Saturday, February 17, 2018

Orphan Trains And Potatoes

You can learn a great deal by reading children's books. Sometimes a short, light read ticks all the boxes regarding time and effort and 'bam!' you know a whole topic you previously had no idea about.

I recently borrowed these two books from the school library. The Orphan Trains by Annette R. Fry (1994, New Discovery Books, NY) and The Amazing Potato by Milton Meltzer (1992, HarperCollins, NY).

From the 1850s thousands of immigrants a week were arriving in New York City and Boston. Most of them from Ireland and Germany.

The Irish were initially escaping the results of the Potato Famine. Ireland almost solely relied on potato crops for food so a devastating blight in the 1840s led to mass starvation and emigration, mostly to America. This wave of emigration continued well after the end of the famine and into the 20th century.

The ships from Germany were carrying Europeans from all over Europe but especially Jews escaping persecution in Russia and Poland, and from the 1880s, specifically the pogroms. Later they were desperate to get out of Germany and all of mainland Europe. The Jewish emigration continued until after WW2.

Conditions in the city were terrible. Many families sharing apartments in already crowded tenements with no bathrooms, only a few toilets for the whole building, and shared cooking facilities. So many unskilled (for the city where farmers were not needed) people looking for jobs, rent to pay and food to buy, so much disease from overcrowding in unsanitary conditions, and no family planning. All this led to hundreds of children abandoned, living in the streets, or left in orphanages that were bursting at the seams. Some of them were orphans but many were from families who could no longer cope with another mouth to feed, single parents who had to work to survive, or children who ran away from alcoholic and abusive parents drowning in their own misery.

In 1852 the Reverend Charles Loring Brace saw the need to save the children if they were to have any chance of a good life. He believed that families were the answer, not institutions. The result was the Children's Aid Society of New York, founded in 1853. The society's innovative solution was to send children westward into the American interior where families could adopt them. Families who needed boys to help on the homesteads and girls to help in the house. And couples who just wanted a child, or another child.

Of course the book I read was written for children so it skipped over the fact that many of the children were treated as slaves and abused in their new homes. And many of them resented the fact that they had been sent far away when they already had families in New York. Many of them ran away from their new homes and did not end up as the upright adults they were 'supposed' to have been.

Fry relates the success stories of children loved and educated. Children who grew up to be lawyers, doctors, clergymen, mayors and politicians. They inherited property, they became parents and grandparent across America.

By the 1920s the Western States had big cities of their own with their own poverty and orphans to care for. They didn't want more children dumped on them from the East. Homesteading was no longer the way to make it rich and most of the land had already been claimed. People were more likely to be living in towns and cities where extra children weren't needed so much.

The last orphan train left New York in 1929. Over 200,000 children had been relocated on orphan trains and baby trains over 76 years. And yet, until the 1970s, hardly anyone had heard of this movement. People were secretive, ashamed of their lowly past or frightened of being stigmatized perhaps. Many of the Baby Train children were never even told that they had been adopted.

Some rough mental arithmetic suggests that by 1976, when everything changed, there were over a million Americans whose parents or grandparents were orphan train children and most of them knew nothing about it.

What happened in 1976? I found this fascinating as I remember the event well. In 1976 we all watched Roots on television. Alex Haley traced his family back 10 generations to a black tribesman, Kunta Kinte, who was kidnapped in West Africa and sold as a slave in America. Suddenly one's ancestry was something to be proud of, no matter how lowly. It was the beginning of popular interest in genealogy.

The last orphans now in their 50s to 80s started trying to find out who they really were. If they had blood relatives. Were they Irish or Jewish? And their children suddenly found out that their grandparents were their adoptive grandparents. The story was out.

The Amazing Potato wasn't so sensational except for the tragic chapters about the Potato Famine. It was interesting to make the connection between the two books. All history is connected after all.

One fact I loved in the potato book is that the potato was brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors who found people eating potatoes in Peru. They were after gold which they stole in great quantities. The potatoes were just what to eat on the journey home. The potato industry was worth $100 billion a year in 1992. (Almost 30 years later this figure has probably doubled or even tripled.) LOL, they should have left some of the gold and invested in more potatoes.



Friday, February 16, 2018

I Tried To Kill The Carpet But It Wouldn't Die


The carpet after 'treatment'. 
Following on from my post about the new sofas yesterday, I want to tell you about how I tried to kill the carpet but it would not die or even, despite my best efforts, get sick.

