Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Finding Flowers

I was thrilled this afternoon when we walked towards the local grocery store and saw some hydrangeas outside. I'd decided I'd look for one and a big pot to plant it in so I could stick it out back. I was hoping for a purple one, of course. They seem to grow so well here and in some many gorgeaous colours! We used to have a cat who we ended up calling Queen Hydrangea, so this one's for her!
As we were on our way home, we stopped to chat with a woman who was tending her window box flowers. I'd seen her in the shop before I grabbed the plant and the pot. She said, 'Oh good, you got one! Isn't it a beautiful day?' Weather commentary is always the conversation starter here. It's warm and sunny, so that means there are a lot of giddy people. I untruthfully agreed with her about the extent of the day's beauty and then I asked her about the hydrangea's sunlight needs and she said they're hardy and as long as I water it, it'll be fine. She commented that we'll want a bigger pot for it, then saw that we had one. Then she laughed and said, 'This is Ireland. You won't need to water it much!' Then she told a story about one of her plants that she took a cutting of when she moved. She was getting frustrated because it wasn't growing and she was fussing over it. Then she saw a tiny bud. She said it probably wanted her to just leave it alone so it could do its thing. 😎

We've repotted the poor thing now--it was hard to get it out of the tiny pot because the roots were so tight and coming out the drainage holes. I hope it likes it out there.

Last week, when we walked up to veg man's stall, I spotted these and fell in love with them.
I asked what they are, and if they needed a lot of sun. He told me the name, but I didn't catch it, so I googled 'fuzzy purple flower' when I got home and the image came right up. They are apparently called 'floss flower.'  Veg man said they can tolerate sun and shade, so I got one (good thing, too--he had none today) and then later thought I should've gotten two, so I went back and got another one and a geranium.

I do not think the colour in the geranium photos is quite accurate--the flowers are brighter in person. I love looking out at them while I'm working in the kitchen. They are in a location that gets a few hours of sun on sunny days, some filtered sunshine, and plenty of shade. The colours really pop no matter the light, but by evening, when I am cooking supper, they are in shade. They almost seem to glow.

I think that there will not be much sun for the next couple of days at least, but I'll keep an eye on the hydrangea to see whether it needs to be nudged over a bit to get more sunshine. The floss flowers and geranium have been where they are for a week and seem to be happy, so that's good.

I hope you find some beautiful things as you go through your day, too!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Who Knows What Else Is In There!

You know how sometimes a song you haven't heard in a really long time comes on and you find yourself singing along--or at least knowing what lyrics come next? You might not have even thought of the song in ages, but when prompted, out it pours. I had a similar experience recently when Duolingo launched their Japanese lessons.

I've been playing with Duolingo for a while now, mostly in German, which I had not studied since high school decades ago. It's an interesting approach to language learning in that it's treated like a game and it's fun--at least to a word geek like me. There are grammar lessons on the website for most of the languages, but I use the app on my tablet, which is slightly different. It's the first time I've studied a language outside of an academic setting and as someone who has studied language acquisition and language preservation in the past, I find that aspect of it and my own interaction with the app fascinating as well. It is not the kind of thing that will, on its own, lead to deep fluency, but I've learned a fair bit and I've picked up a few books to use as additional resources--I've even been lucky enough to find some dictionaries at charity shops.

Several months ago, Duolingo announced that they were developing a Japanese course. I signed up to be notified when it launched. Several weeks ago, the announcement came and I added it to my Duolingo profile. Why Japanese?  I started the academic period of my life 30 years ago attending community college to study Japanese. We'd just moved to Oregon and got a course schedule in the mail from Clackamas Community College. Japanese was listed and I commented to Bill that it'd be cool to study that language. He encouraged me to sign up. I had some seriously low self-esteem at the time and was quite sure I could not do it. He was quite sure I could and gently pushed back. He had a lot more belief in me and my abilities than I had in myself, but finally I ended up enrolled. I was terrified. I signed up for other classes too, which met on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so they were the first ones I attended when the term began. They went well and I relaxed a little bit. Japanese was on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I was excited when I got to the classroom with my beautiful new textbooks, but my heart sank when the teacher told us we would all, one by one, go to the front of the class to introduce ourselves and say why we'd enrolled in the class. I felt panic rising and thought, 'I have to leave. I can't do that.' I was sitting at a table in the front and next to the wall, so fleeing would have caused a lot of commotion and drawn much attention to myself. I mentally talked myself down while the first person was speaking and then I volunteered to go next to have it over. I lived through it and went on to love the class. I gained an awful lot of confidence in that class, partly because of my own work and partly because the teacher took me under her wing. At one point during the last term of that first year, she rushed into the classroom one day, walked up to me, and said, 'I have a doctor's appointment. Can you teach the class while I'm gone?' 'Uh, but I'm IN this class,' I said. She insisted she'd only be gone a short time and by then I knew that arguing with your sensei is not done, so I said OK, took a deep breath, walked up to the front of the class, and proceeded to give a Japanese language lesson on the fly, with no preparation or advance warning. The class was 2 hours long. She returned after 1 hour 45 minutes. If someone had told me that first day, that I'd be doing something like that in a few months, I might have fled! After that year, she got me hired as her assistant, and for two years I helped her in the classroom, tutored students, graded homework, and substitute taught. It was a great experience for me. When I transferred to university, I discovered anthropology and turned my focus in that direction, but I always had a soft spot in my heart for Japanese, even though I never got back to it--until Duolingo added it to their offerings.

