Sunday, January 15, 2017

Enjoying a long weekend

Ahhh, the bliss of a Monday off. A three-day weekend is a blessing. Woo-hoo!

I was excited to find red lentils at Kroger. I love soup. I make lots of soups. In Kroger, the produce is the first aisle, and green cabbage was on sale. I got a good sized cabbage for $1. I like to see what's on sale and make my meal plans from there. Since cabbage turned out to be on sale, I thought I'd make cabbage soup and roast the rest in the oven.

When I got to the organic bulk section and was filling a bag with quinoa, I thought that maybe they would have red lentils, too.

Brown lentil soup is good, but it's heavy and pungent. I can have it only about once every two months. I stagger that with split pea soup, vegetarian chili with black beans, and vegetable soup with either a broth base or a tomato base. These are my usual winter soups.

I don't like to have brown lentil soup often. I like it but not every other week. Red lentils are lighter, brighter, and cook faster than brown lentils. They are sweeter and nuttier, and if cooked longer, they turn to mush with makes for either a nice, thick soup or a dip for a flatbread.

Kroger didn't have bulk red lentils but they did have Kroger label organic that was prepackaged for a good price! Yay! I am really loving the variety at this branch of Kroger. The fruit and veggies, grains and breads, all good and the kind I like.

This recipe adds carrots and onions to make a nice, simple red lentil soup.

I bought a ready made mushroom and green pepper quiche which was reduced in price. The sale price was such that I estimated it'd cost the same if I made it at home from scratch. Also on the docket for meals this week is another Pad Thai with shrimp, and yellow squash patties. The green beans looked fantastic too, and I bought a few of those. I will make a nice side dish. I still have to think up what to do with the cabbage, lol.

I love the availability of the variety of fruit at Kroger too. I got a fresh pineapple, kiwis, blueberries, and pears. The pears were overripe and in the red net bag, which meant they were 99 cents for 8 of them. I think I'll make pear 'applesauce' with ginger.

I did a few chores today, cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed. Tomorrow will be laundry and making soup etc., We've been blessed with 70+ degree days and I'm just loving it. It will be no trouble to go outside over to the garage to do several loads of laundry. I feel proud because today I organized a lot of my photos on my laptop. I made new folder and sorted them into grouped themes. Also wrote several essays for my other blog, ahead of time.

My pastor made many good points today at our wonderful service, and I'm looking forward to exploring those further tomorrow. It would not hurt my feelings if we had three day weekends every week, lol! After tomorrow, the work schedule looks like a long stretch with no breaks or holidays. I'm going to enjoy every minute tomorrow, for sure.

Have a nice holiday off, and a good week ahead.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Van Gogh's heavy skies, Monet's water lily filled ponds

I was looking at Van Gogh's art recently. Then yesterday I was driving home and there's a section of the county that is on a higher plateau and seems to draw dramatic clouds. I love the rural scenes around here and I love taking photos of sky and clouds. I love the night sky too, the moon and planets, but I'm not skilled with night photography and the photos I take of the celestial objects tend to come out blurry. Here are a few of the scenes I shot yesterday on the ride home of the pastures and clouds and sky.

I like Van Gogh's work, but if I had to live under what he viewed (and painted) as such an oppressive sky, I'd feel trapped. The sky is looming, pressing I'd feel as though it's reaching down to swallow me up. Perhaps in Van Gogh's madness, this IS how he felt.

His paintings are pretty though. Many of them are just heavy. Apparently, Van Gogh's wavy skies and night time swirls are meteorologically and astronomically accurate!

Monet... I was watching The Impressionists on Amazon Prime. Interesting 4-part series. Anyway, Monet as we all know, liked to paint water. Especially water lilies and ponds. One of my own favorite photos was of two lilies in a pond. I put that photo together with Monet's, lol, for comparison.

Monet planted all his water lilies and ponds. He painted the Japanese bridge over his pond 17 times in different conditions and weathers. Monet loved his spot in Giverny France. He fell in love with the place from the moment he saw it, rented a house there, and finally bought a property 7 years later (the soonest he could afford it). Here are some more art resources on Van Gogh and Monet.

Thanks for reading!

15 Things You Might Not Know about Water Lilies

Water Lilies, 250 paintings in a series

11 Things You Didn't Know About Starry Night

The Ten Best Skies in Art

Recipe review: Best Avocado Cauliflower Mash

My friend posted a recipe on Facebook. It looked really good so I thought I'd try it! It is a cauliflower patty with mashed avocado on top, with a fried egg on top of that. I like it for each of the three elements in the dish. However, the intent of the dish is that the cauliflower is supposed to be some kind of substitute for toast.

I've seen this trend elsewhere, for example, that the cauliflower is made into some kind of pizza crust. Blaring headlines on Facebook and Twitter proclaim, "You can't tell the difference!" Or, "Tastes super!" I've never believed these kind of headlines. It's illogical. Cauliflower is cauliflower, and toast is toast. Cauliflower is cauliflower, and pizza crust is pizza crust.

But I really like cauliflower. I usually roast it. I'm always looking for new ways to eat stuff so I thought I'd give the patty mash a try. Here are the results. The top three pics are mine and the bottom one is the recipe's For once, mine came out pretty close to the recipe! Bonus!

The recipe says to use a cheese grater to crumble the cauliflower. I have a mini food chopper so I used that. One or two pulses and the cauliflower was made very small. It all came together very quickly which is always a good thing. :)

The tagline for this recipe says,

You're going to want to replace all toast with this delicious, carb-free cauliflower version.

No. No you're not. But if you want a healthy and filling breakfast that comes together pretty quick, Best Avocado Cauliflower Mash is for you!

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Pad Thai

I just discovered the Kroger shrimp skewers! There are five fresh large shrimp on a wooden skewer, sold for $1. Woo-hoo!

I had a hankering for Pad Thai. Now that I know they sell shrimp this way I will buy the skewer more often and make Pad Thai more often. That's Thai rice noodles, scallions, tofu, chicken (or shrimp), bean sprouts, an egg, lime, and crushed peanuts. It is a dish that goes together pretty fast because none of he ingredients take a long time to cook. The shrimp cook in minutes and so does the tofu. I don't use chicken.

You put the rice noodles in warm water and soak them until they are soft. I speed this up by turning the stove on low. Use a wok if you have it, I don't so I use a large saute pan. Heat oil and toss the tofu you've cubed into it, and the scallions and shrimp or chicken. I forgot to buy scallions so I threw in some roasted greenbeans I'd made the day before, just to have some green in it. Kroger doesn't sell alfalfa or mung bean sprouts. :( You can make a sauce which uses a lot of ingredients, or you can buy pad Thai sauce pre-made, which is what I like to do. Add the sauce to taste. A little goes a long way.

Put pad Thai mixture in a bowl, sprinkle lime juice over it, a lot of juice! I think the lime juice makes it. Sprinkle crushed peanuts over it. Eat immediately. Enjoy!

Look! It's The Man in the Yellow Hat, I mean The Man in the Wing Chair!

Here is my review of the book The Awakening of Miss Prim...

I did not read the entire book. I read the first 6 chapters and the last 2 chapters.

I was disappointed with the book on all levels. The publisher's synopsis of it is pasted below. My review follows.

"A young woman leaves everything behind to work as a librarian in a remote French village, where she finds her outlook on life and love challenged in every way."

"Prudencia Prim is a young woman of intelligence and achievement, with a deep knowledge of literature and several letters after her name. But when she accepts the post of private librarian in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is unprepared for what she encounters there. Her employer, a book-loving intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a critique of her cherished Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. The neighbors, too, are capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the modern world outside."

