Monday, November 30, 2020
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Thanksgiving isn't a thing here nationally, but in our wee home, it is. While everyone else goes about their normal Thursday, we have our favourites and consider our blessings. Our most favourite is the dressing. I always make enough food so we will have leftovers for a few days and we enjoy it. But by the end, we've had enough and are happy enough to not see those particular foods for a while.
As I was making the lasagne in the slow cooker recently, it dawned on me that this would also be a perfect way to cook the Thanksgiving dressing, given the moist heat. In years past, I have found that the fan ovens here dry things out and not using the fan results in an even longer cooking time (which already seems like an eternity most of the time, which is why I rarely use the oven and have made alterative arrangements for most things). So every year, the pan of dressing would have a top crust of blackened bread cubes that were hard as a rock, which I would then peel off and discard. I figured this would not be an issue in the slow cooker.
I had broth and bread cubes in the freezer. When I make bread in the machine, sometimes we don't quite finish it in a timely manner, so I cut it into cubes and freeze it for just this purpose--don't want it to go to waste! So our dressing this year was made entirely of homemade bread cubes. I had just enough. I mixed all the ingredients, keeping it simple as we like it. Bread cubes, chopped onion and celery sautéed in a bit of olive oil, the broth, and herbs. Poultry seasoning isn't a thing here, so I use mixed herbs (thyme, marjoram, oregano, basil), sage, and some granulated garlic. I mixed everything well, put it in the crock and turned it on high, letting it cook away for about 5 hours. It was perfect!
I hope that, whether it is Thanksgiving or a regular Thursday, you're safe and well. 😷
Posted by Shari Burke at 26.11.20
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Monday, November 23, 2020
A few years ago, I read about this book, knew I had to read it, and requested it from the library. When it arrived, I looked at the table of contents and thought I'd like to own it. Bill found a copy without the dust jacket, which was fine with me. Shortly thereafter, it arrived. It has moved with us twice since then and I would often look at it on the shelf and think I should begin reading it. It will require an investment of time and yesterday I decided that the time had come. I am about 1/10th of the way through it and I LOVE it so far. I thought I'd post the contents here in case anyone else is intrigued and wants to read it.
Stay safe! 😷
Posted by Shari Burke at 23.11.20
Sunday, November 22, 2020
This is a weird year. The holidays are going to be hard for so many. Let's all make an extra effort to be kind to the people who are working hard in various capacities so that we can access the necessities of life. Every nice encounter with these workers lessens the sting of the jerks that want to blame the employees for their own shortcomings, as described in this essay.
The sense of entitlement people seem to have as they go through their lives is really something. And yes, the plastic has to come off the turkey before cooking--if it doesn't, it's not the fault of the grocery store employee that sold the turkey. 😕
Posted by Shari Burke at 22.11.20
Saturday, November 21, 2020
This was in my Tricycle Daily Dharma email today. Good to remember. No living being avoids trauma and suffering, but how we respond can often make a difference in how much suffering we experience.
'The mark of a true practitioner is not what arises in your life and mind, but how you work with what arises.'
—Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, “The Path of Patience”
Posted by Shari Burke at 21.11.20
Friday, November 20, 2020
The gorse continues to bloom. I think it may always been in bloom, although not sure about the height of summer.
This will have to be removed at some point, no doubt, but I think it is still interesting and appealing, in an abstract sort of way. I like the lines and the ways in which they sweep down and move every which way.
Posted by Shari Burke at 20.11.20
Thursday, November 19, 2020
The goalkeeper was sitting down on the job when we walked home from recycling.
Posted by Shari Burke at 19.11.20
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Last night, or technically in the first minutes of this morning, since it was just after midnight, I heard the beeping sound that some vehicles make when they back up. There were people talking. I wondered what was going on, since these are not usual sounds for a Saturday night. Turns out there was a crew outside putting up the Christmas lights. Yay! I have such pleasant memories of what it was like to come to town just before Christmas last year when we agreed to rent this place. We walked around in the dark and the town looked so beautiful with the lights on.
