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Monday, November 28, 2016

Like It or Lump It, the Bitter Pill

I have been wondering ever since I wrote it, why I chose the story of my last post. I am appalled by the election results, but not surprised -- exactly. I want to give the not quite the people's choice the chance to be not as bad as I think he will be. But it has  not been easy to reserve judgement. Especially with the choice of Steve Bannon as his Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor. When I hear that instead of 12 million illegal immigrants there will only be deportations of three million, the grim history of the 1940's comes to mind.

So, why did I write my last post? It was an attempt to explain the phenomenon of Donald Trump. I have a vague recollection of when I first heard of him. He was at the time married to Ivana and they were both quite young and glamourous -- she was amusing. And of course everyone was fascinated by all the money they had. Gosh that was a very long time ago -- long before the sleaze and the divorces and the mysterious goings on with bankruptcies and money -- or lack of it! Most of all, we really didn't know anything about him. We were really only interested in the glamour and all that dosh.

What I find beyond difficult to understand, is how this urban New Yorker has been able to convince middle America that he has the answers to the country's problems and in particular their problems. There is a long road ahead and it looks woe be gone to me.

I am a life long Democrat from a family of life long Democrats. I am on the mailing lists of many Party organizations and try to keep abreast of what is happening in the ranks. For a long time now I have castigated the Republican Party for allowing itself to be taken over by right wing extremists and I have also been pretty unhappy with the tone of the recent election. But now I find that the tone of my own party is making me question its ways.

For example I have received emails asking me to support the impeachment of Donald Trump. Surely, this is not the time for that! Like it or not, approve of the man or not, he has been elected and must be given the opportunity to serve as President. In addition, it is utterly stupid and a waste of time and money, to expend energy on such an exercise which is bound to fail before a Congress the  majority of whom are Republicans.

Above all, I believe this is a time for extreme caution. Our President-elect is not happy about recounts in three states and is now making accusations that Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote because the election was rigged! So many reactions and counter-reactions do not bode well for the future well-being of the country and its citizens.

It is fortunate that the U.S. election is followed several weeks which provide time for reflection and meditation. No matter who wins, there must also be a loser and so people are both happy and miserable. For those of us who follow the traditions of the season of Advent, it helps to meditate on the Antiphons of the church, which begin

 O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly.  Come, and teach us the way of prudence.

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Modern Fairy Tale

Once upon a time quite a few years ago in the town of my parents, a prince was travelling through on his way home to his neighbouring kingdom. It was very beautiful in this New England realm and many aristocrats  and famous people had been known to travel the roads just for the scenery.

The prince drove a splendid and expensive sports car even though the day was very cold and the roads were icy and the landscape snowy from a recent storm. A few miles down the road he came to the crossroads where he would turn right to cross the old gray covered bridge across the beautiful and picturesque Housatonic River en route to the border of his realm.

The lure of a powerful sports car tempted him to go faster over the icy and snow-packed road than he should have gone and suddenly  his car was skidding and spinning and flew up over the bank of snow on the side of the road and into a very deep snow drift. As this was a long time ago and well before mobile phone signals might even exist -- if they even do to this very day! The prince was well and truly stuck. Of course, it was also true that the prince was not wearing appropriate footwear either and it was going to be dark soon.

The prince tended to be a very lucky man -- and luck turned out to be with him that day. Farmer Bradley was on his way back home after a day pulling felled trees from where they had fallen across the road during the snow storm.  He was on his tractor and his tractor had chains and sand and other useful and necessary equipment for winter country life. Seeing the princely predicament and being a neighbourly and helpful sort, even at the worst of times, Farmer Bradley set about freeing the car from the snowdrift in no time at all.

The prince was very grateful, as one might imagine. And he tried to give the farmer a generous sum of money for his gracious help. But the farmer would take none of it because he believed that if you can help someone, that's what you do and money shouldn't come into it. The prince was surprised and slightly disappointed that he could not reward the man for his kindness and generosity of spirit.

