Category Archives: shiputzim

Drip, Drip, Drip

Leaks: Still there.  Gonna be a while before we can sort out the roof.  This is complex, because it involves fighting with the va’ad bayit (homeowner’s association) and then getting contractors to fix the roof, which can’t be done in any case until all the rain stops and the roof has a chance to dry.  We’re living with plastic sheeting and scattered towels…

Crack that back! Nothing like a trip to the chiro-quack to put a spring in your step. One of those “ow-ow-ow-aaaaah!” experiences.  Driving there, I see a car weaving all over the road.  No camels on board, but two little knee-biters in the back, screaming and whacking each other.  No wonder the mom at the wheel was losing it…

Update from Gaza: What is really going on there?  If you haven’t read this report, do so!  Hat tip to CBA.

How cheap is Ryan Air? OK, this is only a joke, but anyone who has been recently gouged for baggage, extra taxes, paper ticket fees, etc., will appreciate this.  Hat tip to Central LS.



IKEA Must Die

Are those stigmata on your palm, or have you been assembling IKEA furniture?  The damn stuff arrives yesterday, finally.  Those bastards don’t even offer me any kind of chuparim to make up for the three week delay.  Still, it is here, so I gleefully start unpacking.

I start with the little coffee table, which is simplicity itself.  Then it is on to my office work surface, and that, too, is quite simple.  Then I start on the dining room table.  Oi, gevalt.

First, the darn thing is quite complicated, because it has extension leaves and a gazillion parts.  But what stops me in my tracks is that I actually don’t have enough physical strength to screw the pieces together.  There are several wood screws that are supposed to go into partially pre-drilled holes, but I can’t get them in.  After lots of sweat, huffing and puffing, and the start of two spectacular blisters on my palm, I give up and call a friend.  It takes the two of us to hours to do the table and the sleeper-bed chair thing. 

By the end, one of the blisters has ruptured, leaving a raw, red spot smack dab in the middle of my right palm.  I’m thinking that the first case of stimata might actually have been a devout Catholic trying to assemble some IKEA furniture without power tools. 

Time for some thank-yous: Yes, it is way overdue, but here is a partial list of those wonderful people who helped me through this period of shiputzim and moving:

  • Leah S: Rose petals tossed in your general direction for peeling wallpaper, spackling, hanging shelves, drilling holes, assembling IKEA furniture, making me laugh, and generally keeping me from slitting my wrists.
  • Gilah S: A gold medal for peeling wallpaper, scrubbing, prepping, more scrubbing, baling me out with a much-needed card table, and offering some excellent advice.
  • Cathy T: Assorted virtual chocolates for offering extended doggy daycare during shiputzim, plus accompanying me on that grueling and painful IKEA shopping experience (and keeping me from inflicting serious bodily harm on several IKEA employees).
  • Renee R: A sweaty hug for lending me you furniture, your kids, and helping me hang pictures.
  • Alex T: I grovel at your feet.  As Der Spachtel Meister who did more to help prep the walls and fix electrical stuff, you deserve at least a Nobel Prize in shiputzim.

There’s still more to do, but it is already a real home, rather than an empty shell of an apartment.  It is clean, fresh, and pleasant, and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.  Also thanks to all of my friends who kept me sane via phone calls, email, and just good thoughts!

Adjusting to a New Home

I’m in:  After a three-week slog of shiputzim and then the stress of packing, moving, and unpacking, I’m here.  The new place is only two kilometers from my previous place, but the view is much better.

Here’s the view from the main balcony, looking south-west:

Another angle, slightly more to the south:

Here is the view towards the east in the very early morning. The little shacks on the hill are actually part of a small Bedouin encampment. They take their goats past our building every morning.

While I am not totally unpacked (after all, I am still waiting for furniture from IKEA, which they have now promised to deliver FOUR TIMES).  There are still some boxes, there are pictures to hang, and unfinished projects, but I’m managing.  The kitchen came out quite nicely, if I say so myself:

Here’s part of the lovely cabinet trim in more detail:

Of course, there are still ugly bits, such as the kitchen wall, which still needs to be prepped and painted. There is tile cement to chip off, spackling, priming, etc.

So that’s the news for now.  Things are hectic and will remain so until I get completely settled in, caught up on work (which requires getting a working Internet connection!), and done with all the projects.  Some furniture would help, too, I suppose…

One nice thing is that I am right next to the walking path.  Terri and I trot downstairs, through a parking lot, across one street, and we are there.  In three minutes, the girl is off the leash and cavorting gleefully, chasing hyrax, and generally having a lovely doggy time.

Still Alive…

The shiputzim never end:  I’ve been off the air for a while because of the unrelenting schedule of tryiing to get this stuff done.  Plus I seemed to come down with something and lost a day or so.  Anyhow, today is shaping up to be one of those killer days: kitchen cabinets will be installed, I’ll be painting, my office cabinets will be moved, and there are supposed to be a few deliveries.  Meanwhile, here’s what’s happened since last week:

  • Finished stripping off all the wallpaper in the living room and prepping the walls (lots of spackle) with the very generous help from a friend’s husband.
  • Prepped the office and the bathroom for painting, including getting all the gunge off from the crappy job the plumbing contractors did.
  • Blew a gasket at the morons at Home Center, who had never placed the order for my bathroom sink and cabinet unit.  Now, two weeks later, the order is placed, so I may be moving into an apartment without a bathroom sink for a while.  Grrrr!
  • Survived a horrific visit to IKEA, with help from a friend.  It wasn’t just the long journey there and back (IKEA is near Netanya, which is about an hour and 45 minutes from Karmiel), but there was a sale going on, so the place was jam packed to the point where you could barely move.  Even worse, they had sold out of at least half the things on my list, so it was a very frustrating experience.
  • Discovered another plumbing problem—this one on the utility mirpeset.
  • Have been completely unsuccessful at getting the movers to return my calls…

