Monday, November 28, 2011

Rainy Days And Catching Up...

It is raining and dreary here today. After the glorious weather of the last couple of weeks, it's rather a let down although I suspect Mother Nature always knows what she is doing. I was invited for Thanksgiving festivities at the home of a friend and his partner at which four generations were present, from age 92 down to three weeks. It was a wonderful time, and everyone seemed genuinely happy to be there. Friday, my generous hosts came by the flat and took me to lunch. Over the weekend, I completed holiday shopping and had the flat cleaned by a neighbour, all without breaking my budget.

Sunday as I was foraging in the fridge and pantry, it occurred to me that the ingredients for a potentially tasty vegetarian stew were to hand. The recipe, which was more of a happy accident than any planning, is listed here. I must stress that my cooking is very basic. I strive for taste and nutrition. This recipe can be easily altered should your taste be different than mine.


1 pound dried Red Lentils, washed and sorted
2 Large Red Potatoes, washed and cubed
2 Cups Turnip Greens, Fresh or Frozen, chopped
6 Organic Carrots, washed and chopped
2 Cups Organic Vegetable Broth
2-4 Cups Water, depending upon desired consistency
3 Tablespoons Light Olive Oil
Generous portion of Ground Coriander, to taste


Cube potatoes and cut carrots
Add Olive Oil to Slow Cooker and gradually add in and cook carrots and potatoes until slightly softened. Add remaining ingredients and cook on low setting for about two hours. I used frozen Turnip Greens, but spinach or another veg of your choosing could be used.
Add the coriander and stir through in the final hour of cooking.

Do not substitute fresh celantro for the ground coriander. Both have distinctly different flavours. Coriander is the seeds of the celantro plant roasted and ground, from what I read.

This was actually better the second day. My neighbour, who was not raised eating lots of veg, tasted this and then wanted some to take home. He loved it. That made my day.

I also have a wonderful recipe from Shaheen, a blogger in Scotland. Her blog, allotment2kitchen, is always a fun and interesting read for me as I like vegan recipes that are nutritious and fun to make. She is  lovely about answering any cooking-related concern. Thanks, Shaheen!

Until Next Time...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

So, What Are You Reading?

I get asked this question a lot, along with, "Why don't you post your reading selections?"

Basically, it boils down to three things:

Hap hazard reading as I await the bus or while in line for one thing and another. The books for such occasions range from popular fiction or thrillers to books telling me why my cat does as he likes. The more serious reading materials reside in a stack on my bedside table. There are two such items at the moment:

The Elephant's Journey, a novel by the unfortunately late, Jose Saramago, a Nobel Prize recipient.
The New Frugality by Chris Farrell. Farrell is the resident economic/finance guru for American Public Media's programme, Marketplace Money, which I sometimes catch on NPR.

I've just finished the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, about which you can read at the Virtual Book Club blog. There is a link to the VBC on my profile page.

Additionally, I make no claim to endorse a book or author simply because I read. Your tastes may rest with a genre or author I don't especially care for. Reading is a lot like eating. Sometimes a quick burger does the trick while other occasions are reserved for fine dining. I do not enjoy feeling like people expect me to tell them what to read simply because I happen to be a librarian.

Finally, I enjoy the freedom to try new books and authors without the pressure of critiquing every word or nuance. As someone who knows personally the agony of facing an empty page when one is expected to produce for others, I try to look at any book as a writer might. Good writers take risks, and they don't always have the expected results as far as reader reaction is concerned.

I'll leave you with this: I am currently searching for a well loved collection of Jane Austen novels since mine, which dates from the Dark Ages otherwise known as university, is no longer available.

Happy reading.

Unti Next Time...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Treasures: A Theme Thursday Post

My treasures as a child included books sent to me by the various Aunts in my mother's family. These included E.B. White's Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, Anne of Green Gables and Lamb's Shakespeare For Children. My maternal grandmother contributed to my reading horizons by keeping and permitting me to read original editions of Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins which I believe had belonged to my mother.

A Tale of Two Cities, Johnny Tremain and Jack London's Call of the Wild were likewise devoured as was Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I also enjoyed Madeleine L'Engle's series and by high school, had cracked open Jane Austen for the first time, along with Walden Pond, Silas Marner, and Shakespeare. Chekov plays were next and then, oddly, I began to read history, biography and eventually found my way into economics and the books of American academic Robert Reich. A friend introduced me to Camus and Zola, which I read in translation. During my undergraduate days I took several Spanish lit classes, sampling the literature from Spain through the Americas and Caribbean.

Today, sadly, my cache of books is small as I no longer buy but borrow from libraries and friends. Other treasures include my cats and a collection of art depicting parts of my childhood home in Panama, a small jewel of a country most often only known for its canal.

Reading widely and often is a habit first cultivated by my mother and grandmother. It has been a gift and treasure beyond measure. While possessions pass through my life, pets lives end and homes alter, I have been able to share books and all that can enliven the imagination or spark ideas or discussion.

What treasures remain important to you?

Until Next Time...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Garage Band...And Other Thoughts...

One of the great things about my iMac is its music software known as Garage Band. Apparently, one can play piano, guitar or download art lessons from the Web. I've always loved music, and sang in a couple of choirs growing up. During my high school years, I took basic music theory by correspondence, eventually learning to sight read.

Unfortunately, I grew up with a mother who found piano practice horrible and abandoned the piano, never to return. When as a little girl, I asked for lessons, I was told they were a waste of money. The same was said when I asked whether I might learn to ride a bicycle. My art classes in high school were seen merely as a means to obtain extra credits toward graduation, as were the English classes in which my teachers encouraged the writing of essays, short stories and poems. Though I continued to receive praise for these from students and teachers alike, my parents said little.