Christmas decorations have been displayed in some shops and windows for a few weeks now. These cute snowpeople are in a window on the corner.
It's been a year already since I left Facebook (and I have not regretted the decision to leave once), but I remember how judgemental people were about Christmas music being played 'early.' The anger with which people would complain about other people's decision to listen to whatever they wanted always amused me. Once in a while, I would ask, 'Why does what other people listen to cause you such anger? Is there really nothing else to be upset about?' I guess it was the anger and nastiness that puzzled me, but as I think about it now, it makes sense. Social media is really good at bringing out anger and nastiness. I recently saw a poll on an Irish website asking whether it was too early for Christmas music. Depends who you ask, doesn't it? Personally, I listen to Christmas music of various kinds starting on the autumnal equinox. This is old Christmas music that doesn't sound Christmasy to me. Then I move to Celtic stuff and then the stuff that is more traditional for me. I do not like to listen to Christmas music after Christmas, though, so I don't. For people that do, have at it and enjoy it!
I used to know someone who got really sick. She literally died and was brought back. She was in a coma for weeks and in hospital for months. Some months after she got home, she said her kids wanted to put up the Christmas stuff early, but she was concerned about what others would think. I told her that, especially after what she and her family had been through, she should put up the damn Christmas stuff and enjoy the hell out of it. Who cares what anyone else thinks?
I suspect it will be a while before the lights are actually switched on, but just seeing them there makes me smile. I look forward to more walks in drizzle and darkness, looking at the window displays while the lights shine, and feeling the peace that always comes to me at such times. I hope you have such moments, too, whatever that looks like for you. Especially this year, I think we can all use many of them!
Posted by Shari Burke at 15.11.20
Saturday, November 14, 2020
I came across a recipe for these quick banana cookies and I thought I'd give them a try. I already had a recipe for a similar thing, but these sounded better. There are only a few ingredients and they take little time to make, so I decided to give them a try this afternoon, so we could try them with our cuppa.
Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4-1 cup of walnuts--place in bowl of chopper, mini-food processor or regular food processor and pulse until these resemble coarse crumbs, or you could chop by hand
Place nuts in a bowl and add an equal amount of rolled oats (3/4-1 cup), then stir together
Mash 3 bananas with 1 or 2 teaspoons (or to taste) of vanilla extract--I did this in my mini food processor, but it could be done by hand as well--just mash very well.
Add banana mixture to the nuts and oats and stir together. Add in whatever you like. I added dried coconut and dark chocolate mini-chocolate chips. You could add seeds, raisins or other dried fruit. Butterscotch baking chips would be good, if they still make those (they're not a thing here, but I used to love oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips back in the States). White chocolate chips would probably be good, if you like those. You could add cinnamon, if you wanted, or a little cocoa powder.
Once everything is mixed together, place dollops on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. I used my mini-oven and it worked just fine. You want them to be a bit browned on the top and no longer wet or tacky to the touch. Let them cool on the pan. I made 16 cookies, but you could make them larger or smaller--larger ones would probably take a bit longer in the oven and smaller would require less time.
These are really good, take very little time, and few ingredients. I will definitely be making them again.
Posted by Shari Burke at 14.11.20
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
I love hydrangeas. Years ago, outside our house at the time, we had a large hydrangea bush that bloomed with pastel blue flowers. It was lovely. I saw a lot of pastel blue and pink hydrangeas through the years. Then we came to Ireland and discovered that they're all over the place here, but the pastel ones seem few and far between. Instead, the colours of the flowers are deep and saturated, whether they're blue, purple, mauve, pink, or even red. The colours take my breath away. I saw these alongside the Aldi car park the other day.
These are in someone's front garden and are deep red in real life. I have tried through the years to capture the colour of these, but they usually look more pink than red in the photos.
I'm told by people who know about this stuff that the colour of the flowers has to do with the soil the plant is planted in. I have no idea what it is in the soil that leads to different colours and it doesn't really matter. I'll just enjoy looking at these poufs of colour whenever I come across them 😀
Posted by Shari Burke at 11.11.20
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
We went out for a walk this afternoon. We started by going around the block along the shore walk. The water was grey. The sky was pretty grey, too, with hints of pale blue.
Posted by Shari Burke at 10.11.20
Monday, November 9, 2020
I love trees. I especially love bare trees. This makes sense when I consider the kinds of art I am drawn to--abstract with various lines. I can look at a painting of a still life or a nature scene or something and I may or may not like it as an image. But it doesn't make my heart sing the way certain abstract work does. It's the same with trees. In summer when they are in leaf, I can look at them and see their beauty, but looking at bare trees against a backdrop of sky stops me in my tracks. There is so much to look at--the lines and the ways they move, the ways the lines intersect, the shapes created in between the lines, and the fact that moving a few steps to see the tree from a different angle changes those things and presents a whole new set of lines and shapes.
Today as we were walking to the grocery store to do our weekly shop, I had some happy encounters with bare trees.
It's nice to have things to stop and enjoy while doing such chores as grocery shopping. I hope there is some beauty in your mundane tasks today, too. 😀
Posted by Shari Burke at 9.11.20
Sunday, November 8, 2020
I tried making lasagne in the slow cooker yesterday. I have no idea why I never did this before, but it is how I will be making it from now on. It came out great!
I made it as I always do, but instead of putting a few layers in a baking dish and cooking in the oven, I made more layers in the crock, put the lid on, turned it on high, let it cook for 4 hours, then took the lid off and let it sit for 25 minutes or so before cutting. I had to use a cheddar/mozzarella blend because there was no plain mozzarella in Aldi when we did our weekly shop.
I stopped cooking lasagne noodles years ago--same with manicotti, large shells, etc--they cook while the dish is baking so there is no need to cook them beforehand. Same with the slow cooker. I broke the lasagne sheets so they'd fit better in the oval crock, but didn't pre-cook them. We don't like meat in our lasagne, but if I was using it, I could cook it first.
I'm so glad I tried this. I'm pretty happy about the leftovers, too. 😋😉
Posted by Shari Burke at 8.11.20
Saturday, November 7, 2020
Yesterday, I shared some of the colour that surrounded us on a walk. There was also plenty of grey on the walk, as today's picture indicates.
Posted by Shari Burke at 7.11.20
Friday, November 6, 2020
Thursday, November 5, 2020
I came across some good poetry collections in October and enjoyed them all very much.
Donegal Tarantella by Moya Cannon
Poetry collection inspired by music, geology, archaeology, and nature. I had not read any other work by this poet, but I liked this collection a lot and will hopefully read more of her work in future.
On the Way Out, Turn Off the Light: Poems by Marge Piercy (audiobook read by the poet)
This is a new collection from Marge Piercy and I did not hesitate to borrow it when I found it in the e-audiobook section of the library website. It did not disappoint. From the library site:
‘Words are my business," Marge Piercy begins her twentieth collection of poetry, a glance back at a lifetime of learning, loving, grieving, and fighting for the disenfranchised, and a look forward at what the future holds for herself, her family and friends, and her embattled country. In the opening section, Piercy tells of her childhood in Detroit, with its vacant lots and scrappy children, the bike that gave her wings, her ambition at fourteen to "gobble" down all knowledge, and a too-early marriage ("I put on my first marriage / like a girdle my skinny body / didn't need"). We then leap into the present, her "twilight zone," where she is "learning to be quiet," learning to give praise despite it all. There are funny poems about medicine ads with their dire warnings, and some possible plusses about being dead: "I'll never do another load of laundry . . ." There is "comfort in old bodies / coming together," in a partner's warmth--"You're always warm: warm hands / smooth back sleek as a Burmese cat./ Sunny weather outside and in."
Piercy has long been known for her political poems, and here we have her thoughts on illegal immigrants, dying languages, fraught landscapes, abortion, President-speak. She examines her nonbeliever's need for religious holidays and spiritual depth, and the natural world is appreciated throughout. On the Way Out, Turn Off the Light is yet more proof of Piercy's love and mastery of language--it is moving, stimulating, funny, and full of the stuff of life.’
A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 by Wendell Berry
These poems were written during the poet’s Sunday morning solitary walks. They are inspired by his thoughts during these walks and touch on themes such as nature, seasons, relationships, and human attempts to somehow live in ways divorced from the natural world.
On Balance by Sinead Morrissey
This was a re-read for me. I enjoy this poet's work.
Posted by Shari Burke at 5.11.20
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
I am still not really feeling the love for contemporary fiction at the moment, but am quite smitten with older work. I go wherever the book mood leads me!
The Shop Window Murder by Vernon Loder
I came across this title when scrolling through the e-book section of the library website. It’s a ‘forgotten’ Golden Age mystery, originally published in 1930. It’s a reprint of a Collins Classic Crime book.
The book begins with a short biographical sketch of the author. The pen name on this book is just one pseudonym used by the writer. It seems to have been a fairly common practice for writers of this time to have many pseudonyms. This mostly seems to be a male thing, but Josephine Tey is one female example.
This book features Inspector Devenish and this is the only book in which he appears. The book begins with the unveiling of a new shop window display at a rather weird department store. This store has the usual departments—clothing for women and men, millinery, sporting goods—but also has an aeroplane department featuring a folding plane. One morning, as the grille is raised on the new display, people are shocked to see a couple of bodies amongst the mannequins. Devenish is called in and begins his investigation.
I enjoyed this book. It includes some unique plot points and an interesting ending.
Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
Its been a long time since I read this book. It’s a Poirot novel with the apple-loving mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver, who is visiting a friend and helping at a Halloween party for local children. She goes off the apples for a time when one of the guests is found drowned in the apple-bobbing bucket after the party is over. She asks Poirot for help and he reacquaints himself with the retired Superintendent Spence, who he was involved with in Mrs McGinty’s Dead.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
I had never read this book. Not liking sci fi, I always assumed I wouldn’t like it, but I was happily surprised to discover I did. The book opens at a dinner party where the unnamed Time Traveller explains to his guests that time is a dimension that can be travelled through and he has invented a machine to do it. He gives them a brief demonstration. After perfecting his machine, he goes off on another journey on a day in which another dinner party is happening at his home. He is late to return, and when he does, he is looking a little worse for wear, but he tells his guests he will clean himself up and be with them shortly. He is ravenous, so eats his dinner and tells the story of what happened to him while he was gone.
Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope
This is the third book in Trollope’s 6-volume Chronicles of Barsetshire series. The preceding novels are The Warden and Barchester Towers. A few people from those books make brief appearances in this one, including the amusingly named Sir Omicron Pie, but mostly this books revolves around completely different characters in a different part of Barsetshire.
As you’d expect from the title, Doctor Thorne is one of the main characters, along with his niece, Mary Thorne, who comes to live with him when she is around 12 or 13. One of Doctor Thorne’s great friends is Frank Gresham a country squire who is in financial difficulties, his large family, and various other inhabitants of the area.
Trollope said that at the time, this was his best selling book. I can see why—it’s a great read. I am not really sure why, because it was very predictable. Other authors might have tried to keep the reader in suspense about some plot points, but Trollope just states things up front. It’s pretty clear where things are going to end up, but the journey is pleasant nonetheless. Some characters are funny in their ridiculousness and Trollope does a good job of exposing hypocrisy and the foolishness behind the idea of the aristocracy. I enjoyed that. I liked the way Mary stood up for herself at various times, even when it went against the societal norms of the day. I think one reason I found myself immersed on it was more the setting and characters than the plot itself. It was nice to inhabit a time and place different from the here and now and to hang out with the characters for a while, whether I liked them, found them foolish, or felt empathy for their troubles.
Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
This is the fourth book in the author’s Chronicles of Barsetshire series. Many characters from the previous three novels move in and out of this book, but it can be read as a standalone as well.
Posted by Shari Burke at 4.11.20
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
There was a lot of fascinating nonfiction on various subjects in my October book list.
Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community and the Meaning of Generosity by Priya Basil (audiobook read by the author)
I found this book in the e-audiobook section of the library website and decided it was worth a try—it definitely was! I really enjoyed this book a lot. The author did a fine job of reading her work, which made it even better. There was a lot more depth here than I expected and more food for thought (ha ha). It is a hard book to categorise, but it’s part memoir, part food culture, part philosophy, part cultural analysis. I’ll just include the description from the library website.
‘The dinner table, among friends, is where the best conversations take place - talk about the world, religion, politics, culture, love and cooking. In the same way, Be My Guest is a conversation about all these things, mediated through the sharing of food. We live in a world where some have too much and others not enough, where migrants and refugees are both welcomed and vilified, and where most of us spend less and less time cooking and eating together. Priya Basil explores the meaning and limits of hospitality today, and in doing so she invites us to consider that how much we have in common may depend on what we are willing to share.’
Semicolon: How a Misunderstood Punctuation Mark Can Improve Your Writing, Enrich Your Reading and Even Change Your Life by Cecilia Watson 9audiobook read by Pam Ward)
This is the blurb for the book on the library website:
‘A biography of a much misunderstood punctuation mark and a call to arms in favour of clear expression and against stifling grammar rules. Cecelia Watson used to be obsessive about grammar rules. But then she began teaching. And that was when she realized that strict rules aren’t always the best way of teaching people how to make words say what they want them to; that they are even, sometimes, best ignored. One punctuation mark encapsulates this thorny issue more clearly than any other. The semicolon. Hated by Stephen King, Hemingway, Vonnegut and Orwell, and loved by Herman Melville, Henry James and Rebecca Solnit, it is the most divisive punctuation mark in the English language, and many are too scared to go near it. But why? When is it effective? Have we been misusing it? Should we even care? In this warm, funny, enlightening and thoroughly original book, Cecelia Watson takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the surprising history of the semicolon and explores the remarkable power it can wield, if only we would stop being afraid of it.Forget the rules; you’re in charge.’
This is a really good book! It’s not at all dry or tedious, but tells many stories in the process of discussing punctuation, the semicolon in particular, the English language, how writers communicate, and the repercussions of how things are written. For example, in one chapter, the author tells the story of how attempts to interpret a jury’s punctuation led to the execution of one man in the US, while his co-defendant got life in prison. The Supreme Courts has actually weighed in on punctuation. I’m glad I borrowed the book, because it’s fascinating and I learned some stuff.
The reader was surprisingly dramatic, given the subject matter. She was the reader of one of the books I listened to last month, The Candy Cane Caper—very different sort of book to this one. Her reading style was the same.
Voices of Cork: The Knitting Map Speaks by Kieran McCarthy
Last month I read a book about The Knitting Map, a community art project in Cork that was undertaken as part of the European Capital of Culture celebration in 2005. It turned out to be a very controversial project. This book is an oral history told by some of the knitters in the project. I loved reading their stories. Bill and I used to do life story work with individuals and groups and one early project we did was with the Fairbanks Quilters Guild. We also did a project with 10 artists when we both worked at a museum. The stories in this book, although not as extensive as the interviews we did, were along the same lines—the role of creativity in the women’s lives. This is my kind of thing!
Inhale, Exhale, Repeat by Emma Mills
This is the description of the book from the library website:
‘Inspired by traditional eastern lessons of meditation and mindfulness, neuroscience and insights from literature, Emma Mills offers fresh and simple tools to keep our minds healthy, from that early morning coffee through to the moment you climb into bed, without having to invest in expensive detox courses or far-flung retreats. She guides the reader through a course of a single day, with easy tips, meditations, recipes, literary recommendations and practical takeaways that can be completed in a matter of minutes.’
