Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Lagom Is Just Enough

Nah, this isn't it. Some people don't get it. Or they're just not ready for lagom.
OK, Ive found it! It's May 3rd and Ive finally decided on my word for 2016. You'll remember that I wasn't going to have a word because for the past two years my word was "discipline" and I never managed it. Completely forgetting about the previous two years, I chose "discipline" as my word for 2016. Then, out of interest, I went back to check up on last year and saw that I'm obviously barking up the completely wrong tree.

My word for 2016, and possibly for life, is "lagom". I first heard this word from Gemma and Kate who are both lucky enough to be IKEA ambassadors for the Lagom Project and get to choose items to lagom their homes. Quite clever of IKEA if you think about it. Well give you a modest amount of money to spend in our stores for quite a lot of publicity. It had to be a modest amount because lagom means just enough.

Anyway, I am not an IKEA anything but I have been thinking about this lagom concept for a while. And I like it. It takes the pressure off. It's a much more pleasant way to live. Less is more rather than more is better.

I read today that Finnish school children score near the top of the world ranking for school education. There are a few sensationalist reports about how they do it which contradict everything we in the developed world believe. They have the shortest school days, start school at age 7, no homework until secondary school and then very little, and only nine years of compulsary education. This blog post explains the Finnish school system.

However, the national philosophy of lagom (although it is a Swedish word) explains why they do so well in the international PISA tests. You can read the real reason why here.

I don't know why I didn't think of it before as much of the way I live and what I'm interested in is lagom oriented. I watch You Tube videos about tiny houses (although I would need a separate bedroom rather than a loft above the kitchen accessed by a ladder; and a fully plumbed bathroom preferably off the bedroom rather than off the kitchen). I read about minimalism and decluttering is my favourite sport.

Granted, much of this is a result of enforced frugality over the past few years but it's also a choice to work fewer hours and earn less in order to be able to stop and smell the roses.

My idea of hell would be to own several homes around the world. It's hard enough keeping one home running efficiently. If I had that much money I'd rather stay in hotels or rent chalets, cottages, or villas when needed.

I once had a friend who lived in a large house with an eat-in kitchen that had a breakfast bar as well as a dining table. Across the hall was a formal dining room and the den also had a table and chairs in the corner. One year they built on a big conservatory with seating at one end and a dining area at the other. "How do you decide where to eat each day?" I asked her this as we packed a picnic to take down to the summer house where we ate on a little table by the water feature. The excess of space made me feel uncomfortable even before I knew what effort it takes to keep a place clean, heated, and in good repair.

The annual scramble for swimming lessons started today on facebook, Actually I started it as I usually arrange a date for testing for the swimming groups and announce it on facebook. A number of families have opted for year round private lessons this year as the groups go quite slowly. In my lagom way, and as we are not big beach lovers, I'm happy with small improvements each year and for the meantime we'll stick with the group lessons in the summer courses.

My short term wish list is proper shower doors, a headboard for my bed, and new cushions for my sofa. I don't need or want a new bed or a new sofa.

I don't yearn to travel down the Amazon, across Canada, or up Mount Kilimaneverest. I'd like ten days on Lake Como (or Lucerne, Geneva, Logano, Garda, I'm not picky). I'd as soon sit on the beach in Eilat (just four hours drive away) as in Phuket. Why go to New Zealand when they have the same sort of spectacular scenery in Scandinavia? If I had the time and money to spend on three weeks of travel I'd like to tour Ireland or Scotland. If you offered me the time and money to do both I'd probably ask for a rain check on one of them. Who wants to be away from home for more than three weeks?

Now if only I could apply lagom to my eating habits life would be perfect.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Earth Mother Bakes Bread

These have sliced olives in the dough.
I've suddenly got into making bread. It takes about 5 minutes or less to make the dough and another 5 minutes to shape it before 30 minutes in a hot oven. You do need to allow for waiting time (about 3 hours for the first rising and another 20 minutes after its shaped). So if you have 10 minutes to spare over a 4 hour period it's so worth it.


DD only wants my homemade rolls now. She likes them with olives inside.

There are advantages to making your own bread:

1. It's cheaper. It costs less than 2GBP to buy the flour and instant dried yeast which yield about 24 rolls or three large loaves. I didn't factor in the teaspoon of salt per loaf and any other spices you want to add. I usually add some za'atar to the dough because we like our food savoury. And I didn't work out the cost of having the oven on for 50 minutes or the water used. Nor the cost of the washing up liquid. However, artisan bread in this country is about 3GBP per loaf so I still think it's cheaper.

2. You know exactly what's in your bread. No sugar or preservatives, food colouring or molasses for brown bread, or any other chemicals. Seriously take a look at the ingredients of a shop bought loaf - it's a list of about 15 items.

3. If you make rolls you eat less. Going back for another slice of bread and another seems less greedy than eating a third or fourth roll. Especially as there are only eight in a batch and I need to keep some for DD's lunchbox each day. I'm into making bread but I'm not going to do it every day!

4. It tastes better than shop bought unless you are buying designer bread from a small bakery.

5. You can also use this recipe for pizza bases.

Two rolls became one pizza blanca.


Recipe:

Mix 3 cups of flour, 1tspn of instant dried yeast, 1 tspn of salt and any other herbs or spices, in a mixing bowl.
Add 2 cups of warm water and mix with the handle of a spoon or fork until you have a cohesive dough.
Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm(ish) place for about 3 hours.
Divide into rolls or turn the whole batch onto a baking sheet for one loaf. You can use baking paper under the dough or lightly brush the tray with olive oil.
Wait 20 minutes for the dough to rise again while the oven heats up to about 180-200 degrees.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Wait at least five minutes before eating.

These came out the oven tonight. They have 1cup wholewheat flour/2cups white.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - London In The Spring


We went, we saw, we celebrated Passover, we came home. And we had many reasons to be cheerful.

1
DD is old enough to appreciate a day out in London.



2
She had her first ever ride on a boat.



3
My sister took DD to Kidszania. I wasn't with them but it sounds amazing. And we've saved a fortune in careers counseling as she now knows, having gained a civil engineering degree from Kidszania University for a bridge made out of drinking straws, that she wants to be a parcel delivery person. Another day she tried out being a bus driver at the London Transport Museum and a witch in Covent Garden. But postwoman was the best.




4
We saw pigeons and ducks in the park but the squirrels were too fast to capture on film. DD: "I'll keep a spot on my eye for one because I'm a good looker." :~)



Linking up with R2BC over at Lakes Single Mum.

@RubbishPhotography by Midlife Singlemum.



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #40 - The Birds And The Bees

1
Last night in bed we took a mighty leap forward in DD's understanding of where she came from and how she was made.

DD: Without girls you can't have boys.
Me: Right.
DD: And without boys you can't have girls.
Me: Right.
DD: Wait, why can't you have girls without boys?
Me: Because you need a boy and a girl to make a baby.
DD: But you didn't have a husband. You made me in the hospital.
Me: I got the boy's seed from the hospital. Some men give their seed to the hospital for woman who don't have husbands.
DD (with a big soppy smile): I'm glad you did it that way. (She means, I'm glad I've got you all to myself and I don't have to share you with anyone.)


2

Me:
The pigeons have laid two eggs on my windowsill.
DD: Ugh! Can't you just push them over the edge or something?







As it happens, the eggs have gone. I woke up the day after posting about the pigeons and there they were - gone!. I think I scared the birds away when I opened the window to take that final photo (the one above that after taking it I promised not to disturb them again). *sigh* *guilt* *100 sorries*. But I have no idea where the eggs went. I can't imagine that the birds could move them successfully from a third storey ledge. *mores sighs* *more guilt* *Wonders if DD has supernatural powers*.

Someone wrote in the comments that baby chicks are blogging gold so I'd be adequately compensated for the inconvenience of a nest on my windowsill. LOL, But actually I was quite into the idea by that time. Oh well, you know what they say - don't count your eggs....

As with all things fertility, it's not in our hands.



Monday, April 18, 2016

Summer Handbag Time!

Thank goodness we don't wear white shoes through the summer anymore (but never after Labor Day apparently). However, you do need a summer and a winter handbag. Of course you also need a small bag for the evening and a bigger holdall type thing for travelling and days out, but for every day one summer bag and one winter bag are all I need.

I once tried having a few everyday bags to go with different outfits but it got too complicated and time consuming to change and check bags all the time. There is that handy trick of an inner mesh bag that you simply move from bag to bag. But actually, I don't want a load of different bags. I'm an anti-clutter simple-life sympathiser remember.

My winter bag is an old favourite. I bought it somewhere in downtown Jerusalem many years ago for less than a tenner and it's still good. For winter. It's a little dark and heavy looking for the summer.

Winter buddy
The other day I was looking for some bag solutions. Namely, something to put in your hand luggage that contains only what you need for the plane so that if they want to put your hand luggage in the hold you can just take out the little bag with your passports, purse, phone, book, sandwich, apple, and colouring things for the plane. We like them to take our hand luggage so we don't have to schlep them about the airport. As we're only taking hand luggage this time they are the biggest allowed - don't worry I've measured.