"Prudencia hoped for friendship in San Ireneo but she didn't suspect that she might find love—nor that the course of her new life would run quite so rocky or would offer challenge and heartache as well as joy, discovery, and fireside debate. Set against a backdrop of steaming cups of tea, freshly baked cakes, and lovely company, The Awakening of Miss Prim is a distinctive and delightfully entertaining tale of literature, philosophy, and the search for happiness."--end synopsis.

What was challenging was getting over the main character's personality. I understand the author wanted to portray a character initially buttoned up and locked down but that due to her move to the idyllic village of San Ireneo she was awakened to beauty and truth by memorably drawn characters and the gently elicited desires of her own heart, unknown to her but wisely seen and kindly shepherded by a man whose patience never dwindles and whose intellect is second only to God's... sigh. If that was the author's goal, it failed. The main character was not someone I'd ever want to spend time with in real life, a drastic mistake for an author to make.

The time was set in modern day but the village was portrayed as a haven for cultural elites, wealthy enough to forego ties to the outside world, and to live according to commonly shared and dearly held precepts, such as a love of literature, honesty, truth, and harmony. Utopia, in other words. Fine, but does the main character have to be such a pill? I never warmed up to her. She was condescending, dour, and haughty.

The other characters were obviously staged as cobblestones to aid her in the supposed road to a great awakening, sadly they were not developed as characters on their own merits. A deft author uses secondary characters to both propel the storyline and remain vivid in the reader's imagination in and of themselves. Deft is not something I'd call Fenollera's writing. The awakening does not occur in the book but is only alluded to in a passage of time that is never described. Clumsily staged conversations during in Miss Prim's heart-journey were not all that cultural or intellectual, but stilted and ponderous. The entire book was pedantic. I gave up on it halfway through.

This book was originally written in Spanish, so I do not know how much was lost in the translation, but the author spent much time telling, not showing. This is her first book, and it's a rookie mistake that should have been corrected by a diligent editor. As an example, "I shall never do that, she reflected wisely..." Don't TELL me she is reflecting wisely, SHOW me her wisdom through her actions. I found the writing to be on a high school level.

I never could overcome the author's conceit of never naming the hero-protagonist, who is only ever called 'The Man in the Wing Chair'. This rendered the dialog jarring and resulted in catapulting the reader right out of the imaginary utopia, another rookie mistake. Moreover, this relationship between The Man in the Yellow Hat oops The Man in the Wing Chair and Prudencia Prim had shades of grey rather than one that was romantic, collegial, or even paternal. Any of those would have been better than the trope of the naive ingenue recoiling in confusion from being steered by an older, wiser man.

If you want elevated conversation, watch My Dinner with Andre. If you want to read a similar book whose execution of the themes of a woman awakened to truth and beauty are deftly handled, read EM Forster's A Room With a View.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Going back to school tomorrow!

I had a nice vacation, two weeks at home in quietude. I watched movies, read, cooked, napped, snuggled with the kitties.

Murray is channeling Luke. He is turning very snuggly. In the morning, he likes to jump in the kitchen table and sit in my arms as I boot up the laptop and read morning devotionals. He purrs a lot when he settles in, his head snugged in the crook of my elbow. It's nice.

I watched a Norwegian movie called The Wave. It's a good disaster film because it's based on real science, scarily possible events, and written with the right amount of suspense. In Norway, there are very tall mountains. The mountains are made of rock. There are earthquakes. There are fjords below the unstable mountains. When a landslide of rock occurs the weight and movement of the slid-down mountainside causes tsunamis. his had happened twice before in modern times, killing many. The nation has now devices which monitor the mountains and scientists stationed thereto interpret the data. There is also a red button and for one particular fjord-side town in a heavily touristed area. When the button is pressed and the alarm sounds, the populace has ten minutes to get above 80meters and safety. Otherwise...

The Wave, good movie, nice characters in it, realistic.