It was funny to see how much I remembered. One thing that I found particularly amusing was when the word enpitsu (in hiragana) came up and I did not even have to think about it before I typed in 'pencil.' You might expect words and phrases like, 'hello, 'thank you,' 'how are you' to be retained, but 'pencil'? Who knows what other obscure bits of information are hidden in my brain (and yours!) just waiting for a chance to come out!

I don't remember nearly all the kanji (the ideograms like the ones in the first and last photo) that I knew years ago. I was surprised at how much hiragana and katakana I did remember--all of the former and most of the latter. These are syllabaries that are used for different things--katakana is used primarily for loan words, names, etc. Hiragana is what you see to the right of the large kanji in the last photo above--it was the first bit of stuff I learned all those years ago. I remember feeling like a kid as I practiced my symbols over and over again the same way I used to practice cursive writing when I was learning that.

So I am playing with words and writing systems and language. It's fun. I like Duolingo a lot and one of these days, will use my library card to sign up for another program called Mango, which also has good reviews. There is a subscription fee for that one, but apparently it is free for people who belong to participating library systems. Donegal is one of them and from what I've read, there are many in the US, too, so if you're into this kind of thing, it might be worth checking into!

I hope that some fun and interesting things come your way today, too! Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

More Hours in a Day

I've been spending less time with my computer on these last several days and it's been amazing how that simple thing has given me a few more hours in each day. I'd started noticing how a couple of hours would go by unnoticed while I was scrolling down my Facebook page. One day, I just decided I didn't feel like it, so I didn't bother going to the page. That gave me more time to lose myself in the excellent books I've been reading and the knitting project that is my current yarny focus.

I went with Bill to the garden yesterday and cut some chard and watered the outdoor bed while Bill watered the indoor ones. Looks like we might be picking a courgette or two next week. I've not been up there much, but a week or two ago, I saw someone's cute scarecrows.

Someone else has a nice crop of artichokes coming right along. I don't care for them as food, but they are pretty!
Now, back to the knitting! I hope you've had a good week so far.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

 I was really looking forward to reading this book, so I started it with some trepidation. There have been books that I have looked forward to and started with excitement, only to be very disappointed when I did not enjoy reading them. I need not have worried with this book. I loved it. From the opening page, when the main character, Selin, is getting her new email account at Harvard in anticipation of her first term, I was hooked. She is unsure why she even needs email or how it works--it’s a new thing. I was chuckling to myself as I remembered being forced to get an email account by my grad school advisor. I hardly used it then, because the only other people I knew who had email were people I saw on a regular basis. I used to laugh when I would overhear people’s conversations in which they told each other that they’d emailed/replied to the other. I used to wonder if it wouldn’t simply be quicker to say what they wanted to say in that moment. Then I moved to Alaska and email became more useful and convenient, even when we had to sit at a desk to send messages. In the book, Selin also finds uses for email, even though it is before the days of portable email access, smartphones, and even mp3 players/ipods and the like. She listens to her Walkman a lot and one character has the newfangled Discman.
   Selin is really into books and language, so takes Russian along with some linguistics classes. In her Russian class, she is often paired with Ivan to do some exercises involving a story about a woman named Nina, her work, and a missing boyfriend. The story is all the more strange because it is written with beginning language students in mind, so the dialogue is sometimes weird. Nonetheless, this strange language learning tool allows them to interact on a fairly regular basis in this artificial way. One night, Selin sends an email to Ivan and they begin a correspondence and a friendship of sorts. This relationship becomes central to Selin’s life in some ways, even though the two really do not spend all that much time together in person throughout the course of the book. Ivan is Hungarian and Selin, though born in New Jersey, has Turkish relatives and knows the language--the similarities between the two languages play a role in the story, as do linguistic theory, cultural difference, and the role of place in our lives. How does/do the language/languages we speak colour our view of the world and who we are? How much can we learn from literature? There is also an interesting thread in the book that made me think about about how communication changes as technology does and what that means. It used to be that when we used reading and writing for communication, it was often in the form of a handwritten letter, which for many people would have been a more thoughtful process than dashing off a note, for instance. Now people tweet and dash off nonsense that often (usually?) does not have much thought associated with it. When Selin and Ivan begin their email correspondence, it is more like writing a letter used to be--there is a great deal of thought behind their emails. They also bring up the question about who we are and what personae we try on when engaging in this kind of communication. At one point, Ivan says, in a face-to-face conversation between himself and Selin, that he loves the person who wrote the emails. She ends up thinking a great deal about this.

Roughly the first half of the book takes the reader through Selin’s academic year. The rest takes place through the following summer, as Selin travels to a few other countries for work, sightseeing with friends, and to visit relatives.

I was both eager and sorry to finish the book. Sorry because I wanted to travel further with Selin on her journey. I could relate to many of the things she was puzzling about and working through. I liked the questions she asked and the ways in which she processed information. I would love to revisit her in a future book and see how she got on. I was also eager to get to the end because I was looking forward to a neat ending. In this I was disappointed. It was the one thing about the book I did not care for--the abrupt ending. On the other hand, it does make sense, given where Selin is in her life. It is a time of transition and exploration for her and given where she is in her life, so much is still in flux. So the ending is appropriate, I just wish the story did not end right there. Maybe there will be a sequel some day!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Eating Well: 'Mexican' Pizza and Today's Harvest

In an effort to streamline meal planning, Bill suggested that we make Friday pizza night and Saturday 'Mexican' night. Sunday continue to be leftover night. Other days during the week are also sometimes leftover night in one form or another, but the 'leftovers on Sunday' plan is ongoing.