The story starts 11 years ago when I bought the carpet. when it arrived in my apartment I was surprised. I wasn't sure that this was the carpet I'd ordered. I thought I'd ordered a creamier colour, less brown. I don't like brown and I never really liked this carpet although it did look quite impressive in the room.

Last year, after 10 years of wear, in a sandy climate, with a young child, and many tv suppers, I decided to have the carpet professionally cleaned. The adverts for the cleaning company on Facebook showed miraculous results on various sofas. I was expecting miraculous too.

They took the carpet away, cleaned it, and brought it back. It looked a bit cleaner. But not much. I was disappointed. Especially as the one definite stain was still there. But I assumed that a 10 year old carpet in a desert climate, with a young child and many tv suppers, was uncleanable to 'new' condition and they did the best possible job under the circumstances. (I know now that they didn't use bleach. Probably because they didn't want to fade the colour. Hahaha.)

When I posted my old sofa and chair for free on Facebook, I included the carpet. But as the evening wore on I wasn't happy about giving the carpet away for free. The sofa was without its original cushions and the chair had a large bottom-sized dent in the seat. But there was nothing wrong with the carpet - it was just a bit grubby. Maybe another cleaning firm would do a better job?

I looked at Ikea carpets online. The one I really like is 1,700 nis. I looked again at my old carpet. Maybe it would go ok with the new sofas. I took it off the Facebook post.

After the old furniture went I had more room to consider the carpet. I'd also seen online that they make new carpets in an already faded, antiquated look - as if it has been sun-bleached. I don't hate the pattern on my carpet, I just want it lighter and less brown. So I went to work.

The carpet before.
But the whole exposure of the photo is darker so you can't really judge.
I looked online for 'how to bleach a carpet' and 'how to fade a carpet'. All the advice was for getting stains out or for restoring colour to a bleached carpet. So I used my initiative.

After, Can you see a difference?
First I found laundry bleach which I mixed with laundry detergent, dissolved the mixture in water and chucked it all over the carpet. I scrubbed it with my silicon broom. None of the colour came out. I had a bottle of cheap vinegar so I tried scrubbing with that all over the carpet. No change. So I bought a bottle of laundry whites bleach with chlorine and sprayed that all over, and scrubbed it. No colour came out. By now the carpet was beginning to smell a bit so I squeezed lemon juice all over the carpet and scrubbed again. No change.

I tell a lie. There was a change. The carpet was clean. Cleaner than when I spent 350 nis to have it cleaned last year. And the annoying stain was gone. It's a tiny bit lighter in colour - possibly? But not the bleached look I wanted. If anything the colours are brighter and more vibrant.

I finished off with a lot of water and a spray with Laura Ashley floral scent. We had the window open and the radiator on for a week to get it all dry and aired out. It looks good if you want a brownish carpet and I saved 350 nis on getting it cleaned.

It's beginning to grow on me now that the new sofas are here. I think perhaps it goes better with these sofas than it did with the old furniture. Now I'm thinking that it's the coffee table and the cushions that have to go...... It never ends does it?
This is the effect I was aiming for. LOL.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sofa So Good - R2BC



Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. I'm in with the linky over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum as usual.

1
The New Sofas
The New Sofas arrived. I'm very happy with them. In an ideal world I'd like to get a lighter carpet to go with them, and more sophisticated cushions, and a white sideboard, and possibly a new coffee table. But for now the room is starting to look tidier and more put together.

2
WAHM
I so need to be a work at home mum. I didn't go to school today as the new sofas were being delivered (apparently they only deliver to Jerusalem on Thursday mornings). As it happens, I only missed one lesson because of class trips and other events, so it wasn't too bad of me.

The day at home was amazing. I did two loads of laundry and finished my freelance writing work completely. Then the sofas came. Then I went to the income tax office to get my tax position forms for each of the four companies I work for. Then I went into college to give in their tax position form and fax the other three to the relevant people. While I was there I also printed out and graded the final exam to come in from one of my courses. Then I came home and paid all my utility bills by phone. I did some online grading whilst babysitting for my neighbour's two-month old baby so that she could pop out and collect her other child from nursery. I made DD a healthy salad for supper and played Rumikub with DD after supper and now I'm getting my R2BC written on Thursday (just) which is the day it's supposed to appear.