Not long after the events described, Farmer Bradley had to go to the bank to pay his mortgage. When he got there the Manager called him into his office to tell him that his mortgage had been paid in full by the prince.

The prince's name was Donald Trump!

A true story -- with embellishments!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Delays and Mishaps Don't Prevent the Vote

Last week I despaired that I would not be able to vote in the upcoming Presidential election. I had sent my forms into the town clerk of the last town in the U.S. where I had lived about three weeks in before and had been waiting for an email in response.

The procedure for absentee voting is different for every state and in my home state of Connecticut it is more straightforward than many others. In order to ensure delivery of my application to the Town Clerk I had sent the mail requiring a signature. This also allowed me to track it -- and imagine my surprise when I discovered it had been sitting in the New York State postal service for a good 10 days! I surmise this was because I had paid extra money to have a signature!

I then spent several hours trying to discover how to submit a Federal ballot, which is used in emergency situations -- for example when a ballot does not show up. Finally I found the right link to click and sure enough I was able to download and print it and get it ready for mailing -- once again to the same peopled in Connecticut I had already applied to in the first place!

Then I read a little line in the instructions about how it would be a good idea to call the Town Clerk's office as any confusion might be cleared up quite quickly. And so I did. Well worth the trouble of that call! It also helped that I was dealing with small town America...

I had sent my application to the town of Canaan, Connecticut. But I had forgotten, that the town where I had only lived for a short time with my mother, was, in fact North Canaan. When I called Canaan, the town clerk remembered my application and informed me that it had been delivered to the town clerk in North Canaan and I should call her. Which I duly did.

Oh yes, she remembered me very well! After all they don't get many requests for absentee ballots in North Canaan. She informed me that she had sent me an email with all the necessary forms attached! But, I explained, I had not received an email. She replied that not only had she sent it to my main email address, but also to the alternative email address I had supplied...

When I asked her when she sent it she said the day she received the request or the day after.  She said she would resend. When I got off the phone, I trawled back through my emails. I hadn't deleted any for about three days. I don't know about all of you, but I get hundreds of emails -- many from political organizations, so I have to regularly dump them. I felt sure that if I had received an email from her it had probably been dumped. But trawl through what was there I did. And believe it or not the very last emails from three days previously were from the town clerk of North Canaan with all the necessary forms for me to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election.

It didn't help that the 'from' address was just the persons name, and not official looking. But it just goes to show how easy it is to overlook important emails. It makes me wonder how many I have missed over the years... But on the same day I found them, d I filled out the forms and sent in my ballot with my choices. What a relief!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sleeplessness

Anyone who has ever experienced sleeplessness can verify it to be one life's most frustrating maladies. At least it's not painful...

At the moment the main culprit is Christmas! Now I know by many standards having nine people around the table is no big deal at all. I have friends who regularly share the yuletide season with as many as 25 or 30. I wouldn't even want to be a guest with so many family members -- not that there are 30 in my extended family -- but then I haven't ever counted!

Anyway, I'll wake up in the middle of the night and start making lists or planning menus. People start arriving on the 23rd and leave the 29th. Seven will be staying here -- two in a hotel. I think I'm getting a headache ...

And when it's not Christmas, it's my boys and their lives and hopes and so on. Not to mention then thoughts about visiting South Korea and Italy. Andrew in Italy is starting his own school teaching English -- oh my goodness Italian bureaucracy and new locations. Keeps a mother awake at night, I can tell you.

And there is my son at home who has just bought a Victorian house -- which he is in the process of gutting and renovating with the help of The Man. That is is one interesting dynamic -- the ideas of one versus the advice of the other! (My mouth kept shut...) The two of them are working on the fireplace, getting it ready for a word burning stove. Then after that there is the bathroom that has been gutted and the kitchen that has been gutted. Not to mention the worm ridden two by fours in the ceiling/floor above! