Thursday, December 31, 2020

Weirdness in Sucktown

 My posts this week started with a description of a job interview that wasn’t, much to my delight. This brought to mind a couple of weird job interview experiences—at least they seemed weird to me. I had no experience with ‘real’ job interviews when we moved to Sucktown, at least not as an adult. I had jobs as a teenager, but Bill and I got married when I was 18 and I had our daughter when I was 19. It would have cost us money for me to get a job, considering daycare and the cost of getting a second car, so I worked as a mom and homemaker. We moved across the country when our daughter was about to start first grade and I ended up starting school myself, at a community college where I could take Japanese classes. It was there that my adult work history began, but as was the case throughout the years I spent in academia, every job I had was a result of someone approaching me, telling me they were looking for someone and asking me to apply. I did have to have ‘interviews’ but these were a formality because everyone involved knew I would be hired for whatever the job was. So having an actual interview was a new experience. The events described below happened before those in the previous story.

One interview came about because someone knew we really needed some money coming in. We’d moved and were living off of the money we had left from selling a house elsewhere and buying one in Sucktown, but that wouldn’t last forever. So someone knew of a therapist/marriage counselor, I’ll call her Matilda (not her real name), who was also the only person in town who processed people who had been arrested for DUI (driving under the influence, sometimes aso known as DWI, or driving while intoxicated). The job was primarily involved with the latter, but also involved dealing with therapy clients at times. It wasn’t clear to me whether this person was a friend of the people who recommended me or not—they trashed her a lot, but continued to interact with her. I soon learned that she was a rather difficult person. She was also on her 5th marriage, which seemed odd for a marriage therapist, but maybe she had a good idea about how not to have a successful marriage.

In any case, I wasn’t thrilled about this and the pay wasn’t good, but it was something, so I went for the interview, not really knowing what to expect. I became more uncomfortable by the minute sitting there in Matilda’s office. First, she opened the interview by asking me to hold my hair up and asked why I wasn’t wearing it up. I don’t remember what my answer was, or if I even had time to answer, because it was very quickly obvious that Matilda’s strong suit was not listening, which is another strange thing for a therapist. She asked me if I had something against wearing it up. I said I didn’t and we were able to move on to her next issue, which was that I wasn’t standing up straight. I told her I never have. It wasn’t conscious, but as a kid, I was always taller than my peers, so I guess I just started stooping a bit and it was just how I was and still am. Matilda was not interested in hearing anything I had to say about this, however. No, she knew exactly what the problem was after having spoken to me for about 3 1/2 minutes. It was because I had low self-esteem. By now, I had no idea what the hell was going on or how I should respond, so when she asked me to go into the hall and walk back and forth, I did it while she provided commentary about how I should do this differently. 

We went back into her office and she said she was going to hire me. Then she explained why she needed someone in the first place. The woman who had worked for her for years had quit due to a disagreement they’d had. This woman was hired as an independent contractor so Matilda would not have to deal with tax issues and things like that. However, the IRS, after 6 years or so, had decided differently and said that the woman was an employee and several thousand dollars were owed by the employer. Matilda decided that her employee should pay half of these fees, and she considered herself generous for even offering to pay half herself. I was thinking that it was good to know this about Matilda and I didn’t blame my predecessor for leaving. This was entirely Matilda's responsibility and shortcoming, so why should the employee have to pay anything? Matilda had one more stipulation—I was to commit to the job for at least a year. It was agreed that I would start in a few days. I dreaded it.

I showed up on the first day with my hair up and was given instructions about what I was supposed to do. Matilda took me out to lunch on my first day and asked for my story. I told her about having been in academia, but having ethical issues with the department I was in and the various things I did. Suddenly she exclaimed, ‘Oh, you don’t have low self-esteem at all!’ I nodded and kept eating my pizza. Maybe now she'd leave me alone.

The job wasn’t great, and Matilda was frequently absent when I was there. Those were the best days. I did have to deal with some of her clients on the phone and I soon learned she had a habit of ‘forgetting’ that people had cancelled appointments, charging them anyway. Once, she told me she would be gone on a certain day because her mother was having surgery on her toe. When next I saw her, I asked how her mother was doing and found myself shrinking back as she gushed for 5 minutes about how amazing it was that I remembered her mother’s surgery. I was thinking, ‘You just told me the other day. I don’t think it’s a big deal.’ I often wondered why on earth anyone would seek out her services as a therapist. She was very bossy in inappropriate ways, did not listen to anything she didn't want to be bothered with, and seemed to be quite willing to mess with others to benefit herself.

I was sometimes uncomfortable when people who had been arrested for DUI came in to do their paperwork. One man cried and said he knew he made a mistake and was so sorry. Once I was afraid because the man was angry. I was telling a friend, who was a social worker, about this and she asked what kind of office I had. I descried how it was narrow with my desk at one end, a barred window behind me and the chairs between my desk and the door. She explained to me why that was not in compliance with workplace standards and rules—I was supposed to have an escape route.