I also watched Sing Street,
Sing Street is a charming movie from Ireland that "takes us back to 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents' relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, ├╝ber-cool and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. There’s only one problem: he’s not part of a band…yet. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver what he’s promised - calling himself "Cosmo" and immersing himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the decade, he forms a band with a few lads, and the group pours their heart into writing lyrics and shooting videos. Inspired by writer/director John Carney's (ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN) life and love for music, SING STREET shows us a world where music has the power to take us away from the turmoil of everyday life and transform us into something greater.

Getting ready for school tomorrow, I made Baba Ganouj. It's eggplant spread/dip. Heat a pot with oil. Most people also put in a crushed garlic clove. You can also add mushrooms, celery, onion. I would advise adding one of the above, not all of them. Cook until they are softened a bit.

Cut up eggplant in small cubes and put in pot that has been heated with oil. Cover the pot so the steam can soften the eggplant without having to pour lots of oil into the pot to ensure the cubes don't stick. Eggplant will absorb oil like a sponge. It doesn't take long for the eggplant to soften.

Cool the eggplant stuff. Add to a blender, Cuisinart, or chopper of some kind. Add Tahini, lemon juice, and a bit of oil to taste. Also salt. Blend till smooth. You can dip crackers, bread or make crostini (garnish with parsley), or add to pasta as a sauce. Whatever you want!

I also made a pot of lentil soup, with celery, potatoes, and carrots. We have some winter weather coming in and the shelves will be razed of milk and bread, soon enough. I will need to get to the store too. A pot of soup is always good to have around. Any amount of snow or sleet is a problem here in the south. So I will prepare as best I can. I haven't driven this new-to-me mini-van in any kind of serious weather yet so we'll see. Oh well, all that is a few days away. Meanwhile, the soup will fill my tummy for lunch at school tomorrow.

Have a good week!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Asperger's Are Us

I'm an early elementary educator who teaches children in regular education and also Special Education. I work with Kindergarten through second grade students. Some of the students I have worked with in the past have been formally diagnosed with Autism. They have landed on the Spectrum at greater or lesser degrees.

There is a heavy emphasis on helping children with autism, which is as it should be. Parents, families, the child, all need support and education.

However, I do worry fiercely for the students who are:

--diagnosed with autism early on and transition to adulthood where there are fewer external support systems
--have never been diagnosed with autism and are transitioning to adulthood and do not know why they feel or act as they do and don't understand why they are so different from everyone else.

In other words, what happens when an autistic child is ready to leave his or her parents' home and go to college...the military...find their place in a vocation? Where their life-long relied-upon support, understanding, help from parents, family, schools, therapists, doctors, and counselors have always been in place but now will dwindle to nothing? The support systems nearly disappear for the autistic adult. Achieving independent success as an autistic adult is a scary and difficult prospect. It's hard for any person not on the spectrum but it's very difficult for those who are. Managing one's autistic self independently is bewildering and difficult.

I came across this documentary about adult Aspies from Massachusetts who had formed a comedy troupe. I loved it! The documentary focuses on the young men as performers, as people, who happen to be autistic. I have to say I did love the comedy. Their jokes...I get.

You won't "learn" about Autism by watching this documentary. You will learn about four unique individuals who have dream and goals, work hard, have fun together, and are facing challenges. Just like everybody else.

After the movie finished, I searched for more information about the men. One of the men, Noah Britton, speaks to audiences about autism, and his TEDx talk in MA was interesting. Not the least is because it was captured on camera the moment he met Rachel as noted in the epilogue of the documentary, his girlfriend (or maybe his wife by now). He also spoke passionately against the use of aversives, using unpleasant stimuli to modify behavior and spoke specifically against the Judge Rotenberg Center. Methods such as loss of privileges, food denial, and shock therapy are still used at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Massachusetts. They are the only facility in the US still using Graduated Electronic Decelerator (GED) directly on the skin.

