witch is hiding somewhere on the fringes of Narnia, biding her time. Diggory brings home an apple and plants the seeds in his garden. Wood from the resulting apple tree was used to make the wardrobe in the next book.

2. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1950). Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are evacuated during WW11. They are staying with an old professor (Diggory) in his country house. The find the wardrobe and go through it into Narnia. There they find that the Witch is in power and it is perpetual winter (though never Christmas). They defeat the witch with the help of the magical creatures and talking animals, and Aslan of course. Aslan sacrifices himself as payment for Edmund's betrayal but comes alive again a few days later. The children become the four Kings and Queens of Narnia and they rule for many happy years before one day, finding the path back to the wardrobe and walking through it to return to the country house just a few minutes after they had first left.

3. The Horse and his Boy (1954). This story was fitted in later and is about one episode that happened while Kings Peter and Edmund, and Queens Susan and Lucy, were on the throne of Narnia. A boy and a girl run away from their lives in an oppressive southern land (Calormen - later thought to be based on pre-Islamic pagan countries in the Middle East) with the help of two talking horses originally from Narnia. They help save Narnia and discover that the boy is in fact a Prince of the neighbouring Archenland who was kidnapped as a baby. They get married and become the King and Queen of Archenland.

4. Prince Caspian (1951). The four children are sitting on the railway platform waiting for their trains to return them to their boarding schools, when they are pulled into Narnia where the orphaned Prince Caspian had blown the magic horn to summon them back. It's a few hundred years after their last reign and they find their castle in ruins. Another race now rules Narnia and they've tried to eradicate the talking animals and magical creatures who are of course living in hiding in the woods. They defeat the oppressive rulers and King Caspian takes the throne. The children get back to the station in time to catch their trains.

5. The Voyage of the Dawntreader (1955). Only Edmund and Lucy go back to Narnia as the other two are too old. They are accompanied by their odious cousin Eustace. In this story they help King Caspian as he voyages on a roots tour to find the seven lost friends of his father. It is Edmund and Lucy's last trip to Narnia.

6. The Silver Chair (1953). Eustace and his schoolmate Jill find Narnia as they try to escape from the school bullies and ineffectual headmistress. Eustace is of course a good boy now. King Caspian is old but his son Rilian has disappeared whilst on a journey of his own. The two children have to find Rilian. After they find him they return to school where Aslan makes sure the bullies and the headmistress catch a glimpse of the magic and are terrified into better behaviour. The head mistress actually loses her mind and her job.

7. The Last Battle (1956). This one is incredible, as in you won't believe how it ended. Jill and Eustace are thrown back into Narnia to find it at its darkest hour. All the baddies are at war in one final struggle between the forces of good and evil. In the midst of all this, Peter, Edmund and Lucy arrive. They were waiting on a station platform for their parents' train which they see approaching and suddenly they are in Narnia. And their parents are there too. And they meet all the characters form the previous six adventures, including Diggory and Polly and the first King and Queen of Narnia. (Susan wasn't with them as she had grown too old and sophisiticated for Narnia "games".)

Can you guess what happened? The train they'd seen approaching had crashed into them and they'd all died and gone to Narnia. I could not believe that that was the ending. C.S. Lewis wouldn't get away with that today. And how come I never knew that? Why didn't anyone tell me before?

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about religion in the Chronicles of Narnia in which C.S. Lewis is quoted as writing:
The whole series works out like this.
The Magician's Nephew tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Prince Caspian restoration of the true religion after corruption.
The Horse and His Boy the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep).
The Silver Chair the continuing war with the powers of darkness.
The Last Battle the coming of the Antichrist (the Ape), the end of the world and the Last Judgement.[3]

So there you have it, the Chronic Ails of Narnia. Next stop E. Nesbit (yes I have the full set). And meanwhile, does anyone want to buy the full set of Narnia for 100 shekels?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Night Out On The Town - R2BC

Flea market finds
On Thursday evening we were summoned to visit my youngest nephew who's touring Israel with a group of other 16 year olds in the summer after their GCSEs. It's a sort of rite of passage for Jewish kids. They call it "going on tour" and everyone knows exactly what you mean.

35 years ago, when his mother and uncle (my twin sister and brother) were on tour (although it wasn't called that then and it wasn't such a thing), I was finishing my gap year on a kibbutz in the middle of nowhere. They had a free Shabbat so the two of them left their group in Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon, took the bus to Bet She'an where I met them (all prearranged via pay-phone obviously) and they spent Shabbat on the kibbutz with me.

Shabbat, which goes out at sundown, finished at about 8.30 pm and they insisted on leaving that night. They got on the bus that came into the kibbutz at 9 pm and headed off into the darkness, to somehow arrive in Tel Aviv and then find their way back to wherever their group was staying.

By the time my older nephew did this same tour three years ago, the once six-week tour had already been reduced to a month and there was no free Shabbat. In our day the groups spent a week on a kibbutz volunteering. Nowadays kibbutzim don't need volunteers as there are foreign workers, much more automation, and much less agriculture, not to mention fewer kibbutzim that operate like traditional kibbutzim.

Older nephew (though not oldest who did a two-week tour without any visiting opportunities because he'd spent a whole school term here when he was 14) had a visiting couple of hours whereby Israeli relatives (everyone has Israeli relatives) met them in a shopping mall and were permitted to walk around with them and buy them supper. They were not permitted to leave the mall.

DD and her cousin
(the floodlights are the athletics stadium #MacabbiahGames)
Youngest nephew, on his three-week tour, is staying at a youth hostel in Jerusalem. We were summoned to visit them at 20.00, after their supper, and stay for an hour. They were not allowed to leave the building. Luckily there was a kiosk selling coffee and a large terrace with uncomfortable chairs and tables. We had a lovely visit for an hour and then we left. He's having a great time and I didn't tell him about 35 years ago when 16 year olds on tour could just leave the group and find their way around the country on buses to visit relatives for the weekend.

It was unbearably hot on Thursday and DD and I had both fallen asleep at 4 o'clock and slept until 6.30 when we got up, had showers, and dressed to go out. By 7 pm it was cool in Jerusalem and by 9 pm it was positively chilly. We weren't tired of course and we felt like the evening needed finishing off.

First we crossed the road from the Youth Hostel and were able to watch some of the athletics taking place at the Hebrew University stadium. This is my second encounter with the Maccabiah Games (the Jewish Olympics with over 10,000 athletes competing in events all over the country) and I don't even do sports. We couldn't make out the running but we watched the javelin throwing in the centre of the track.

Then we got a bus into town where DD had pizza and I had felafel for supper. We found a flea market and music and people dancing on top of buses. It was all very street party. (Shame we couldn't share it with Youngest Nephew.) We left town at about 10.30 and went home after a very satisfying night out on the town.

We were this close #MacabiahGames

I'm linking to Reasons 2B Cheerful over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.