Last Friday, I made the usual pizza crust in the bread maker. I always make a large batch, use half for the pizza and refrigerate the rest of the dough, which I use one way or another, on the weekend. This past weekend, because I finally found bags of dried kidney and white beans, I was able to make a big batch of refried beans.

I soaked both in boiling water for several hours, changing the water a few times. Before going to bed, I dumped the soaked beans into the slow cooker and covered with more boiling water, turned the dial to the high setting and went to bed. In the morning, they were ready to be drained and mashed.

I decided to use the rest of the pizza crst dough to make a 'Mexican' pizza. I chopped up a large onion and a yellow bell pepper, sauteed both in some olive oil, then dumped in some chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic, before adding most of the mashed beans. I mixed everything together well, adding a bit of water to make the beans nice and creamy.

I rolled out the crust, topped it with the beans, and sprinkled some grated mature cheddar on top. I baked it at about 200C in a fan oven, for 10 or 15 minutes--until the edge of the crust was brown and the cheese was nicely melted.
I'd made some fresh salsa, which went on top
along with some mashed avocado, a big pile of torn lettuce, and snipped scallions.
It was so good! We had the same thing on Sunday, except without the avocado. I still have some beans left that I can have for breakfast or lunch for a couple of days with some rice.

This morning we went to the garden. I watched a video last week about how to tell if your cabbage is ready to harvest. It said when they feel heavy, it's time. It also said not to pull up the plants, but to cut the cabbage head off the stalk and leave the plant in the ground. After a few days, some new baby heads are supposed to sprout from the stalk. I love re-growing things, so I am curious to see whether or not that happens. Two of the cabbages seemed heavy, so I cut them.
Picked some more chard, too.
The courgettes (zucchini) have wee babies. If my past courgette experience is anything to go by, they will be baseball bat size in a few days--LOL

Now I am off to hang up the laundered sheets and consider the cabbages. What will I do with them?

I hope that you are well and deliciously fed, too! Happy Monday!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Third (and Final) June Reading Post

Here are the last four books I read in June. I am so grateful to have access to such book abundance--something for whatever the day brings! 😊

The Stories: Jane Gardam
   This is an author I’d not heard of until a few years ago--I think it was on an Open Book podcast. As I recall, I could not find books by her in the library system where I was living at the time. When we got our Donegal library cards a couple of years ago in Donegal Town, I was browsing and came across one of her novels, which I checked out and liked a lot. I recently did a search and came across this collection of her short stories, so I requested it. I’m glad I did. I’m a big short story fan and I loved this book.

Stitches in Time: The Story of the Clothes We Wear by Lucy Adlington
  This is a fun and informative book. I discovered it when I was reading an article about knitting during wartime in which this book was cited. I clicked over to the library website, found it, and requested it. Having studied and taught women’s studies, I was familiar with some of the issues regarding the history of women’s fashion and the ways in which they often damaged (and continue to damage) women’s bodies and health. There was some stuff that I was not aware of, though. Some of the anecdotes highlighted the fact that the particulars may change, but some of the overarching ideals and attempts to appear to live up to them, do not change. It used to be that men used less physically harmful strategies than women did to make their bodies appear more suited to whatever the current fashion of the day happened to be. For example, when large calves were the thing, they would wear stuffed hose. When large bellies were desirable they would strap bran-filled bags to their waists. One poor fellow had a puncture and did not realise it. His bran was leaking all over the place, much to the amusement of the ladies around him--I can only assume they were not impressed. There were many amusing parts of the book even while her discussions of various types of clothing highlighted cultural issues, like class and the varying gender ideologies. She states in the introduction that she wrote about English clothing history, because that is what she is familiar with. The book is separated into chapters about different articles of clothing. I was particularly partial to the chapters on socks, hats, jumpers, and the shawl section of the coat chapter, but I enjoyed the entire book quite a lot. Glad I found it!

Murder at the Laurels by Lesley Cookman
 The last few days of June found me going from somewhat functional to not functional at all, as the fungal spore population thrived and my body reacted. For the times when I was not sitting shivering on the couch, wrapped in a shawl and lapghan, eyes closed and sort of partway between sleep and consciousness, I wanted something light and fluffy to read. For me, light and fluffy means cosy mystery, and happily, Bill had recently found a few of those in a local pop-up charity shop. This one is by an author I’d not heard of and is the second in a series involving a group of arty people in small town England. He also picked up the third in the series, which is Murder in Midwinter. I will be saving that to read later in the year. This one has a fairly familiar overarching plot--elderly aunt is done away with in a care home, family secrets come to light, and the murderer is found out in the end. There were some interesting and quirky aspects to it that made it different and fun to read. After I read book three later in the year, I will look for more in the series at the library.

A Cotswolds Casebook by Rebecca Tope
Needing more cosy mystery, I looked at another book by this author that Bill had found for me at the charity shop. That one was also the second in a series. I remembered the author’s name from times spent in the e-book section of the library website. I clicked over to see if they have the first book in the series. They do, but it was unavailable, so I reserved it and looked at her other books. Some months ago, I’d actually borrowed a 3-in-1 e-book volume that was the first three novels in her Costwold series. Just after I checked it out, a bunch of physical books arrived for me and I never did get to read it. This book is a collection of short stories involving the same characters as that series. The description said that readers do not need to be familiar with the novels to enjoy the short stories, and it was available, so I borrowed it. It was a fun read! I will definitely read more of her books.