It was not until my first foray into graduate education that I stumbled into a small newspaper job on campus. It involved clerical tasks rather than writing but did open the door for feature writing and producing a regular op-ed column, both of which solidified my writing skills, garnering regular readers as well as a stalker, at one point.  There were companies and individuals in search of writers and while freelancing did not make me rich, it provided a respectable living and a portfolio of published work which grew with time and experience.

Because a freelancer is always in search of work and must always make the monthly bills, I became adept at budgeting, both time and money. Living on a shoestring meant that I could not travel, expect health insurance or spend on "extras." It also meant, however, that I was the one in control of my time, something my friends in the corporate world envied. A recession in the mid-nineties sent me into the job market for several years, working several lower wrung jobs for which this state is well known. I began looking for opportunities to leave and while I was granted interviews elsewhere, hiring never followed.

I wrote PR pieces and marketing copy, eventually realising the love-hate nature of my relationship to writing. It, like other endeavors, was seen as a means to an end. Rarely, if ever, did I focus on the creative aspect. It seemed, upon reflection, that I had absorbed the idea that writing for the "fun" of it, an attitude which characterized my earliest days as a writer, was frivolous, something gleaned from the parental silences of my adolescence.

Writing, like the love of music in my youth, took a backseat to earning more money when I could find work. Now, having removed myself from that world, time is once again in abundance. A friend recently asked what I would like to do. I quite characteristically responded with a list of ideas which had been popping in my head:

Go to Europe
Learn Hebrew and French
Keep reading and writing in Spanish
Learn to play the electronic Chess game that came with my iMac
Find out how to use Garage Band
Write more interesting posts and return to the story I was working on several months ago...
Swim and work with a trainer

We'll see...

As for more interesting posts, it seems my comments have been decreasing...

Until Next Time...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Ups And Downs In A Day

Chez Moi has undergone a thorough cleaning for the last day or so and was on the verge of beauty again when the unmistakable drip of water, loud enough to disrupt sound sleep, was heard in the hall. Investigation soon pinpointed the closet containing both the central air handler and water tank.

Fortunately, I have a friend who is a skilled re-modeler as well as being a licensed property inspector. He came in response to my concern that water was leaking from the top of the closet and hitting the water tank. Having determined that the source was neither my air conditioning, which was off, nor the recently installed hot water heater, he ventured upstairs to ask a new neighbour whether he might have a look at her water tank.

 She was reluctant to grant his request and said only that she would contact the landlord. I was preparing to stuff my tank's closet with towels when her parents appeared, telling us that they would look into the matter. They subsequently emerged saying they could not see any sign of leakage. My friend then explained the situation further and accompanied them into the upstairs flat, eventually locating two pin holes in a coil on the woman's hot water heater that were leaking and which could have damaged both flats if left undiscovered.

The young woman swiftly departed for the local DIY centre obtaining the needed part while my friend offered to do the repair without charge. My relief was palpable. Firstly because her very nice parents saw sense and secondly because she realised the potential for damage and that I, a woman who also lives alone, was not out to hurt anyone. The man I sent upstairs actually knew what he was talking about and what could have been a nasty situation all round was resolved to every one's benefit very speedily. I gave my friend $25 for coming out and to cover his fuel costs.

There are still decent people in the world, after all. I'm enjoying a last cup of tea before bed and feeling quite like I dodged a bullet...

Until Next Time...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What Does One Say...

My handy friend and I were startled when upon returning to my flat late Friday evening, the door stood wide open. After ascertaining that there were no burglars about, I entered to find everything in order. As she and I had both heard the door slam when leaving, this was perplexing. She immediately suggested changing the locks, and offered to pick them up the next time she was out. I gratefully concurred and offered to reimburse the cost.

As I awaited my weekly grocery delivery today, the phone rang and my friend asked if I would be home so she could come and install the new deadbolt. I agreed and the deed was done, meowing feline and grocery arrival notwithstanding. My friend, however, encountered dry rot in the door frame and offered the optimistic view that perhaps it was throughout and I ought not be concerned. She then ventured the opinion that I perhaps consider moving to one of those facilities better suited to my needs, and this isn't the first mention she's made, either.

I found myself biting my tongue...

She is obviously ignorant of the fact that people with disabilities in this country have fought for the right to live independently and that most of us are unfortunately stuck in housing that we cannot afford to modify extensively due to cost. There is a shortage of wheelchair-modified housing. Additionally, this modification  is expensive and there is no magic fairy or prince's trust here. This is America and grants for such endeavors are and always have been in short supply. Veterans disabled by the war effort can get money from the federal government via the Veteran's Administration up to $70, 000. Since our wormy politicians and equally "astute" congresspersons ask the military to risk lives in foreign conflicts, though I object to this use of my tax dollars, I also feel these men and women deserve this help when it is needed.

The rest of us have to slog along the best we can, but why, I wonder, do people think that life "in a facility" is actually preferable to one's independence?

Of one thing I am certain. The next time this supposedly well-intentioned friend opens her mouth with this remark, she will get an earful, as I have had quite enough. I am neither an invalid nor am I helpless to think and make decisions for myself. I can bathe, dress and feed myself, take care of animals, manage bills, organise appointments, outings and transport and go places alone as well as with others.

At this point, I am wondering how best to offer a tactful but firm response...

Until Next Time...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Where I Was Today...

It is gorgeous today...

Bright, clear and breezy with temperatures hovering in the very low 70s during the day and getting down into the fifties after sunset. So, where was I amid all this beauty, you ask? The pictures should provide a clue or two...

 I've replenished my cache of books and had a lovely slow browse of the stacks. Unfortunately, Internet access for our library system was disrupted at about noon yesterday and has been down since, an aggravation for all concerned, particularly the increasing numbers who rely upon the libraries computers for their Internet access.

Where are you today?