I tried to settle into the job, but the longer I was there, the more stressed I got, mainly because of Matilda, but also because of the situation in general. I would count the hours until I could leave, but my utter joy at walking out of the building only lasted for a few minutes and then I would think about how many hours I had until I had to go back. It messed with my whole life.

I lasted a month and then told Matilda that I knew she wanted me to commit for a year, but I was leaving and I told her why. I was honest about things, including my difficulties with her behavior. I did this in an email because I could not get in touch with her any other way. She actually liked this, and asked me for a meeting. I went back to her office and we talked. She said she had gone over my email with her mother and they had agreed that the issues I brought up were valid, except for one small point. I disagreed with her, but it wasn’t worth talking about. I just wanted to get out of there, so I let her have her way and escaped as soon as I could. I was able to avoid Matilda for the rest of the time we lived in Sucktown. She loved purple and the wheel rims on her car were that color, so it was easy enough to spot when she was somewhere.

Later, the people who recommended me told me that she was a very difficult person that they avoided whenever possible. I had no idea whether or not this was true. But that was the way many people were in Sucktown, so who knows. They seemed to be shocked that I told her the truth about why I was leaving. In the end, my predecessor came back to her old job. How they worked out the tax issues, I do not know. 

This happened relatively soon after our arrival in the town. Things went downhill from there.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Day in a Life: The End of the Story

 This is the conclusion of the story I've been posting for the past few days. The first part is here. the second part is here. The third part is here. All links will open in a new window.

We stood outside waiting for the Celtic Society meeting to start while people began arriving, singing, and strutting to show off their kilt. At long last, the key lady arrived and let us in. I gratefully dropped my sore, stiff self into a hard plastic chair and prepared to be polite, as one is with strangers. 'At last,” I was thinking, “the craziness is over and now I can listen to this presentation about Brittany and learn something new.” Not quite. Turns out that the person who was supposed to do the presentation was unable to come for some reason and had passed the responsibility to someone else who had no inkling about computers or the internet and had to rely on what books she could find from the library. These consisted of two or three from the early 1950s. She practically read them to us. I sat stiffening in the chair and the smile now seemed permanently fixed to my face. For an hour and a half, she droned on and showed us pictures. It was a sincere effort. Truly, she did the best that she could with the meager materials she had at her disposal. I honestly appreciated her effort, and I  admired her for stepping up to do something she was clearly very nervous about doing, but I was ready to leave. Not yet.

Snack time followed our enlightening lesson on 1950s Brittany. There was lukewarm tap water from the adjoining bathroom sink and little sausages wrapped in that canned crescent roll dough and baked. I took a cup of water and a sausage to be polite. I sipped the water and looked for an opportunity to hide my sausage in my napkin. Another woman was not bothering with social niceties. She took a bite of the sausage roll, declared it inedible and quite conspicuously spit it back onto her plate. Charming.
I began to prepare my good-byes, as I figured it was just about time to go. We had learned about Brittany, we had snacks, we'd been there for a couple of hours. Surely now, we could be released. Not yet.
There was a video to watch! Hurrah! In all fairness, this was the best part of the whole meeting. The video was about Ireland but it was an hour and a half long and although I was unsure about whether I would even be able to unstiffen my body to get up from the hard plastic chair, I surely wanted to make the attempt. But, as the Buddhists remind us, all is impermanent, even Celtic Society meetings and videos about Ireland. At long last, it was over. It took a little doing, but with the exact same smile still locked into place, I got myself out of the chair, out the door and into the truck as quickly as I could limp. I reached over with my left hand to shut the door and burst out laughing. “What the hell was that supposed to be?” I asked Bill. “I have no idea,” he responded. We laughed all the way home and beyond. My long and bizarre day had reached an end.


The commissioners hired someone to run the museum who did not have museum/history/anthropology experience but had an interest in the town and who was willing to spend many, many hours promoting and fundraising. He was a much better choice than I would have been. I would never have been willing to devote so much of my life to such an undertaking. I hated the town more and more with each passing day, so I would definitely have been the worst person in the world to have that job.

My legs turned all sorts of weird colors, and then the bruises faded. The stiffness in my arm went away. And I was always careful about that spot on the sidewalk in the future.

The Celtic Society dutifully called us to let us know about upcoming meetings for a few years after that day. We never did go back.

It has been 15 years since that day and I still laugh when I think of it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A Day in a Life: Part Three

 This is the third instalment of an essay I wrote years ago about a weird day in a crappy town. The first part is here and the second part is here (links open in new windows).