Anyhoo back to the story. I saw a pretty bag for the summer. Last's year's summer bag, from Primark, fell apart so I was in the market for a new one. I thought this one, though smaller than I'm used to, would be good to go inside my school bag when I'm at school all day. I'm a little fed up with lugging two big bags with me everywhere, And I liked it so much I bought one for my sister too - as a thank you for making Pesach for all of us. I just want to emphasize here that I paid full price for the one I'm giving to my sister and it was my bag that cost half price on the 50% off 2nd purchase deal.

Secure zip on top
I have few requirements for my everyday bag. It must be comfortable on my shoulder, it must have room for all my stuff, it must look nice, it must close securely and preferably with a zip, and a small zipped pocket is always useful. C'est tout.

Essential stuff

It all fits!

Here are the things that had to fit inside. It was touch and go. In the end I ditched the pink mesh bag. It's snug but it works.

Ready to go.

Claimer: No one gave me this bag to plug. I bought it myself.

Summer buddy 
  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Homegrown Chips

This year's yield washed and ready to sort.

You won't remember but almost three years ago I planted some sprouting potatoes on my balcony and harvested enough tiny spuds to make a potato salad all of four bites big. In that post I had designs on using an IKEA storage box to plant a bigger crop next time.

This is a small two-egg frying pan.




I planted a bigger crop in the IKEA box last year but it was not a good plan. For a start I didn't make holes in the bottom of the box for drainage. The whole thing ended up smelly although, as with last time, the potato plants were nice and green.


With the spring the IKEA box dried out stopped being smelly. I was waiting till after our holiday to chuck everything out and start again. However, DD decided to go digging to see if there were any actual potatoes.

Frying tonight!




There were! Fewer and even smaller than last time. We disgarded the ones with the thick skins as the insides didn't look too healthy. We also disgarded one that looked a bit too green for my liking. The rest I made into chips which DD had for supper (along with other things of course).
The tomato and banana are to show the scale.

Served with ketchup on the side about two hours ago. And she's still alive. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

How Do You Like Your Pigeon Eggs?

The window ledge outside my bedroom is in a niche in the building and protected somewhat from rain and wind in the winter and hot sun in the summer. So it's very popular with the pigeons.

Fried or boiled?
This year we had a mild winter and maybe they didn't hibernate or whatever pigeons do in the winter but my ledge has become a favourite roosting spot. It's actually quite annoying as they coo in the early morning and fight over the space late at night. And you can imagine how many bird droppings have been left.

Usually I clean it all up every couple of months but this year I've left it, promising to clean the ledge and never getting round to it. It got so dirty that I decided to buy some of those spikes so that the birds couldn't sit there.

One day I saw that two birds were having a bit of hanky panky on the ledge and had even brought in a pile of twigs as the basis for their starter home. NO WAY JOSE! I banged on the window and they flew off in fright. I disposed of the twigs and vowed to go to Home Centre for spikes that afternoon.

I just want to say here why it is so important not to have birds on the window ledge. 1. I watched Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds' when I was a child and I've never quite trusted them since. 2. Once two birds managed to open the mosquito net and flew in. I ran out of the apartment screaming and my neighbour from upstairs had to come and save my life by shooing them out again. 3. I don't have air conditioning so I need to be able to open the window in the summer.

Reader I left it one day too late. Arriving home with my spikes and seeing one of the birds sitting on the ledge, I did my usual response and banged on the window. Off flew the pigeon and, to my horror, I saw that it had been sitting on an egg.

What was I going to do now?

I remembered reading that the eggs we eat aren't fertilized so you're not killing a chick by eating eggs. I googled it. Not so with wild birds. The egg is very much fertilized (remember the hanky panky?) and will eventually hatch. Oooof.

Two eggs and the beginnings of a nest. Expecting babies trumps squating. 
I tossed and turned all night. What to do? What to do? And then today, another egg had been laid. I gave up. Googling: 'How long till a pigeon egg hatches?' told me it's only 18 days. We'll be away for most of that anyway.

Then I thought again and googled: 'How long till baby birds leave the nest?' About 4 weeks after they hatch apparently. Hmmm end of May. May can be a very hot month here. Damn. Seves me right for procrastinating so long about cleaning the ledge.

And then you have act quickly because, if the birds have felt safe in that location they often lay another round of eggs in or near the original nest. I'll have to act fast to clean it all up and put in my spikes as soon as the chicks leave.

I also read that the second round of eggs can be laid before the first lot of chicks have left the nest. I'm ignoring that bit.

I'm also ignoring my bird lodgers until the end of May as every time I move the curtain they fly off scared and I feel bad about that when they are expecting. But I'm not going to feed the chicks either. I have my limits. *sigh*

Temporarily redundant spikes.