And now I shall get back to my current book. I hope the weekend is relaxing and peaceful in your part of the world.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

June Reading, Part 2

Following on from yesterday, here is the middle section of my June book list:

Reading Allowed: True Stories and Curious Incidents from a Provincial Library by Chris Paling
  I had not heard of this book until Gerard, our local librarian, pulled it out of his bag one day and showed it to me one Wednesday afternoon. He was going to take it home with him, but insisted I take it first. I started it that day and finished it the next so I could get it back on Friday. I loved this book. It was a mix of amusing and alarming anecdotes about working in a library in the UK and interacting with some of the people that come in, the ways in which libraries are important to communities, and the threats libraries face in times of austerity. I did a brief stint as a worker bee in a library in rural Oregon and I was just a few pages in when I was reminded of that time and some of what I experienced. There were also differences between what the author describes and the way my job was defined. I worked in the circulation department and the scope of things I was allowed to do in terms of helping people was very limited. At times, I ignored those rules--if I was shelving and an elder came up to me asking for help to search for something in the computer catalogue, I helped them even though I was supposed to send them to the queue at the information desk, for example. But there were situations when it was very handy to be able to say to someone, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to do that. You have to ask that person over there.’ There were some times when the author would have liked to have had the same excuse, I suspect, and in one particularly unpleasant bathroom incident, he was relieved to be able to call Facilities to sort it out. There were several times while I was reading the book that I read long passages aloud to Bill, so that’s one indication of my affection for it! My one quibble is with the title--it says he's in a 'provincial' library, which makes it seem like a small library in a small town or village. It's clear from his stories, though, that he is in an urban area and working mostly in the central library in that municipality, only occasionally doing a shift in one of the branch libraries.

Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire
  I came across this book title in an Atlantic article on creativity and the brain in which it was referenced. I was going to request it from the library in book form, then had a vague memory of seeing it in the e-book collection. Sure enough, it was there and available, so I downloaded it. The book is something of an overview of research into the subject area and covers many different topics related to creativity as studied by brain scientists and psychologists. The studies seem to indicate that the ideas people have about creativity being a ‘right brain’ activity are too simplistic, as many parts of our brains impact creativity. They talk about ‘messy mind’ and the ways in which highly creative people can seem to have contradictory things going on at the same time. Other issues discussed are introversion/extraversion, the role of trauma in creativity, conformity/non-conformity, the help and harm of ‘mindfulness’ in creativity, and to a lesser degree, cultural and societal institutions and the role they can play in stifling creativity. Since creativity and the creative process is a topic that interests me greatly, I have read some of this before and it was not new. But some sections of the book offered food for thought and made me think about my own life. I was also thinking back to some life story projects Bill and I did years ago with artists and members of a quilt guild and how the findings the authors were writing about did and did not apply to the lives of the people we interviewed. I have another e-book about creativity on reserve, though I think that one may come from a different perspective than this one. Guess I’ll find out when it becomes available!

A History of Ireland in 100 Objects by Fintan O’Toole
   The author chose 100 objects that represented important aspects of Irish history. The book is organised with a photo of an object on one page and then a description of its provenance and what it illustrates about the culture and society of the time. I found this book because I’d read a few books by the same author when we first arrived in Ireland and found them very helpful in terms of giving me some context for things I was observing. One day recently, I got to wondering whether he’d written anything since, so I clicked to the library website and searched. This one came up. Having listened to and very much enjoyed a podcast several years ago on BBC Radio 4 called A History of the World in 100 Objects, I was pleased to see the same idea applied to a book specifically about Ireland. I enjoyed this book a lot. Some objects were more interesting than others, of course, but overall, it was fascinating.

Hope you've got lots of good reading for this July weekend!

Friday, June 30, 2017

June Reading, Part 1

We have almost reached the end of another month, so I am posting my book list for June, as I have done for April and May. Those posts seemed awfully long, so I've decided to split this one up into three posts, rather than posting all three pages of text all at once. Here's part one:

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time by Simon Garfield
   Garfield organises this book around different aspects of time, how we measure it, and how these measurements impact culture and individual lives. He does this by using different aspects of life in which time plays a part, such as railways, music, film, Roger Banister’s 4-minute mile, timepieces, talking, work, photography, food, and museums. It’s a very readable book and quite thought-provoking. I learned things I did not know and thought about things in ways I hadn’t before. Also, as a result of something discussed in this book, I found myself on the library web page requesting another book by an author he’d mentioned. It’s always a good sign when one book leads to another!

Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel by Julian Symons
  As the title suggests, this is an examination of the evolution of what would today be classified as ‘crime and thrillers.’ Symons lays out the differences in the sub-genres and discusses early examples of each in the context of the cultures in which they became popular. The book is dated--the edition I read is from 1984--and his writing style rather dry at times, but I enjoyed it nonetheless for the historical content.

Selected Poems by Colette Bryce
   I found this book while scrolling through the library e-book collection and downloaded it. The poet is from Northern Ireland and the poems in this collection were about the landscape, the Troubles, her childhood, her parents’ relationship with each other and hers with them, and her adult relationships.

Walking on My Grave by Carolyn Hart
   I came across the e-book of this at the same time I discovered the poetry collection above. It is the latest in the ‘Death on Demand’ cosy mystery series. I quite enjoy cosy mysteries and used to read many of them. There has been such an explosion of these in recent years. I have particularly enjoyed the many knitting/crochet/needlework themed ones. I used to read a series that revolved around a tea shop owner as well. The series I used to read are not readily available in the libraries here, so I have not read one in a few years. There are other cosy mystery series that I am not familiar with, but will have to explore further. I’ve read a few of the Death on Demand books in the past and liked them well enough, so when I saw this one, I downloaded it. Death on Demand is the name of the mystery bookshop owned by the amateur sleuth, Annie Darling, who lives in a small town in the US. She has cats named Agatha and Dorothy L. She is, of course, surrounded by colourful characters. These are fun reads for people who like the genre and each book contains something of a puzzle in the form of a book shop contest.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Happy Accident

One morning last week, I forgot to turn off the yoghurt maker at exactly the 10 hour mark. By the time I remembered to turn it off, it had been on for about 10 1/2 hours. That turned out to be a happy accident, because that batch was a little bit thicker than previous batches, both before and after straining. I decided to leave it in longer on purpose next time and got the same result, so that's now how I will do it going forward. It's good when the yoghurt is thicker because then it does not get too thin and watery when I add fruit. We had some for dessert the other night with a bit all-fruit raspberry jam and thawed frozen blueberries (I had coconut; Bill didn't). It was so good!
We picked up some milk today, so I'll be putting a new batch in tonight.

Bill picked some more cherry tomatoes this morning at the garden. We'll have some of them in wraps tonight for supper, along with some herbs from the garden, cucumber, and some of the caramelized onion/red pepper hummus I made today. While we were getting milk, we snagged the last package of wholemeal wraps at the shop.
I always think hummus looks so much more appetizing in person than in photos, for some reason.

I'm glad to have a batch of that made--makes things easier to have things in the fridge and ready to eat. Now my lunch is sorted for the next few days.

Most amounts are approximate, because I don't measure for stuff like this, but to make the hummus, I used two cans of chick peas, the juice of 1 1/4 lemon, about 3 tablespoons of tahini, some granulated garlic, and some olive oil. There's oil on top of the tahini in the jar, so I used some of that as well. I used enough of the oil so that the texture would be smooth, but not so much that the hummus got loose and/or runny. Oh yeah, there was a bit of dried parsley and some fresh snipped in there, too. I chopped an onion and a pointy sweet red pepper and cooked those in some olive oil, before adding them to the chopper. Then I whizzed it all up. I sampled it, to see if I wanted to add anything else and it was good as is, so I left it alone. I can always add stuff later to part of the batch, if I want to change it a little!

Update--we just finished supper 😋

Here's hoping you're enjoying this day, wherever you find yourself!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Tomato Season Has Begun

We went up to the garden this morning. It was a nice morning to be there--no sun, not hot, and with a nice breeze. I'm a little clogged, so might take a bit more allergy stuff, but pollen is supposed to be low today, so I figured it was OK to venture out.

Bill watered the stuff in the hoop house and I did some stuff outside. He picked the first tomatoes!
I scraped the weeds off the top of the outdoor bed and discovered a few spuds.
I planted a few more spuds in a different part of the outdoor bed, since we have space. The chard continues to grow really well and I will pick more of that in a couple of days. I think I will be pulling cabbage soon, too. I will plant more spinach and carrots. The carrots sprouted but just turned rusty and didn't grow and the spinach bolted really quickly.

We are learning some stuff about what will grow and what doesn't grow as well. Bill said he'd really like to do most of the outdoor bed in spuds next year and that seems like a good idea. We won't plant cabbage again. I wouldn't have planted it this year, except I felt like we needed to put something in the bed and it was available at the garden centre. Cabbage is one of those things that Bill isn't crazy about and I like sometimes, but I can buy it at the store and it doesn't taste any different. He also has to be aware of how much Vitamin K he is consuming, so might as well use up his quota on stuff he loves, like chard and broccoli!  I'd rather use the space for something else. So we are talking about doing 2/3 of the bed in spuds next year and the rest will be strawberries, chard, and maybe another thing or two. In looking at what other people have in their outdoor beds, we find a lot of cabbage, onions of various sorts, and spuds. Some people have all spuds. So we get a sense of what grows well outside the polytunnel that way and that helps us choose what we want to do with our bed. Our experience with a CSA farm in Maine has also helped us recognise what is worth growing because it tastes better and what really isn't worth growing ourselves. Since space is limited, choices must be made!

After the garden, we went to the shop for a few groceries. When we came out, we saw a little dog waiting patiently for his person, who came out a minute later. The dog's name is Stuey and his person showed us the rolled up packet from the deli, saying it was for Stuey to take his medication with. He handed Stuey the packet. Stuey was pretty happy as he took the packet in his mouth and went with his person. So cute.

I have some yoghurt straining in the fridge. I have learned that if I keep the yoghurt maker on for a little longer than the 10 hours they suggest as a guideline, it comes out thicker even before straining. It was a happy accident that I even discovered this. I forgot to turn the last batch off until it was on for an extra half an hour and I noticed then that it was thicker, so I left the last batch in longer too. It'll be ready in another hour. In the meantime, I'm off to make some lunch!

Happy Monday--hope your week starts off well!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Yummy Chocolate Bread!

 I decided to experiment with the bread maker today, so I adapted a recipe for plain light wholemeal bread to see how light wholemeal chocolate coconut bread would come out. The answer is that it turned out to be delicious! The bread maker beeped a while ago and after a bit of cooling time, I cut a couple of slices, which Bill and I have just finished. We agree that we love it, so I'll be making it again.
I used three parts strong wholemeal flour and one part regular flour (slightly less of the latter than the recipe called for). I tossed in some porridge oats, increased the amount of sugar a little bit and decreased the amount of yeast by a third. I dumped in a 100g bag of mini dark chocolate chips, which melted as the paddle was paddling (I'd used hot water), some coconut, and a bit of almond extract.

I was really pleased with the results--slightly sweet, but not sickeningly so.

I've used that particular recipe before--it was the test loaf after we brought the bread maker home from the charity shop and it's quite good plain, but also works well as a jumping off point. Some of the other recipes in the book require more ingredients, but this one is nice, basic, wholemeal, and uses stuff I always have in the kitchen. It's a good one to tweak for varied end results using whatever I happen to have around on a given day. I am thinking that the next attempt might be some lemon poppyseed.

It's a lovely relaxing Sunday in our house. I hope it's the same for you!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Off Limits For Now

Bill went to the garden by himself this morning, to water the plants in the polytunnel. Fortunately we had rain last night, so the outdoor plants were fine. The tomato plants are loaded with fruit and it looks like the first cherry tomatoes will be ready for picking in a few days. It won't be me picking them, though, because for now the polytunnel is off limits for me.

We've reached that point in the year where grass and weed pollen are all over the place and the population of fungal spores is thriving--especially in places like that polytunnel. I'd already become aware that I had to limit my time in there based on how I felt whenever we went there. The other day, I tried to get things watered and tie up some tomato plants as quickly as possible. It was not as hot in there as it had been on our previous visit, but it was still far too warm (for me, but the tomatoes are happy!). Of course the plants are not the only things that like hot and humid conditions--the mold must be flourishing. It did not take long for me to feel the effects of my time in the tunnel. I spent the afternoon sitting on the couch with my eyes closed, my stomach upset, and my head pounding. I'm done in the tunnel until autumn.

In addition to avoiding the tunnel, I am getting into the habit of checking the Met Eireann website each day. They have a page where I can see what the levels of grass, tree, and weed pollen will be for our region, as well as the fungal spores. So some days I will also be limiting my time outside. Last summer I experienced many non-functioning days, feeling sick in bed, because of the allergies. Much of that was probably due to the mold-infested apartment, but some of it was also because of something in the outdoor environment. In the other places we lived since we came to Ireland, I had almost no issues, so last summer was a surprise. It was also extremely frustrating, so I am trying to be proactive this year and limit my exposure.

I know that I will continue to be uncomfortable no matter what I do. I am used to that and it's one reason I find summer so unpleasant. However, that is different than being unable to function because of pain, nausea, brain fog, and the rest. I would really like to limit those days so I have as few of them as possible. The summer will pass and the pollen with it. I'll be glad when it does. In the meantime, I will do what I can to take care of myself.

Today I went to the library, where I had a few books in--it always feels like Christmas when the requested books arrive. I started a new book this afternoon with a nice cup of tea. I have a knitting project started as a break from the large thread crochet project I've been working on for several days straight. I was starting to feel an ache in my wrist and hands, so will switch for a few days. A Good Read is on BBC Radio 4 tonight and I will knit while listening to that. I made pizza for supper and that was delicious. I'll be turning on the coffee maker shortly.

I've had a very pleasant and relaxing day. I hope you are having the same sort of day wherever you find yourself at the moment!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

More Discoveries: Books and Pepper Jack

It's been a week of small discoveries so far. Yesterday we discovered an access point to the river trail right across the street from our house. Later, we were looking at the cheese selection in the shop on Main St and Bill spotted some pepper jack.
It's the first time we've seen pepper jack cheese in Ireland. We used to eat a fair bit of Tillamook pepper jack when we lived in Oregon and Alaska and there was some other kind in Maine that was good, too (but Tillamook is the best). They only had two packages in the store, and they came home with us, but maybe they'll get more. We'll keep our eyes open.

On Monday, Bill discovered a new pop-up charity shop in town. This is something we'd not seen in other towns, but in Moville, in addition to the two permanent charity shops, there is one further down the main road that has one group for 6 or 8 weeks. Then they clear out and another group moves in. yard sales are not very common here, although there is the occasional (car) boot sale, so maybe these pop-up shops serve the same purpose. The one Bill found is on a side street--the shop is usually empty, but since we've been here, there have been 4 or 5 charity shops in there for a few weeks at a time.

Anyway, he came home with a pile of books, saying they had good ones in there. I was particularly excited about this one:
I started hearing a lot about ElizabethTaylor (writer, not the actress) a few years ago as her works was being 'rediscovered.' At the time, I read one of her novels, but wasn't aware that she also wrote short stories. I love short story collections, so when Bill saw this, he added it to the pile. Yay! Most of the books we pick up at the charity shops are ones we know we will read and then either re-donate or leave in the wee free library. Once in a while, though, we find books that we plan to keep--this is one of those. It will stay with my collection of short story collections!

He suggested we stop in again yesterday on our way to the shop, so we did. We came away with another pile of books. There was an older couple behind the counter and we were chatting with them. She talked about how great books are--much better than telly. She said that now she's not hearing so well, she has to have the volume up too high and it's not pleasant for the husband. At that, he joined the conversation, joking that this was just an excuse, because her goal is really to be able to ignore him.  She then commented about how frustrating it is to be near the end of a book and to be trying to get to the end, but having the eyes 'go funny' and to not be able to stay awake. He one-upped that, though, with his own book story. He was reading a book by Louis L'Amour, he said, which was some sweeping saga about the Middle East and migration and stuff like that (I was thinking that I had no idea that author wrote such things)--quite the tome, it sounded like! Well, just as he was getting to the point where he'd find out how it all ends, he turned the page and discovered that someone had torn out the last 5 pages. He looked and looked for a new copy, he said, but his search was in vain. Then he was in California and went into a Borders book store, where he found it, bought it, and read the last 5 pages. He said it was a happy day. I told him I think that, in future, I'd better check books before I buy them, to make sure all the pages are there. They were such a friendly, good-humoured, and affectionate couple. They made me smile.

I hope your world provides many opportunities for smiles and joy today.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Discovery: Bredagh River Trail

Shortly after we moved to Moville, we met a woman in the library who told us about the Bredagh River Trail. The way she spoke about it gave the impression that it was like a short muddy track or something, so we never made much of an effort to find it. She told us how to access it and we walked around the building she mentioned, but didn't really notice where we were supposed to go, and we never looked after that. Then I had all of the health issues from the mould and for me, walking sort of fell by the wayside, except when necessary. At some point during the past year, they put a sign up, visible from the road, and we commented that we should go down there sometime. Yesterday, Bill did. He was very pleasantly surprised! As he was walking, he looked up the hill and saw what he thought was another access point, which happens to be right across the street from where we live. We were on our way to the shop at the edge of town this morning and Bill wanted to walk over and see if we could access the trail across the street from us. We walked down the rather steep driveway (there's a handrail, which is handy) and sure enough, there, down some stairs, was the trail. I said we might as well go that way to the shop, so we walked along. What a hidden treasure! It's wonderful--wooded, shady, cool, quiet, beautiful, and there's the lovely sound of the river as you stroll along. There are a few benches along the way, too, so people can stop a while and just enjoy the surroundings.

bird hut--they were doing some work on it today--those are plants on the roof

It is not a very long trail, but it is so lovely and we have not seen quite all of it yet. It's a really nice way to get to the shop at the edge of town, too!

I hope you discover something beautiful today in your part of the world!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Busy Bees

There were some busy bees in Moville this morning.
We were busy (and hot!) for a while too--we went up to the garden to water stuff.
The chard that I picked last week has grown back to just about where it was when I picked some. The other chard plants, which I put outside weeks later than the first plant, have caught up. I will make a dash up there later in the week to pick more. The beans and broccoli continue to grow and the spuds are flowering--such pretty blossoms!
Inside the polytunnel, most things just keep on growing. The peppers--both jalapenos and bell--seem to be growing slowly, so I think we may not have enough time for any peppers to actually form and ripen. I have never had good luck with peppers, so that's not really a surprise. The tomatoes are threatening to take over, though. Last week, Bill put some egg cartons around the strawberries to keep the slugs away from the berries. Today he picked a few caterpillars or something off of the cabbage after he'd filled the watering cans. I worked quickly to get the weeds scraped and everything watered, including the bed in the hoop house belonging to the schoolchildren. They cannot get up there every day and I told their teacher I'd water when we're there, if needed. It's hot today and supposed to be so for the next couple of days, so I figured it could use a good drink. Once I had that done, I got out of there and came home.

I am heartened seeing the chard growing so well. I am hopeful that we will be able to keep some greens, including lots of chard, growing in the polytunnel through the winter. That would be nice. It would also be enjoyable. Right now I go when I must (trying to limit myself to once a week) and leave as soon as possible because it is so uncomfortable, but it should be a different story over the winter, when it is nice, cool, and past the grass, pollen, fungal spores season!

As I was quickly walking down the hill towards home, I walked by a house with a really lovely front garden. A woman was standing on the front step. I said hello and she commented on what a beautiful day it is. I have learned to just go along with this, even though if an Irish person is telling me it's a beautiful day, you can safely bet that it's a day that is too hot, too sunny, and making me miserable!! 😎😕 I heard myself sort of grunt a half-hearted 'yeah' to her joyful 'beautiful day' remark and then I told her that her garden was beautiful. She beamed at me and asked, 'Do you like it?' 'I love it,' I replied. And I do.

Hope you find something beautiful in your day today, no matter what the weather!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

That's Supper Sorted

The other day when I was at the garden, I picked some chard. We used to eat a lot of chard when we were part of a CSA farm in Maine. I have not seen it here, except for baby chard in bagged salad, so when we decided to have a garden, chard was one of the things we decided to plant. We could not find any seeds locally, but our friend, Karen, sent us some. It seems to like this climate and is growing well.

As I was thinking about how to use it, I remembered a rice bake thing that I used to make fairly often in Maine. It's one of those things--like almost everything else I cook--that is different every time I make it, depending on what I have around. It almost always had chard in it, though.
This time I cooked 1 1/2 cups of brown rice and dumped it in a bowl. To the rice, I added some cheddar cheese, some honey-mustard smoked mackerel (in the past I have made this with various sorts of fish, or sausages, or vegetarian) and a mix of veggies sauteed in olive oil.
The veggies were: chopped onion, a bit of sweet red pepper left from the pizza I made last night, broccoli, a bit of spinach, and the chard. I added some granulated garlic, oregano, and crushed chilli flakes, stirred everything together and then poured in 4 extra large eggs, beaten with a little milk. Once everything was well mixed, I dumped it into two foil pans that I'd buttered using one of the butter wrappers I'd saved for this purpose. The foil pans came home with us because sometimes, when we buy boneless, skinless chicken breast, they come wrapped in those pans. I wash them well and reuse them.