  A couple of hours later my husband came home from work, we ate supper, and then we left for the Celtic Society meeting.  We had contacted them once to get more information.  Not much of that was forthcoming, although they did call to remind us of every upcoming meeting.  We had decided that this was the month we would go, so off we went.  By this time I was getting quite stiff from my fall.  My leg was scraped up and both legs were quite bruised.  My right arm and shoulder were starting to hurt, too, if I tried to use them in a certain way.  I discovered this when I tried to close the truck door (my husband was not yet fully on board with my walking lifestyle idea, although he would later embrace it)--I could not do it unless I reached across and used my left hand.  Since the place we were going was right across the street from the place I had been earlier that day, about a mile and a half away, it took only a couple of minutes to get there, and since it was past business hours, there was plenty of parking.
We were a bit early and the person with the key to the building and meeting room had not yet arrived, so we waited outside by the door.  This elderly man arrived and started talking to us, wondering which part of the Celtic world we were interested in.  I told him Ireland and he wanted to know what part, specifically.  Knowing I had to say something quickly, I thought of the place where Bill’s grandmother was born—it was through her that he got his Irish citizenship—and I said Galway. He began to sing a song about the sun setting on Galway Bay.  The smile froze on my face and I was trying hard to figure out how to respond politely to this turn of events.  It had been a very long day with a few ups and downs (literally!), and I was getting more stiff and sore from my tumble onto the concrete.  Now I was smiling at this singing guy and trying to be polite.  I was ready to go home and curl up with a good book and a cup of tea, but it was not time for that yet.  Things had to get a lot more strange before I could leave.
  The song seemed interminable and he just went on—verse after verse.  He was not deterred.  Even when his dentures began to fall out of his head, he stood there singing while he tried to shove them back in (at this he eventually succeeded).  He was not distracted at all when an elderly woman strutted (and I use that word deliberately—she was strutting like a peacock) by in a short, plaid kilt, medium-heeled pumps, and knee high pantyhose.  She went by once, and then again while I stood there with a smile plastered on my face and wondering what the rest of the evening was going to be like. After an eternity, the song was finished, the dentures were back in the guy's head, and the strutting woman had stopped.  There was still no sign of the person with the key, so she had enough time to tell us in great detail how she had found the kilt at Goodwill.  No word on where the pumps or knee-highs came from.  

I will post the conclusion to the story tomorrow.

Monday, December 28, 2020

A Day in a Life: Part Two

 What follows is the next part of an essay I wrote years ago about one day in a crappy town. The first part is here. The link will open in a new window. 

The story continues:
 I was bursting with the happy news that I did not have to do the interview and amused about the typically Sucktown way the whole process worked out.  I was wondering how the hell this woman could have missed the fact that I did not possess a driver's license, when it was on the application on a line by itself, separated with much white space and two boxes—one for “yes” and one for  “no.”  But that kind of thing happened all the time there, so I was laughing to myself about the whole thing.  I wanted to share the story with someone, so I stopped in at the yarn shop.  I enjoyed a nice conversation there and left with some wool roving and felting needles so I could try needle felting.  I walked out of the shop to a sunny, warm day, swinging my bag of colorful roving and roaming around among the thoughts in my own head.  I was almost home when I took the plunge. 
There was a spot in the sidewalk where the adjoining sections were uneven and one piece was significantly higher than the other.  Sure enough, I was not paying attention and down I went!  I was stunned, but pretty sure I was not hurt in any serious way.  Two young people had been crossing the street and were halfway across when they heard/saw me fall.  They came rushing over and helped me up, which I thought was quite nice.  I brushed myself off and went on my way.  
    It took me a few minutes to limp home and let myself into the house, where I immediately sat down and did a couple of practice rows on my crochet project.  I was relieved when I could do this with no pain or stiffness.  The important thing was that I could still crochet!!  Then I went off and sent my “I told you so” emails to the people that had been hassling me about applying for that job.

Tomorrow the story turns to later in the day and the weirdness that the evening brought.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

A Day in a Life: Part One

 I was looking at some stuff I wrote years ago and came across this piece about one particular day. At the time I wrote this, we were no longer living in the town where these events took place--the worst place I have ever lived--so I had some distance from the place and the events. I am breaking it up and will post the beginning today and instalments over the next few days. I only used the name of the town once in the original essay, but as is clear, I changed it here. Here's part one.