My cousin Jennifer Msumba was a resident at the JRC and has spoken publicly about her experience there multiple times. In 2014 she spoke to CBS News, she testified before a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel, and spoke up about her experience in many other places testifying to the horrendous impacts aversives have. She spoke about it this week in her Youtube channel:

Here, Jennifer speaks about what it is like to live with OCD.

Jennifer speaks with an articulate clarity and shining joy of life. As in this video!

Jennifer recently reached a life goal of becoming a member of Mensa. She plays four instruments, composes her own songs, arranges and performs cover songs, rescues poodles, and generally is amazing. Like the four men in Asperger's Are Us.

Jennifer and the four men in Asperger's Are Us have a good support system and seem to be making (or who have already made the transition) well. It's often a bumpy road, and for those without a support system, it often a road littered with roadblocks, potholes, and crashes. It's nice to see these men and women people doing and working and living and loving and laughing.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Snippets of my day

Two luxurious weeks off. Mmmm, what to do? Read! I have plenty to choose from at home.


"What I did on my Christmas vacation". I ORGANIZED something. Oh, the joy that fills my heart. I fixed up the clothes-laundry area in my garage. I'd ordered a portable shelving holder from Amazon and I set it up in the spot where the washer-dryer is. I like maximizing space, and so I did!


Murray is very active in the mornings when I first get up. He runs around like a nut, looks out of every window, plays with everything except the toys I've bought him (frayed thread on hanging towel, shower curtain, other sleeping cat, imaginary shadow...). When he finally decides to settle for a nap, as all moms of kids and fur babies say, Amen!


Practicing with Pixlr, this time, "Space silhouette"


Aww too bad this job had been filled already by an eccentric. I'd like to have applied for it...

The Cave-dwelling Hermitess of Colonial America

The wind is howling and though it's warm now, the temps are supposed to plunge throughout the day as a cold front moves in. Perfect for staying warm in leggings and oversize comfy shirt, with tea. My last teabag of Stash "Christmas Morning Black and Green tea" awaits.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Design...luscious graphic design. Vintage Science Posters & Megan Lee

I love looking at beautiful things. Don't you? :) This first offering is from The Modernist Nerd
The intersection of science and design has many beautiful manifestations, from data visualization to nerd tattoos. But hardly does it get more delightful than in these gorgeous vintage science and technology ads from magazines in the 1950s and 1960s, bringing the modernist aesthetic to the atomic and space ages.
Here are a couple of offerings. I like the one about copper. Can you imagine the ad designer pondering how to make copper interesting? He did it.

And aluminum?

Soviet Propaganda Posters, while the content was objectionable to Americans back in the day, the design was stellar. I've written about them before, relating the history behind the popular UK war propaganda poster "Keep Calm and Carry On" and some other perfectly gorgeous posters as examples.

Here is a page dedicated to Soviet Posters.

The BBC did an article last year looking at 6 of the most recognizable vintage Soviet cosmonaut posters with explanations as to the history behind them.

Noel Bagley at Aetherworks (love the beauteous home page!!) found some modern vintage science posters by Megan Lee at her etsy shop. VISIT Megan Lee! Her designs are incredibly beautiful!

Niels Bohr was a 1922 Nobel winner for advancing our understanding of quantum physics and the structure of the atom.

Look, just LOOK at Megan's scientist postcards!

Rock Star Scientists posters. Fibonacci! Mandelbrot! My faves!

And planet stationery! This woman can design beautiful things!

Ahhh, gorgeous.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Book reading plan for 2017

Darryl Dash wrote yesterday on his blog,
When my kids were younger they attended schools with an initiative called “Drop Everything and Read.” The idea was simple. Students could pick their own book, lay aside other obligations, and read for the joy of it. There would be no tests or reports. I loved the idea.
When I taught first grade, waaaaaay back thirty years ago, we did the DEAR program. We loved it. I taught in a PK-2 school then and when the principal announced DEAR time we all dropped everything and read for the pleasure of it. Nowadays, the day is so crammed for students with tasks and assessments and being 'productive,' that reading for pleasure is often scooted to the side. Sadly.