I baked these in a 180C fan oven for about half an hour. We had some with fruit on the side tonight and will have the same again tomorrow night. Looks like there will be enough for a breakfast or lunch on Monday, too. Yay!

I am happy to report that the shower is working again and much better than it has since we got here. The Shower Man called Thursday afternoon to say he was in a neighbouring town and had finished earlier than expected, so he could come and have a look at our shower. He came and repaired it, all the while explaining to us what the problem was, showing us how the shower works and what the various parts in the wall unit do, what the quirks of that particular model are, and how we could work around them to make it work better. he was great. We were impressed and I emailed the company to tell them so. Last night, as I was scrolling through my Facebook page, I came across a post from the company, which was a copy and paste of my email. The guy commented that it's nice to be appreciated. Isn't that true of all of us?!

I hope your weekend is wonderful!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


It's Tuesday, so the first thing we did after breakfast was to walk down the street to Market Square so we could call on veg man, the traveling greengrocer. We brought our produce home and I unpacked it, freeing the bags for the stuff we needed to bring to the garden. While there, I pulled the coriander (will plant more in a pot that we will hang in the polytunnel--this stuff was too woody). This freed the space for a pepper plant that was ready to spread its roots farther than the wee pot would allow. I picked a bunch of stuff--chard, parsley, fennel, a few spinach leaves, the last radishes. I scraped the weeds up by (gloved) hand in the side bed in the polytunnel and took a hoe and scraped up the ones in our outdoor bed. I was out there ready to plant a chard plant and thinking that there used to be something in that space when I realised that the large cauliflower plant we had there was completely gone. It was there Saturday when we were chatting with our garden 'neighbour' between our beds, but you'd never know anything was ever there to look at it this morning. I am not having good luck with cauliflower. Everything else looks good. I planted a few more bean seeds and the rest of the leek seeds I had in the outdoor bed. The tomato stems that I had rooted got planted in the polytunnel. We watered the stuff inside. I was working at a pretty good clip so we could get done and come home. I have done my bit for the week and Bill will take over now.

I have noticed that I cannot spend too much time there at this point. We went on Saturday to set some stuff I'd made on a table for the cottage market, but there were few tables and they all were taken, so we chatted for a bit and came home. This was a relief because I was sorry I'd agreed to participate in the first place. The addition of a screaming child made me even more happy to get away! As it happens, it was just as well--I would have been miserable for the rest of the day had I stayed there for hours. When we went back in the afternoon to pick some stuff, we chatted with a few different people as the event was breaking up. We were there for maybe 20 minutes, but when I got home, I had sinus pressure and my arms were itching like mad--as is happening right now. I had forgotten until then how my arms used to itch like that when we would go to the farm in Maine to pick up our CSA produce every week. I reminded Bill of how I used to joke that I might enjoy gardening more if I could do it in the winter. It's not really a joke, I guess, and this year I will have the chance to do some winter gardening in the polytunnel. That's more my thing, I think. I enjoyed the process earlier in the year. I am not enjoying it anymore.  For now, I'll be spending less time up there until we get past summer and when I do go up there, I'll take an extra pill in an effort to avoid ruining my whole day with the aftermath.

I noticed this planter on Saturday, which I thought was cute. I'm told it's been there, so I guess I just wansn't paying attention!
On Sunday, our electric shower stopped working. Someone was supposed to come and replace it tomorrow, but they have just cancelled and said they will contact us to reschedule 'in the near future' whatever that means. In the meantime, we do what we did when we lived with no running water for two years in Alaska and would use pitchers of water dumped over our heads. It's easier here because we do not have to heat the water in a kettle and we (luckily) have some milk jugs that I was going to cut apart and use to stick plants in. I had not done so yet, so we have a few we can use as our 'shower' until the 'near future' turns into the past and we have a working shower again.

Now I have a few free hours until it is time to make supper, and I have a book and a crochet project calling my name, so I am off to heed the call!

I hope your Tuesday is wonderful!

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Few More Bits

For some unknown reason, while I was sitting in bed last night listening to BBC Inside Science and crocheting, some tatted motifs popped into my head. I'd been doodling with some thread a few years ago when we lived in Ballinrobe and ended up with a motif I liked. I did change some numbers to make them easier to join, but I had a few of the originals that I kept, thinking I'd find a use for them one day. Last night, they came into my mind as I was thinking about a piece of sea glass I'd taken out of the box where I keep our beach finds. I decided to leave the idea alone until this afternoon and I went on with my crocheting.

This morning I was off to the library where I helped someone with her crocheting and picked up a book that came in. Afterwards, I came home, had some lunch, put in a load of laundry, and grabbed a few of the motifs. When I put them with the sea glass, I found that I really didn't like it. What I had in mind would have worked with different colours--either the sea glass or the motifs--but as it was, I did not care for them together. I didn't want to make more motifs just now, so I let go of the idea and rummaged around for something else I could use in a different way with the motifs. I ended up with two shells, a different piece of sea glass and a small rock.

I'll add these to the small collection of stuff I've made for the cottage market at the community garden, which is tomorrow.

Tonight it'll be back to the crocheting, and I'll be listening to the first episode in the new series of A Good Read on BBC Radio 4--love that show!

Happy Friday!