    I was not at all happy.  I had a job interview in the early afternoon with the county commissioners for a job I did not want.  I had applied as a way to stop people from telling me I should apply because it was right up my alley and I would do a great job,  and blah, blah, blah.  At the time I had not yet come to truly despise the town in which I was living, although I did not like it.  Still, I knew that being the director of the county museum would require a great deal of interest in county history and a genuine enthusiasm for the town itself.  I had neither.  We had lived there for almost two years at that point, and while I was not as traumatized as I would later become, I already did not like it and wanted to leave.  I knew that running the county museum would mean long hours, inadequate resources, dealing with incompetent people, and a daily grind that I was not at all interested in undertaking.  In short, it would make me miserable. No matter how many times I tried to explain this to the people who kept urging me to apply, though, it never registered and they kept pestering me. Finally I tried the “I don't have a driver's license” defense.  They assured me that with my perfect qualifications, they would overlook that requirement.  This was nonsense, of course, because driving around the county was a necessary part of the job. In desperation, I decided that the only way to get any peace in the matter was to apply, wait to be told that I did not meet the requirements and leave it at that.  You can imagine my utter and complete dismay, then, when I answered the phone one day and heard someone from the county commissioners office asking me to schedule an interview.  I was actually angry.  Still, I decided to play it out, so I awoke on this Wednesday morning unhappily contemplating my upcoming interview.
I put on a dress and walked the mile and a half to the government building, mentally muttering to myself the entire way.  I got there and was ushered into a very tiny room.  I thought that it was far too small for as many people as I expected.  Shortly, there arrived a breathless and apologetic woman who started going on about my application and how perfect it was.  She was SO excited about my background in anthropology and my experience and all of that, that she had overlooked the fact that I did not have a driver's license.  Her voice got more and more high-pitched as she kept going.  Finally, in almost a squeak, she asked me whether I could get a driver's license.  “I could,” I responded, “But I don't want to.”  I further explained that I had decided not to get a license when we had moved there because I wanted to see whether I could develop a walking lifestyle for myself that did not require a car.  I knew this would be a challenge in a place with very limited public transportation, but still, I wanted to try.  And it was great--I loved it.  I was not willing to give that up for a job I did not even really want.  I do not like to drive and did not want a job where that would be a major part of my duties.  She tried for a few minutes for to convey to me that if I would just reconsider, I would have an excellent chance at the job.  I listened politely, but I was practically jumping out of my seat.  I had been getting more and more excited and happy while she was going on and on, because my brain was gradually registering the fact that this meant the interview was not going to happen.  I'll be honest and admit to a sense of smug satisfaction as well, along with the phrase, 'I told you so,” which I was planning to use as soon as I could get back to my email.  After what seemed like forever, but was only a minute or two, she apologetically dismissed me. I was almost giddy as I floated out of that building.

I'll continue the story tomorrow.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Happy Holidays

 Whatever or if you celebrate, I hope these last days of a crazy year bring many moments of peace and contentment to you and all those you love.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Beginning of the End of the Day

 We were out around the time sunset was beginning, in between heavy falls of rain and on a day halfway between solstice and Christmas.  The wind was sharp. It was lovely. 

It's been a nice day, in spite of current circumstances. I hope the same is true for you. Stay safe! 😷

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Red Twigs

 We walked to Aldi in the rain yesterday to do the weekly shop. 

We bought a little bit extra this week, so we won't have to go next week. Our freezer and cupboards were well stocked to begin with, so we just bought a few extra basics and things that we'll want for our quiet New Year's Eve. The day after Christmas is also a holiday here--St Stephen's Day. This falls on Saturday, but the observed holiday is Monday, so essentially there's a 4-day weekend coming up. Aldi may or may not be open on either Saturday or Monday, but I am not sure deliveries will be happening. We make it a point to go get our groceries at a time when we know there will be almost no one in the store, and since I am not sure how things will go next week, I am happy enough to be able to stay away. 

On the way to the store, I saw these gorgeous red twigs. I love them. I'm really fond of twigs, branches and stuff like that anyway--I have vases filled with driftwood instead of flowers and a funky piece hanging on the wall--and the colour of these just adds a little bit extra.

I hope this day is going well for you. Stay safe. 😷

Monday, December 21, 2020

Happy Solstice!

 And so the winter solstice has arrived. I must admit that I am not feeling the usual exuberance I normally feel at this time. I am not sure whether this will be an ongoing thing or temporary. I actually wouldn't mind a bit more equilibrium throughout the year, rather than my intense dislike of spring and summer. I do not expect to ever love these seasons, but if I can hate them less, find more moments of joy in them, and spend less time dreading their arrival, I would be happy about that. Something for me to work on. 😀

In the meantime, whether you are happy about the long hours of darkness on this day or are looking forward to the return of the light, I hope today is a good day for you.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Nearing the End


This was a card that Bill found in a book. When I came across the photo, I thought this dog looks like many feel as we move along through this year.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Not Sure


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

At the Water's Edge

 We took a quick walk around the corner this afternoon into a sharpish wind. The birds were having fun. It was beautifully brisk and we came home to a lovely cup of tea.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Festive Blooms

 Our Christmas cactus is blooming again this year. Last year was the first year it bloomed after Bill grew it from a small segment found on s shelf outside a grocery store over 3 years ago. The piece had fallen off one of the plants. They always overwatered their plants, so the plant the wee bit came from probably rotted, as plants from there tended to do. But now the segment that fell off lives on. The first flower opened up on the solstice last year, so it's about a week earlier this year. So beautiful!