This is a book about mindfulness, which is a hot topic in recent years. Because I find secular Buddhist ideas (which is where much of this stuff comes from) to be very helpful, sensible, and spot-on, I was not really expecting to read about ideas that I was not already familiar with and I didn’t. I thought it was an interesting book anyway, because of the approach the author takes to these ideas. She does a good job of providing practical ideas for how people can incorporate awareness in a regular day that might be stressful and hectic. I like the incorporation of literature, music, and visual art into her suggestions. She includes recipes as well. It’s a practical book in many ways. As someone who does not do well with ‘traditional’ meditation, I liked the way she offered alternatives to readers. I can vouch for one of them, which is to put on music and really listen to it. This is something that works very well for me in times of stress, depression, or anxiety. I have certain music that I play and can just sit and listen through my earbuds. I inhabit the music and my mind shifts. Because she offers many different suggestions for different kinds of mindfulness practice, the book can be useful for people. Everyone’s circumstances are unique and what works for one person won’t work for another. People can take what’s useful and leave the rest or use her ideas as a jumping off point for your own.
Posted by Shari Burke at 3.11.20
Monday, November 2, 2020
I'm interrupting the book series for this festive intermission. Not that books aren't festive, but we did our weekly shop today and now that Halloween is behind us, and there is no Thanksgiving here, it's all Christmas.
Aldi's Christmas carrot, Kevin, is back with his family.
There's a bunch of Christmas food in the store. But in case anyone wants to bring the festive atmosphere into the loo, there are these loo rolls on offer.
We got plain white instead of snowman decorated. Back in the old days, when I was a kid, I remember adults buying toilet paper that matched the bathroom's decor--pink, blue, etc. I don't even remember when coloured toilet paper stopped being a thing, but I haven't seen it in yonks. In previous festive seasons here, I have seen holiday scented loo rolls--a few years ago, it was mulled wine scent. I shudder to think. I am so sensitive to things--someone once gave me some nice shampoo as a gift and I almost passed out in the shower. I reacted instantly--my head buzzed, my sinuses clogged up, my throat burned, and I felt woozy. I have to be very careful about scented stuff.
Even though the festive season is beginning, and many flowers have gone away until next year, there is still colour.
I hope it's a colourful day in your part of the world!
Posted by Shari Burke at 2.11.20
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A new month arrives. We had a storm blow through here yesterday. The wind was blowing and we lost power for a while--just as I was going to make a cup of tea. Of course, when I couldn't have my cuppa, I wanted it all the more, so when the power came back on a couple of hours later, the first thing I did was to flip the kettle on. Until then, I had to read without a cup of tea at my side, but I managed 😀
Last month, I read a variety of books. I'll start with story collections
Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Authors 1852-1923 edited by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger
I posted about this book when I finished it--that post is here
Bodies From the Library 3: Forgotten Stories of Mystery and Suspense from the Queens of Crime and Other Masters of Golden Age Detection edited by Tony Medawar
I read the first two books in this series, so when I saw this one pop up in the e-book section of the library website, I reserved it. It was just as good as the others. Some of the work in this book is previously unpublished and/or uncollected work by various authors, including a play by John Dickson Carr and one by Ngaio Marsh. The latter features her series detective, Roderick Alleyn. After each story/play there is a small discussion of the life and work of the author. I highly recommend this series for people who enjoy Golden Age detective fiction.
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James
This is a collection of stories that was first published in 1904, although some of the stories had previously appeared in periodicals.
A Very German Christmas: The Greatest Austrian, Swiss, and German Holiday Stories of All Time by various authors and translated by various translators
This is a new e-book on the library site. At the end of the book there was a list of other such books from different parts of the world. The subtitle says ‘of all time’ but the stories are all from a 200 year period, from the early 1800s to 1999. It was an interesting read. It’s fun to see what the story tradition is in cultures different from my own.
Here's to a new month of reading!
Posted by Shari Burke at 1.11.20