Thursday, 31 July 2014


My brother has just moved out West of state so we went to visit him and have a look around.

After about 3 hours driving (with a rest stop for a picnic lunch), we arrived and had a look around his new neighbourhood, drove downtown and took a stroll along the shores of Lake Michigan.

We had dinner at a lovely place called Verdonis, my step mum and I shared a Bianci pizza, it was really filling.

We spent the whole day getting lost and going back on ourselves, it took us three goes to get back to the hotel after we dropped my brother off at his apartment - the iPad was out of juice and we had to keep ringing him to tell us where we were.

The hotel was fairly nice and pretty clean but we had incredibly soft beds, they were like trampolines! After tossing and turning the night away, we went to Whitlow's restaurant for eggs and american potatoes. The owner is a hunter and goes out to South Africa to hunt and then taxidermies the animals. The place had all these fish he'd caught all round the walls and a little room full of wild animals.

After breakfast we drove out to the sand dunes and strolled along the beach. It was misty and warm but the water was cold cold cold.

We stopped for a coffee at a sweet little coffee shop called the Brew House, next door to the restaurant we had dinner in. We even had the same waitress - it turns out she works in both places.

It was really nice to have a couple of days away by the beach - even if I didn't get to swim because the water was too cold I still managed to get my feet wet. It was lovely to see the area where my brother lives, it seems like a nice area, people say hello as you walk by and there are plenty of parks to walk the dog. We visited his work and had a look around, he's doing really well for himself - I'm glad.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Early Morning Trip to the Market

The neighbours had invited my dad and I to go with them to the market in town, so we got up this morning and were out the door at 7am to get down there before the rush. We had breakfast out nearby at the Russell Street Cafe, they had waffles and hashes but I opted for a veggie omlette with wholewheat toast.

It was pretty good. And there was no way that I was going shopping before breakfast, even for food. The atmosphere is nice, it is one of the old 1930s builds in the downtown area, many of which are being pulled down now, I like the high ceilings, exposed pipes and brickwork. They hadn't even opened their shutters when we arrived but pretty soon the place filled up - by 8.30 when we left they were fairly much full.

After that we went into a whole food store to look around, again you could see a nice example of the 1930s brick work and wooden floors that were common in the city's hey day. From there we went onto the Eastern Market. There is covered space that is pretty airy and stalls selling mostly fruit and veg at one end of the market and flowers and plants at the other end. It is pretty big, and you can see that there is a lot of space for more stalls. Many of them were locally grown produce, some were juices, peanut butter, plants, and even some drinking vinegar which I had never heard of (you use it as a mixer for cocktails apparently). As we wandered around we encountered various buskers - a really good xylophone player, a couple of girls singing, a couple of saxophonists. We picked up some fresh cherries, corn, tomatoes, peaches, apricots, radishes and a small cactus plant for my dad's study. I was pretty impressed with the number of stall holders and how reasonable the prices were. When we left at about 10, it was already getting more than busy - but it was worth getting up early for, hopefully we'll make it down there again for another look around.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Face the Music

Yesterday I got to go for my usual facial with my lovely Polish beauty therapist Eva. She is tiny and talks more than anyone I can think of, and I have never met anyone who did more for my skin than she has.
She started off by waxing my eyebrows. She knows that I have fairly sensitive dry skin and she says 'don't use a harsh exfoliant, it will bring you out in zits, just mix a bit of bicarb of soda with some of your normal facewash in your hand and use that' (she recommends a baby top-to-toe shampoo formula, but any face wash will do). After she had washed my face throughly with that, she applied a mixture of 4oz of coconut oil with 10 drops of peppermint (put the bottle in hot water and the oil will melt), she then put quite a lot on and gave me a shoulder and neck massage (yum!) and then washed the oil off again (but you can happily use that as moisturiser if you are careful not to use too much). She said that she also has some with lavender oil or eucalyptus oil depending on whether it is morning or evening. After washing that off she liberally smeared my face with witch hazel and then steamed my face for about half an hour. After that she cleaned out blackheads and other yucky things and then applied some fruit acid. When that was soaked in she gave me a face mask and left that on for a good 10 mins til it was dry to the touch and gave me a foot massage (with the peppermint oil, I think) and then washed the mask off really thoroughly and then smeared me with witch hazel again. So now my skin is starting to settle down, I reckon by tomorrow it will really glow. Happy skin, happy neck, happy feet - yaaaay!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Coming and Going (or rather Going and Coming)

After a few tumultuous weeks of running around at the end of term I finally got to jet off to visit the family. I saw my dad recently, but I haven't seen my step mum since last Christmas - a year and a half is a long time!