I hope there is plenty of colour and beauty in your world today!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

River of Rain

 Beneath the grey sky
down the middle of the road
rivers of rain run

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Question

The Current Question
Right now,
 I find that 
I am
not quite
the person
I am 
used to being.

Right now,
I don't mind
but I am curious
and I ask myself
this question:
Are these changes
temporary, circumstantial
are current circumstances
a door
through which I move
into this
new way of being?

Right now
I can't know--
not yet
because the answer lies
in some future
now, and
probably not
for the last time.

How many
we have
in a lifetime
to ask
and answer
that question.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Festive--But Probably Not for the Turkeys or Frosty

 We walked up to recycle glass and tins today, passing some festive decorations along the way.
This house had a few decorations, lots of turkeys and on the other side, geese and the goat who lives here. They have always had a goose, but there were several this time and the turkeys are new. I suspect that they will be on various Christmas tables in a couple of weeks. The turkeys were hoping we had something for them, I think, but alas, we were unprepared, so just admired them instead. Fat lot of good that does them--I'm sure they would rather have had some food!
Frosty was hanging out with the slow cooker and other unwanted bits at the recycling centre.
On the way back, I noticed this on the other side of the fence from the turkeys. Portal to another realm, perhaps? 😉
So that task is done. It's nice to be able to have a pleasant walk while doing such chores. And now, I'm off to get my wholemeal pizza crust started. 

Stay safe and well! 😷

Re-Post: Stroll Along the Water's Edge

 I was trying to do something on blogger, the page jumped, and I accidentally deleted yesterday's post, so I am at least putting the pics back up. They're from our walk yesterday morning along the shore walk and down the pier. At least I'll have them for reference if I want them. Annoying that we can't undo when we make a mistake like that!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

 Following on from yesterday's post about superfluous merchandise destined for landfill, here is this quote from my Tricycle Daily Dharma email. I love this--it's so me.

During this time of giving, we should not place too much importance on material gifts; it’s our thoughts, words, and deeds that count. Sincere expressions of appreciation, praise, thanks, and an unexpected helping hand can be the most treasured gifts of all.

—Reverend Earl Ikeda, “O Bodhi Tree, O Bodhi Tree”

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Festive Carrot Family Plush

 Last month, I posted about the return of Aldi's festive carrot family. We were in a lockdown at the time, and only essential retail was allowed. Festive plush carrots were not considered essential--go figure. But we are a week into the eased restrictions and non-essential retail is once again allowed. The Carrot family has arrived in our local Aldi. Katie and Kevin, the matriarch and patriarch:
Apparently, they're up to three youngsters now:
Looks like Baby still needs a name.

The advert for this year is here 

I did not see hedgehog plushies, even though he helps save Kevin when he parachutes out of the plane!

It's a cute idea and people seem to love it. They have, I think, been offering various Carrot family merch for a few years and the range seems to be expanding. I believe pyjamas will be available soon if they aren't already. I find this whole thing mildly amusing, but it reminds me once again why I would be the world's worst marketer. 😀 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Thought for Today

 “Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. If a grain of corn is not impermanent, it can never be transformed into a stalk of corn. If the stalk were not impermanent, it could never provide us with the ear of corn we eat.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, December 5, 2020


 I came across this poem I wrote years ago about January in Fairbanks. Shortly before I found this, I'd read an article about our destruction of our environment and the devastation of climate change. I thought again about how glad I am that I experienced the arctic and subarctic before it was gone forever. Sometimes I still miss it, although I do understand that it would be harder now that I am older.


To do before going to work

at the university

on a January Fairbanks morning

at 45 below zero in the dark:

-make myself get out of bed

-throw on coat

some pants

and boots with good tread

-take a deep breath

-get to truck as quickly as possible

without falling

-try to ignore icy air

stabbing inside of lungs

like shards of broken glass

-start car

-get back inside

-take off winter gear

-wait for car to warm up

-pack lunch

-make tea

-begin layering:

  summer shirt

    winter shirt

      heavy socks

        well-treaded boots

           hat on head—make sure ears are covered

             on with the coat

                scarf around face and neck

                  last of all—mittens

-waddle to warm car

-try not to feel like a sausage

stuffed in a tight casing

-drive down hill

-find parking spot

-plug in car

-waddle toward building

carefully over ice rink

that used to be asphalt and cement

-arrive safely

-immediately begin sweating

-peel off 




-fish for keys

-enter office

-remove boots

-put on sandals

-place boots




in damp pile behind door

-drape winter shirt over chair

-hang coat on hook

--wish I could turn down heat

-open window to breathe

-settle in to prepare for class/read and grade essays/meet with students/dread meetings/get some research done/study

--at around lunchtime, stop everything to gaze out the window at Denali in the distance, rising out of the sunset, surrounded by an orange lake of fire.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Egg Bake? Crustless Quiche?