Usually on Thursday evening all I can do is throw some pasta and cheese together and go to bed before The News.

3
Second Second Hand Sale
Tonight we got a Whatsapp from DD's youth movement leader about a second hand sale they are having. It's to raise money for the 17 year olds to go on The March Of The Living in Poland. It's an important trip and it's not cheap so they want to help those who need financial assistance. I'm happy to help but we just had the Yedidya Bazaar and a sale at DD's school, and I gave a whole lot of stuff to our neighbour's daughter. I didn't have much left to give away. Nevertheless, I went round the house and found....
6 plastic cups
4 CDs
2 DVDs
2 wine glasses
1 candle holder
1 mug with a matching tea-strainer and lid.

I also threw away an empty CD box, I gave the little girl downstairs another dress, and there was something else because I counted 19 things to add to my running total of 360 clutters decluttered, now 379. Oh yes, a new scrubby thing for the shower that came as part of a gift. (I kept the liquid soap that was the other part of the gift.)

4
The Weather
The weather turned cooler again and we had some torrential rain but that's okay because we still need rain. On Saturday it's supposed to be thunder and lightning. I'm looking forward to it as we're going out for dinner on Friday Night and not putting a foot out of the door on Saturday. I love severe weather when you don't have to go out in it. I shall snuggle down in my bed and think of my friends with dogs to take out. Hee hee hee.

Have a wonderful weekend y'all.

Friday, February 9, 2018

An Empty Nest - R2BC

For a moment we wondered why we needed wanted new furniture.

When a system works it works. And this is one of my reasons to be cheerful this week. I'm on the linky over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum as usual for a round of cheerful blogs.

1
The Other Reason
The weather has been in the 20sC all week. No coats, no heating needed, windows flung open... OK, I won't rub it in and we are forecast a couple of rainy days next week.


The Expensive Clarinet
The Clarinet is turning out to be extremely expensive. We walked down to the music shop to buy a packet of 10 reeds (for 85 nis) and we came home having ordered two new sofas (considerably more than 85 nis). Honestly, we just popped into the furniture shop to have a look and to check out the comfort of some of the cheap sofas I'd seen online. (The cheap ones are not comfortable btw.)

Going ....
In fairness I've been looking at sofas for a long time. My sofa was bequeathed to me by a lady who bought the wrong size for her enormous apartment. So she had it moved to my apartment and she ordered a bigger one. I'd had it for about 17 years.

It was hand-made and very good quality but nine years of children using it as a climbing frame had made the cream fabric decidedly grubby. And the down filled cushions were always slipping onto the floor and needed puffing up all the time. I took the grubby cover off and threw out the cushions. I put an old foam mattress covered in a fitted sheet, for the seat, and acquired new cushions with my free gift voucher from when I bought my fridge. I'd turned a very expensive sofa into a student couch.

... going ...
But it was still bulky to move and so I hardly ever cleaned under it. Though it was all right that it was 2 m wide, the arms flanked out taking up another 15 cm at each end. When the room is only 3 m wide this was an annoying waste of space. It was just heavy and too big. I wanted something lighter, smaller, cleaner, more practical, and less brown. We are trying to get away from the brown.

I ordered two two-seaters on legs so that you can clean underneath them. These are everywhere atm. I don't know if it's because people want lighter, airier spaces these days (to go with all the trendy decluttering and minimalizing?) or if it's because people want something that the robot can hoover under. (The Robot - that automatic disc that goes round your apartment and hoovers for you while you're out.) Anyway, they are daintier and four people can have an armrest or two people (us) can lay out on them. They arrive in two weeks.

... gone.
The sofa and the armchair had to go. As the sofa was free to  me and was bereft of cushions (I let them have the mattress and its sheet cover but not my cushions) I decided that the best way to get rid of it without the cost of paying removers to take it down three flights of stairs, was to give it away on facebook. I also offered the chair that has a big bottom-sized dent in the seat.

I tidied up and took photos of the sofa as it was offered (undressed) and also with the cushions on so people could see what it could look like when dressed. It looked really nice and cozy. We almost wondered why we had even bought new furniture.

There was a lot of interest from facebook but in the end three Filipinos turned up at 10pm with an old car. Between them they got the sofa, and the chair, downstairs and tied onto the car at no expense to anyone. They drove off at about 3 mph with all their lights flashing. The sofa on top and the chair sticking out the back.