I got to the airport in good time, but ended up held up in security and got chatting to a lovely man who was waiting for his bag (strange shaped camera tripod) and watched while the security people took out about eight mini pots of jam from one lady's bag.... could you have jam bombs? They would be tasty at least. Maybe jam with popping candy in? By the time I'd finished drinking the apple juice carton that I'd forgotten in my handbag and he had repacked his tripod we were ready to start a business together.

The flight was pretty uneventful, I had a gentleman either side of me, one was in the military strategy bit of the US Navy and the other was a scientist working at Glaxo Smith Klein, both pretty interesting chaps. I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel - I do like Wes Anderson films and The Lego Movie - I really enjoyed both of them, they were a lot of fun.

Then came a five hour layover in Philadelphia airport. What do you do in an airport for five hours? Sit in a rocking chair and read. Yes, they have rocking chairs. And also exercise bikes.

Rock and roll. By the time 9pm rolled around I was ready to get on a flight. By the time we arrived at the house it was about 12pm and I was long overdue for bed. The following morning we hosted the Sunday morning bagel group, and we sat out in the sun and ate breakfast and drank coffee and had a chat. Lovely.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Sense of an Ending

On Tuesday I had the last Rochester class: after five and a half years of teaching the class has been closed. My heart hurt a lot all day, getting heavier and heavier as I got in the car to make my last journey out to Delce Rd. I set up that familiar room and I was preparing a couple of my students peeked round the door and gave me a bunch of flowers. Just before class started I noticed that the clock in the hall had stopped, and upon checking my watch had too. I bought that watch for meditation - how fitting. We had a little class, there was minimal fuss which was just the way I wanted it. At the end and one of the gentlemen who has been a long time regular gave me some china as a thank you present. By the end of the class I was feeling relieved for it to be over, and a great deal of affection towards my students - I have no doubt that I will lose some and keep touch with others, that is the way of all things. I had a lovely chat with the caretaker, 'I'll miss our Tuesday night chats' he said, and I must agree - sometimes I would talk to him more often than I talked to my friends, he never failed to make me smile. He said that he would send me the odd text about his boys, give me a shout if he was coming to town so maybe we could chat over coffee. I handed the keys back ceremoniously and both of us were a little uncomfortable. I drove home, and the moon hung a misty red and purple blaze in the sky, I listened to Hey Ocean, just like the first solo car journey I made, the roads were clear and smooth and uncluttered and my heart was easy.... and I hope that this is an omen for how life will be too. My last voyage out, my last voyage back, five and a half years of teaching, tens, maybe hundreds of people through those doors - I never wanted to teach, but I am very grateful that I did, I learnt so much. For the last time I get to say: I love my Rochester students.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

'I Give Advice'

I saw this gentleman sitting with a sign on the High St today, so I went over to ask him what he was doing.
Gentleman: 'I'm from Bulgaria, I'm trying to raise some money to stay here for my studies... you want some advice?'
Me: 'I don't know, what advice would you like to give me?'
Gentleman: 'When people ask me that I usually give them this advice: Whatever you want you can manifest it, you just have to align your intention with your actions. You have to behave as though you already have those conditions and then they will start to come true. I really think that things will manifest if you make sure your reality is in line with your thoughts, just live your intentions.'

'I give advice (and information) on: *Life *Love *Work *Astronomy *Anything else (I try) *Partying * Spirituality *Science *Family *Addiction *Dealing with parents *Poetry * Holiday planning *Coping with stress *Computers *Art *Making money *Dealing with children. Talk to me for Free! Pay £1 only if you are satisfied with the answer.'

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Chap Olympiad 2014

Yesterday we attended the 10th annual Chap Olympiad in Bedford Square Gardens. We brought picnics (and picnic blankets), drank Pimms, drank tea, ate cake, watched the odd-non sporting event, and even had a little dance at the end. But most of all, I watched people: the costumes were incredible. The sporting events were ridiculous. The moustaches were even more ridiculous. The commentator was hilarious. In short, it was delightful, and I expect I shall be doing things of this nature again.

The Sporting Events included:
The Bicycle Race - where you have to cycle with a cup of tea, the one with the most tea in the cup at the end wins

The Strong Man

The Brief Case Dash - form a phalanx, the first team to get the to the other side wins

'Just when you think things can't get any better..... they probably can't'.

Bowler Hat Volleyball - yes, that is a net made of string tied between two hat stands

Not Playing Tennis

and finally there were awards for the Winners (Bronze, Gold, Silver)

Most impressive were the people:
There were many many safari suits

Even the children were vintage

Our next door (well, blanket) neighbours

Wedgewood cufflinks

I'm slightly in love with this man
And I'd quite like to be this lady

The Chaps themselves

Of course we had tea and Pimms cake

And some dancing to round off the day - I even had a dance with a lovely young man.