Mr Dash wrote his essay intended as an encouragement for pastors not to neglect good reading, hefty reading, non-fiction reading...all reading. It's part of the job. He said that when we leave reading until the end of the day after everything is finished, we don't read.

I have found this to be true. My day, just as most of you have experienced, is crammed with so many obligations and tasks, that I've left reading to the end and consider it a leisure activity. But it's not. Reading good books about missionaries, books on theology, commentaries, or just plain good fiction (Elmer Gantry!!!!) helps keep our mind sharp and encourages our thinking. And make no mistake, Christianity is a thinking religion.

I've made a decision to read more. I have gotten out of the habit. I downloaded Challies' reading program and selected the 'Avid level.'

There aren't many rules, just go through the list at the pace suggested. One can mix up the order, but I'm a rule follower and I'm going through it in the order given. Starting at the very top of the Challies list, my first book, the biography, will be-

Hearts of Fire: Eight Women in the Underground Church and Their Stories of Costly Faith by Voice of the Martyrs

The classic novel will be The Encantadas and Other Stories by Herman Melville.
And, Ben-Hur.
I'll also be also finishing Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.

A book about history will be Life in a Medieval Castle by Frances Gies and Joseph Gies.
I'll also finish Salt: A World History by Michael Kurlansky.

I'm not looking forward to 'A Book Targeted at My Gender' and really have no clue about that one. It's hard, being child-free and unmarried at age 56, but I'll do my diligence and scrape a female book up from somewhere. Maybe Women's Ministry in the Local Church by Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, hee hee.

The book about theology will be Concise Theology by J. I. Packer

A book of at least 400 pages will be Fireside Book of Dog Stories, 1943, by Jack Goodman (Editor), James Thurber (Introduction)

A book my pastor recommends will be decided upon later, when I get to that point and ask him.

A book about Christian living will be What Every Christian Ought to Know by Adrian Rogers.

A book more than 100 years old will be easy to choose, I have tons of them laying around. Maybe The Decameron by Boccaccio (almost 700 years old) or Flatland: A Romance in Many Dimensions by Edward Abbott which is over 130 years. I've read Flatland before, but focused on the math. This time I want to focus on the sly satire on Victorian mores, and maybe combine reading it with some Lytton Strachey.

Those are the starters.

I already posses the books I've mentioned, except for the women's book by Duncan and Hunt. I already own all these! I have had some of them for 20 or 30 for years, always saying "I'll get to them some day." Some of these I've been carrying from apartment to apartment from Maine to Georgia, since 2004. Don't get me wrong, I've made hefty use of Amazon and the Public Library and Kindle and have read many books. I've also read many of the books I personally own. But I turned 56 years old last week and I've been toting around some of these for 10, 20, 25 years, always intending to read them. Like The Decameron. I bought that book after my first trip to Italy in 1990 when I was 30. It's shocking how fast time flies.

So I decided to Drop Everything And Read. Time is too DEAR to waste any more on stupid TV or unprofitable activity. Once you get out of the habit of reading, whether due to social distractions or technology or work pressures, it is hard to get back into it. And since time is always short, I have to MAKE time to read.

It's my resolution anyway. We'll see how that goes.

From current apartment all the way back to 2004, no matter how small the apartment I always had books.

This bookcase filled rapidly,
especially after I received my MacArthur Commentaries.

I had to co-opt a table into becoming another bookcase.

In this apartment I had four six-foot bookcases, filled.

This was an attic apartment of a Cape Cod style house in Maine
with a weirdly shaped middle room due to the low ceiling & dormers.
I made it my library.

This was a temporary transition apartment which was really
a furnace room in a garage, but I made do and brought my books.

When I moved out of the temporary apartment above,
I lived here which was one of the best places. It also had a large deck
onto which I'd go out and read, when I had time.
I was running my own business then and time was in short supply.