DD cried. She hates change.

It only took five hours! Who knew?
If I'd known it would take only five hours to clear the living room I'd have waited until the new sofas were on their way. I thought it might take a couple of weeks to find someone who wanted the old furniture and then to arrange a convenient time for the removal. I know I could have given the guys who brought the new sofas some money to take the old sofa down but I was being cheap and I wanted it to go to a good home, not left by the bins. (Although people also take used furniture from by the bins).

So we'll hang out in the bedroom for a while and dream about our new living room. And hope it arrives early.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

360 And Up

The fourth trip. 
360 items have been decluttered from my home since October 2017. This time I mean really out of the house, not just stored in cupboards waiting for the Yedidya Bazaar. This is because 1. The Yedidya Bazaar 2018 started today, 2. DD's school fair was on Friday last, and 3. the February Project is one final decluttering (and spring clean) to minimalism.

So here's how it went. I made four trips to Yedidya with big bags filled with good things that we no longer, if we ever did, use or need. It was about 10 bags in all. Big bags not shopping bags. More like small suitcases if you will.

Most of it was stuff I'd put away in October when I started my 500 Clutters Challenge. It was all in a cupboard over a wardrobe and some drawers under the same wardrobe. Everything gone. That was three trips. (I walked it there with the help of my shopping trolley as I don't have a car, hence the multiple trips, but it's only 5 minutes down the road.) And I concluded the first half of the challenge in October with a tally of 250.

Then DD had her school fair. That ended  up being 38 bags of miniature Kinder egg toys to sell so I counted that as 38. I took 4 things to the little girl downstairs. I binned 1 T-shirt as I had gone through my wardrobe a year ago and thrown out anything that was too far worn to wear again. Are you keeping count? We're up to 43 items.

On Saturday afternoon I went into my wardrobe and managed to find 46 things (including 5 pairs of shoes, counted as 5 not 10) that I could let go. That was one hour of just looking through and pulling things out. I didn't get anywhere near Narnia and, as I mentioned somewhere last week, I still have clothes from 30 years ago that I will never fit into again and I know it. I am sure sure sure that I'll have an other 50 items of clothing at least, to let go when I reach a confident weight. I am not proud of this mass of clothing but it is is what it is. However, it made up the fourth trip to Yedidya on Saturday evening so that's a good deed done. 43 + 46 = 99.

I gave 4 jumpers to DD that are far too small for me and adorably large on her. One of them is a pure wool Koala Bear jumper that I bought in Melbourne in 1990. I also gave her one of the 3 bathrobes I have and don't use any of them. Another one went to the Yedidya Bazaar and the third is a sort of interior design feature hanging on the back of my door. Well there are hooks so you have to hang something. 104

To my horror, I found 7 shoe boxes in the back row of a shelf in the wardrobe. I had to throw them out as I saw that I was turning into my father. "You never know when you'll need a good box." 111.

I know that 250 + 111 is actually 361 but I think DD stole back a few of the teddies I was taking to Yedidya, and I'm sure some other things have gone out since October. It's not a science so I'm comfortable with declaring it to be 360.

I honestly don't know when I'll get to 500 but I hope to get rid of (or start the Yedidya Bazaar collection for next year) this month as I tackle the February Project.



Friday, February 2, 2018

R2BC - The Spring Edition

The street light eclipses the Supermoon. See below where I cropped it out.
Yes Spring has sprung here in Israel. I saw some almond blossoms on my way to school the other day. On Wednesday we celebrated Tu Bshvat, the New Year for Trees, and the weather just keeps on getting warmer. We're now in the late teens C, with blues skies and happy hearts. So plenty of Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. The Linky is back with Becky this month, on Lakes Single Mum. 

1
Spring
See above. And additionally, a bit of warm weather makes everything fine. I am enjoying my school teaching again, as I do every year as soon as the cold weather passes. We finished the first semester, We are in February which is a lot closer to fun festivals like Purim and Passover than January was and seemed. At college I get three Tuesdays off work for the mid-semester break (the fourth Tuesday is my students' exam so I'm hands on all day.)

That's better.
I've given up on getting a snow day this year. It's almost certainly not going to happen. It was a very mild winter although they are forecasting more rain in the middle of the month. We're still using the heating in the evenings just to take off the chill and for a pleasant apres-shower experience, but not at all during the day.