I wasn't the only one snapping away, someone got an unsuspecting photo of us too (I think it was the gentleman in the purple tie when he wasn't napping....) by jupiterbaal on instagram

And the weather held off until our walk to the tube station. Hurrah! I did leave my brolly behind, but oh well, one can't have everything in life. I'm very happy I attended and I'll be looking out for more Chap events in the future.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Tiny Strawberries (but no Pimms as yet....)

I have the summer holidays off work so now that I have some free time I have a chance to get creative - including finishing off some sewing that I started way back when before my sewing machine broke the first time. I got hold of Fran, my sewing lady, and we finally finished off this pattern:

It is an original 1940s pattern, which is delightful, only that original patterns assume that you have original 1940s knowledge of sewing. For me this was less than ideal, as not having grown up with a family that sews it meant that it misses out half of the steps you need to complete the pattern. I think I'll stick to reproduction patterns until my sewing knowledge is better!

Anyway, I did manage to finish off the pattern with Fran's help, and in doing so I learnt about sleeves, collars and cuffs so all is not lost. I also did covered buttons, forgetting that they are fiddly and a generally a right pain.... now I know why wedding dress makers charge so much, imagine doing 200 of these! They are very high on my list of people that I admire right now.

I got to make a belt as well. I adore making belts... all that hammering... and the matchy matchiness of it all afterwards. 

Here is a close up of the teeny tiny strawberry fabric:

Are those covered buttons? Why yes! Are those machine made button holes? Yes indeedy. And pin tucks as well? Yes, as well as a peplum beyond the waist. So there.

I get the impression that I will not be wearing this much, as lovely as it is I'm just not a shirt-y person. I dare say I could find something to wear it to one day... or maybe someone my size to lend it to. In any case it was a real learning experience and I'm really proud of the finished garment.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Interesting Times

As the Chinese saying goes: 'may you live in interesting times.' It is considered to be a curse by some... and this is where I find myself now, in a swirling mist of shadows, internal and external.

My grandma's funeral is being planned for late August / early September, she donated her body to the Science dept at the University and they have now released it so we can have a ceremony. Mum asked if I had a preference for the grave / memorial - I said it might as well be in Israel, where she lived most of her life after all. I'm not much of a visitor of graves for grieving, I have my own memories inside me, I have a painting of her on the wall, some of her jewellery on my shelves. I'm not sure if we are cremating her or burying her, I'm fine with either, it is the person I miss, not the body she inhabited, I don't mind what happens now. Maybe some of the grief will lift and the heaviness will dissipate from my heart now.

The other external news is that last week I was told by the management at the centre that they are cancelling my meditation class and that I will be teaching another one on a Thursday instead. I am a slow processor of emotional information, I have been teaching that class for six years. I will keep in contact with people, I will think about them and have dinner with them, and I will wonder how all the others are doing as I always have done with people that I have lost touch with, I will try and remember their names and wonder if they are still happily married, how old their children are now, if they still meditate at all. In some ways it is not losing the class that makes my heart ache, it is being told, with no consultation, that we are disbanding a regular class for monetary reasons, that getting between 10 and 20 people a week is not enough, that no other options were considered, all those people can simply find another class in the next town over. When I told them on Tues night at the class (and on facebook for the ones who missed it) I was not expecting such a strong response. One of my students said:  'I remember coming to class and saying to Nat, 'it just is not for me to be happy in this life' her reply was 'of course it is'. I said 'really', 'yes' she replied. It was then that I really believed, that was the beginning of my Buddhist journey, I now live with the teachings in my heart and mind everyday.' I don't remember that, it's funny how you influence people without even knowing. The students are upset and bewildered but it will settle down and we will see what happens.

As for me, I am choosing not to make any decisions right now, I am going to visit my family soon so I will take the opportunity to look at things from a different angle, take my time, see what my heart says, see what the Buddhas tell me, see what the world presents me with in that time. The funny thing about all this is that even in the midst of all this shadow and mist, I feel like there is opportunity lurking, obstacles being cleared away, space created for things to happen that could not have come to pass without all this change. It feels like maybe some of this is leaving my heart and I am starting to feel lighter than I have for a while. Who knows what things may come.

Whenever my teacher used to give us schedules for things there was always this footnote at the bottom that said 'Please remember that all things are impermanent and subject to change.' Life's fine print warning - thank you for the reminder.