Wish me luck.  If all goes well, a huge chunk of the work will be behind us by this time tomorrow…

The Shiputzim Saga, part 3

Slow progress: Nothing like discovering unforeseen problems.  Outlets needed to be moved.  The sink drain was in the wrong place.  I spend most of the day coping with Sami’s workers from Sachnin (one of the big villages in the area).  I’ve discovered that “15 minutes” means something entirely different in Arab culture than in Anglo culture.  It is a day of three steps forward, two steps back.  I spend part of it chiseling away at concrete.  At least it seems to be as effective as a gym workout! 

One of the reasons that it was such a tough day was that I got home from Tel Aviv at 23:30 last night and slept for four hours.  Yikes.  I have another two weeks of this before my life will have any semblance of normalcy. 

Meanwhile, Terri is being incredibly naughty, though she is as sweet as sugar with my neighbor’s elderly mom (who doesn’t speak a word of Hebrew or English).  She croons at Terri in Ukrainian, and Terri leans against her and looks adorable.  Hard to believe that this is the same dog who started barking and snarling at a helpless puppy on this evening’s walk.  Gotta sign up for those obedience classes!

Doggy of the day: Check out Jerry amusing himself.  (Clearly, Jerry’s human is an engineering geek.)  Hat tip to Gilah.

The Shiputzim Saga, part 2

Wallpaper is evil:  After spending now countless hours peeling wallpaper, and not being anywhere near finished, I have come the conclusion that wallpaper is evil and anyone who uses it here, in this climate and on these building materials, is seriously stupid.  I pulled a piece off today, revealing a comfy little nest of bugs.  Sorry, guys, but you need to relocated.  More spackling and painting.  The counters get installed today. 
new kitchen counters

Here’s the sink view:

Check out the gorgeous embedded stone trim.  It may look odd now, but it will really pop with the green bits of the cabinets. 

Of course, we discovered along the way that there are more unforeseen snags.  Some outlets need to be moved, more plumbing work done… but in the end, I know that it will be lovely.

In addition to peeling wallpaper, it was a painting day. Mmmm… the smell of fresh paint. I don’t know if I am feeling that or the beer more!

I am actually so tired that when I took a lunch break today, I feel asleep in the cafe!

The Shiputzim Saga

Check your logic at the door: If you have never purchased property in Israel, you would be hard pressed to imagine how complex and convoluted the process is. When you buy “clean” (i.e., you are buying a brand new unit and you aren’t selling anything), it is relatively simple. But as soon as there are existing owners who are also looking to buy something else, the process becomes a long chain of complex, interconnected dependencies that can drive you nuts. Despite all this, I got my keys 16 July as planned in the purchase contract and, after surviving a final four hours of shlepping around between city hall, the utility companies, and the lawyer’s office, was the semi-official owner. Technically, things aren’t 100% kosher until the building contractor agrees to push a piece of paper from one pile to another to acknowledge me as the new owner, and this can take forever. I have heard of people selling their place some five years later and discovering that, legally, they aren’t really the owners because the kablanim (contractors) never did this. It probably amounts to seven minutes of work on their part, but…

Why shiputzim?  Shiputzim is a great Hebrew word that means renovations, improvements, fix-ups, you  name it.  When you tell someone here that you are doing shiputzim, they know that it is going to be stressful and difficult. But what can I say? I bought the place because it has potential: great location, great view, great air flow. But it was owned by a family who wallpapered every available inch and allowed the kitchen to rot into a state of foetid, bug-infested filth. You want proof?

Below: Ivy wallpaper in kitchen, grease-soaked cabinets…

Below: Hideous counters and a sink that looks like something out of a mercaz klitah (immigrant absorbtion center)…

Left: Here’s a close-up of the grotty sink. I cannot believe that anyone could turn a place over like that, let alone live in it. Yech!

Right: Detail from wallpaper trim in living room (yes, that is fake wood-grain wallpaper).


Below: Here’s one bedroom. I call it “Bambi on Borscht” (though more likely vodka). Can you imagine any child not having nightmares in this room? And check out the light…

Below: Another bedroom. Textured wallpaper and stick-on “stained glass” decals on the windows.

Left: Here’s a bit of detail from the Bambi wallpaper. Ripping this off was a great pleasure, though discovering the colonies of silverfish residing underneath was not so fun.

Below: Here’s the main room. That fake wood wallpaper is a real pain in the butt to remove! You can see where I started trying to pry it off…

Right: The kitchen ivy in its full glory. Bug heaven.

Below: I didn’t waste much time. That same afternoon I returned and got to work. Aided by a few teenage boys, I managed to get the kitchen gutted. Here’s what it looked like after four hours of work:

Left:No more ivy! Of course, there is no drywall here; it is plaster over concrete building blocks. This means that the plaster falls off if you just breathe on it too hard, so scraping stubborn wallpaper definitely causes chunks of plaster to collapse. No worries—I have two big tubs of “shpeckle” (you can figure that one out for yourself).

Below: A corner in the kitchen, cabinet-free and partially degreased.
Right: Bye-bye, Bambi!

Below: Just starting on the second bedroom. One stained glass decal down and some of the hideous wallpaper removed.