 I'm never sure what to call this, but I used to make it a lot, although never the same version twice. For some reason, I just got out of the habit of making it--I think because I used to use chard in it, which I had a good deal of for several years and don't have access to anymore. But I had some stuff that needed using and this was perfect for that. This version is yummy, even without the chard. 😋 And of course, since I was going to spend time chopping and having the oven on, I decided to be efficient and make a bunch so we'd have leftovers.

In this version, I used carrot, tenderstem broccoli, courgette, red bell pepper, red onion, smoked salmon, extra mature cheddar cheese, a bit of cooked brown basmati rice, and eggs beaten with a bit of milk. In the past, I've used different veg, turkey Italian sausage (which is sadly not a thing here), and various kinds of cheeses. 

I'll put what I did for this version below. I used fresh veg, but leftovers are great in this as are thawed frozen veggies.

Cook a bit of rice, if desired, or use leftover cooked rice or other grain. I cooked 1/2 cup (dry) of brown basmati.

Finely chop two large carrots and some tenderstem broccoli (or regular broccoli--cauliflower would be good, too). For the broccoli, set the florets aside in a bowl. Put the carrot and and chopped broccoli stalks in a bowl, cover with water and microwave for 13 minutes, or until crisp tender.

While that's cooking, chop a large red onion, a red bell pepper and two small courgettes and sauté in some olive oil, stirring frequently. If you want to add sausage or other meat, cut it up and add to the pot, cooking with the veggies. When they are soft (and the meat, if using, is cooked through), add the broccoli florets and stir around for a minute or two, then remove carrot and broccoli stems from water with a slotted spoon and add to the rest of the veggies. You can add garlic, fresh or granulated--I usually add the latter, but forgot this time. I also forgot herbs. I usually add oregano, basil, and parsley, fresh or dried, depending on what I have. You can use whatever herbs you like or none at all. This batch was tasty even without them--Bill put some ground black pepper on top of his and I used what is sold as barbeque seasoning at Aldi. It comes in a grinder and has garlic, jalapeno, chilli, and mustard and is great on eggs.

Grease a 13x9" pan and add the cooked rice and veg. Use shredded or cubed cheese to taste. I added some chopped smoked salmon to this one and mixed everything together. beat 8 eggs and add some milk. Bake at about 185 C (fan oven) for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let sit for a few minutes and cut into portions. 

If you don't want this much, just use fewer veg, fewer eggs, and a smaller pan. 

I do love my planned leftovers!

I hope you're safe and well! 😷

Thursday, December 3, 2020

November Books: Classics Old and Newer

 As has been the case for the past several months, I find myself drawn to older fiction and not being interested in newer work. Fortunately, I have a lot of access to classic work and there is so much of it that I will never run out. Here's November's list of classics, both 19th and 20th century.

The Grey Woman and Other Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell
A short story collection that contains a mix of stories in different genres. I loved the Gaskell novels I’ve read and this is right up there, too. As with any short story collection, I liked some better than others, but overall, it’s a great collection. I got a digital copy at Project Gutenberg here.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
I loved this book! I laughed out loud over and over again, sometimes until the tears started. This is Dickens’ first novel, which was originally published in a serial format. It is almost like a collection of linked short stories with a core group of main characters and other supporting characters moving in and out of the stories.

Mr Pickwick is the central character. He is an amateur scientist of means and founder of The Pickwick Club. At one meeting of the club, it is agreed that a few of them will embark on a journey going here and there to observe different aspects of life and they will report back. The book is a chronicle of some of the adventures they have, the people they encounter, the trouble they get into, and the ways of life they are introduced to. My edition runs to 900 pages, so I was able to spend a fair bit of time with the Pickwickians and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! I bought a paper copy, but it is also available on Project Gutenberg here

A Country Christmas by Miss Read (audiobook read by June Barrie)
The library added some Miss Read e-audiobooks to the website, including this one. It was a nice book to listen to although there were some things that were different from what I’d read/listened to in other Miss Read books. This book takes place in Fairacre, one of the settings for her books, the other being Thrush Green. This is the third reader of Miss Read books I have heard and all are good.

Friends at Thrush Green by Miss Read (audiobook read by Gwen Watford)
While the other Miss Read book I listened to this month was set in Fairacre, this one is part of the author’s Thrush Green series. As there are some similar kinds of characters in each series, I was glad for the way the author wove a brief backstory as each character was introduced. As with all the Miss Read books in either series, this was a pleasant experience. There were some serious themes introduced in this one. Gwen Watford, who played Dolly Bantry in the Miss Marple TV series starring Joan Hickson, is one of three readers of Miss Read books that I have listened to. I like them all.