And to think I used to call February the Monday morning of the year. Well it was and maybe still is in old Blighty. I think it used  to be here too but the winters have got shorter. Oooh crikey! Note to self - go vegan, stop using plastic, swim to London for the holidays....

All the fun of the....
2
The School Fair
LOL, DD and her friend came home with 32 shekels each (about £7.50) from those little bags of old Kinder Surprises and other clutter around their bedrooms. And they probably spent a good 10 shekels each at other stalls. We didn't take any extra money with us so we were well chuffed with the extra pocket money this week.

DD and her business partner.
The sun was in my eyes so I just pointed and clicked.
I had no idea they were both looking the other way.
#Rubbishphotographer
True to character, DD's friend wanted to save the money and was very strict about how much they could each spend. DD kept saying it's all about spending it not saving. My viewpoint was that all this money was going from stall to stall and it had to end up somewhere at the end of the fair. Anyway we did all right and I brought home our six leftover bags to give my youngest pupils as treats.

A lot of cupcakes, cookies and sweets were eaten but there were also less sugary options for refreshments - a pasta stand, popcorn, two fruit salad stalls, a strawberries and cream stall, fruit skewers, and a fruit smoothie stall.

As always the kids were very enterprising with one member of each team going round peddling their wares while the other minded the shop. I saw one boy sell a stallholder some popcorn for a shekel and while he was there, he bought something off the stall for a shekel. The shekel was handed back. I don't know why they did't just swap as everything was a shekel and there were no taxes to declare.

I thought this pancakes and toppings stall was a very good idea.
3
Report Card
DD got her report card for the first semester. It was a solid B report. She was a bit disappointed because she's come a long way this year and so expected more. I was very pleased with it. Having always been a C+ sort of gal myself, a B report is to be celebrated imo.

4
Supermoon
Apparently there was a Supermoon on Wednesday. People on facebook were urging me to look eastwards and be amazed. As my apartment faces west, I had to go out. Meh, it was big. Someone said something about an eclipse and the moon going blue and red. I didn't see anything like that but it was big and I got an eerie photo of the end of my street.



Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Our Kinder Surprise

Kinder Egg Heaven

DD's School Fair is this Friday. Like last year, DD and a couple of friends are having a toy stall. Unlike last year, there will be real money involved. But everything has to be 1 shekel or less (about 20p) so we're not talking about fortunes. And the kids get to keep any money they make. It's a shame there's no charity involved or anything going to school funds but it's still a great opportunity for us to get some stuff out of the house and into other people's houses. Tee hee hee. 

World Cup Footballers
We had quite a few games and puzzles going to the Yedidya Bazaar, which coincidently is on Sunday and Monday next week, and I said DD could take them to school for her stall. However, she very wisely decided, imo, that these games are worth far more than 1 shekel and she'd rather they went to the Yedidya Bazaar where people who couldn't afford nice games could buy them for 3 shekels. And the money goes to charity rather than just for her and her friends to be able to buy more sweets. "Where's the goodness in that?" she asked with her earnest face on.

Hello Kitties
Then we had the most brilliant idea, even if I say so myself. Absolutely inspired. Thanks to about five years of Kinder Eggs and ice lollies with figures in them, we had an enormous collection of miniature toys and nothing to do with them. Hello Kitties, Angry Birds, World Cup Football figures, spinners, cars, little animals, Disney princesses, and tiny Bratz dolls. We sorted them all out and made sets in sandwich bags for 1 shekel each.

35 bags in all





I found another bag of spinning tops that I'd bought for a Hannuka party once and never used so they will go for a shekel each. And see those coloured necklace cords on the final photo? They were from party favours - flashing balls that you wear around your neck whilst disco dancing in the dark, left over from my nephew's Bar Mitzva four years ago. The flashes had died so I removed the cords and attached them to those little dolls that came out of Kinder Eggs.

Angry Birds
















Who says I'm not creative


DD has 35 bags to sell for a shekel each. I told her that whatever doesn't sell she should give away at the end.

This is the last year we will be able to do this of course, because I'm going minimalist next month. I took two big bags of stuff to Yedidya today and I've got two more big bags and the booster seat waiting to go tomorrow.

But for now back to the January paperwork....