The Inimitable Jeeves by PG Wodehouse (audiobook read by Jonathan Cecil)
I am listening to the Jeeves and Wooster books here and there in order as much as possible. These are books that I enjoy listening to once in a while, but I am not sure I would like reading them. The reader does a good job, and makes me laugh. I may try reading one sometime just to see how it strikes me, but I like the way Jonathan Cecil reads Jeeves especially. He really captures well the dry way of speaking on the part of Jeeves and that’s usually what makes me laugh.

Hope there's plenty of good reading in the month ahead!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

November Books: Mysteries

 I'm not sure I ever have a long stretch of time without reading a mystery. Here are the ones I read last month.
Put on by Cunning
An Unkindness of Ravens both by Ruth Rendell
I picked up this book in a charity shop a few years ago. It’s two of Rendell’s novels in one paperback, so it was compact and easily packed and hauled around as we moved. Whenever we were packing, I would choose bigger books to read so I wouldn’t have to pack and carry them, so I never got to this one. However, during these pandemic times, when the library has been closed, we bought some chunky classics and I had to rearrange the books that were already here to be able to find places for the new ones. As I stuck my smaller paperbacks here and there, I stuffed all of the available spaces and had no place to put this one, so I put it on the floor next to a table with a shelf underneath it. This is a handy table and I have fit a bunch of books inside. I’d forgotten about this book until I went to get something and saw it there on the floor. I decided I might as well read it and put it in the donation pile. We have several donation piles at this point and hopefully one day the charity shops will open once again and we’ll be able to donate them. It was open for a brief time and Bill was able to drop off a couple of bags full during that time. The woman said they weren’t actually taking books at that time, due to limitations of space, but because he had walked with them, she told him to go ahead and leave them. There is no wee free library here in town, which is kind of a shame.

In any case, I liked the first book better than the second. I was reading it in the wee hours one night and had some kind of theory about how things would unfold. By the time I got up the next morning forgotten my theory and when I finished the book that afternoon, I knew that whatever my theory was, it was wrong! It was a twisty sort of ending.

The second book was not as good. It was predictable and I could see what was coming. 

A Clutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh
I was reading a history book, but one night was more in the mod for some fiction, so I grabbed the e-reader and went to Ngaio Marsh, opening this, the 25th book in her Roderick Alleyn series. It was published in 1968, so is beyond the Golden Age when the first ones were published.

In this book, Alleyn is giving a lecture to some trainee police and recounting a case he solved. Eac of the 10 chapters begins with his addressing the trainees and sometimes their responses, but then moves back in time to the events he is describing. Since the case evolved on a river cruise that his wife, Agatha Troy took on the spur of the moment while he was on a case in the US, these events were described to him in letters she sent at first. Agatha Troy is a renowned artist and the case involved art, murder, and art forgery. 

I enjoy these books and only have a few left to read before I will have read them all. This one was different than earlier books, both in the structure and as far as the vibe goes. 

Midwinter Murder by Agatha Christie
This is a collection of short stories that were preciously published elsewhere complied into this new volume. The introduction is an excerpt from Christie’s autobiography about her memories of Christmases at a friend’s home. All of the stories are set in winter and some at Christmastime. There are stories featuring Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, Mr Parker Pyne, and Mr Quin. There are also one or two that have none of her recurring characters. I had read all of these stories before at one time or another, but I enjoyed the book anyway. It was a fun seasonal read.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Phoebe Reads a Mystery podcast)
I read about this podcast months ago when it was new. At the time, Phoebe was reading The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. I went to the beginning and caught up. I continued listening when she moved on to Hound of the Baskervilles. I started listening to The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, but it was tedious, so I stopped listening. Now I know I don’t like Wilkie Collins! I went back to the podcast when she started Murder on the Links, another Agatha Christie and continued listening to The Leavenworth case by Anna Katherine Green. I got partway through Dracula, but didn’t like it and I turned away from Jane Eyre very quickly. This came next and it was good. All the stories but one were broken up into two episodes of about 1/2 hour each. I think there was one story that was one 30-minute-ish episode. Really like this podcast. Even when I end up disliking a book, it serves a purpose. I removed some books that I had on my e-reader for ‘some day’ because I know now not to waste my time. The stories in this book are told by Dr Watson later in his friendship with Holmes. Dr Watson is married in this book and comes to visit Holmes in Baker St now and then—always just in time to assist with a new case. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

November Books: Nonfiction

 Another month had arrived. I continue to read my large book of mystery stories by women, which I began near the end of November. Before that, I read a bunch of other stuff. I never really know what I will read in a given time frame--it's just whatever strikes my fancy at the time. I read several books of nonfiction last month and learned some stuff--always a good thing! 

The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Wisdom
Bill picked up this book for me a few years ago, either at a charity shop or in a wee free library. It’s taken from parts of talks given by the Dalai Lama at various times. It’s a nice compact volume that one can dip into here and there or read straight through.
Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 by Henrietta Leyser
I picked this up in a charity shop the day before things started to close due to the pandemic. The subtitle pretty much says it all. The author breaks the book up into different categories to describe the lives of women during the time frame she is interested in. She uses various sources material—official records, literature, religious texts—to gain an understanding of how women lived, what the cultural and societal expectations of women were, and how this all changed throughout the time period she writes about. It was an interesting read.

That Place We Call Home: A Journey Through the Place Names of Ireland by John Creedon
This book is exactly what it says in the subtitle. The author is a guy Bill listens to on RTE Radio 1—he plays all sorts of music from the 1920s to today. He also does occasional TV documentaries for RTE television and this book was built on one he did about place names. It was an interesting book with a lot of fun language anecdotes and some history. I was a wee bit disappointed that there wasn’t more in the book about Mayo and Donegal, the places where we’ve lived and visited. There was a bit about those places as well as Galway, where we have been a couple of times, but mostly it was about parts of the country that we haven’t been. It was still interesting.

Breaking and Mending: A Junior Doctor’s Stories of Compassion and Burnout by Joanna Cannon
I came across this title while scrolling through the e-book section of the library website and recognised the author’s name from two of her other books, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things About Elsie, both of which I loved. This is a wonderful book. I was gripped from the start and read it in an afternoon. Here is the description from the site:
"A few years ago, I found myself in A&E.
I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn't eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains and I shook with the effort of not crying. I was an inch away from defeat... but I knew I had to carry on.
Because I wasn't the patient. I was the doctor."
In this powerful memoir, Joanna Cannon tells her story as a junior doctor in visceral, heart-rending snapshots.
We walk with her through the wards, facing extraordinary and daunting moments: from attending her first post-mortem, sitting with a patient through their final moments, to learning the power of a well- or badly chosen word. These moments, and the small sustaining acts of kindness and connection that punctuate hospital life, teach her that emotional care and mental health can be just as critical as restoring a heartbeat.
In a profession where weakness remains a taboo, this moving, beautifully written book brings to life the vivid, human stories of doctors and patients - and shows us why we need to take better care of those who care for us.’

Irish Aran: History, Tradition, Fashion by Vawn Corrigan
I came across this book when scrolling through the history section of the e-book page on the library website. I am not sure how it is that I hadn’t seen it before, but was glad to find it, because it was quite interesting to this knitter. Not all of the information was new to me, but a lot was. The author situates Aran knitting, a particular sort of highly textured design originally made in fishing communities using locally produced, roughish, lanolin-rich wool, in the place of origination, the culture, Irish design, other kinds of Irish craft like crochet, lace, and embroidery. She writes about how it became trendy and was exported worldwide, providing income for women through the years. She writes about various businesses and cooperatives that were created around Irish textiles, like Donegal tweed (which is a type of yarn and of weaving) and yarn spinning. Many of the places she discusses are places I have been, and I have used some of the yarn made in these places, so it was fun to get a bit of the back stories. One place she mentioned a lot was Studio Donegal. Unfortunately, the day I was there happened to be a day in which the person who demonstrates the weaving was ill, so we didn’t get to see that. Reading this did explain one thing, though. As we were meandering around in the goft shop, I noticed that the hats were all knitted flat and seamed. There is nothing wrong with this, but I wondered why the knitters didn’t just work in the round. Reading ths book, I learned that these were most likely made by a particular type of machine that requires a different skill set and makes flat pieces of fabric. I also learned that many designers, who still use elements of Aran design in their work with smoother, softer, and more luxury fibres, will often put blackberry stitches in their designs. No one has figured out a way for machines to be able to make this stitch, so if you see a blackberry stitch, it was knit by hand. I knew that crochet cannot be done by machine, but I didn’t know this about blackberry stitch. 

A Crowded Loneliness by R.H. Sin
This was categorized as poetry in the e-book section of the library website. It is a new book, dealing with the isolation of the pandemic response. It wasn’t what I expected. While there were some poems, it was more a collection of shorter or longer paragraphs containing the author’s thoughts. Then I remembered that when I looked up this person’s name to find out more about them, I discovered that he is a male instagram poet. Reading it as a sort of learning experience about what instagram poetry looks like made it more interesting for me. I’m not on instagram because it’s owned by Facebook, which I happily avoid. I don’t think I would be inclined to read any more of this person’s work, but I am glad I read this one, just to see what it was like. I think that for a different sort of person his words could be compelling and helpful. 

I hope this month has started off well for you!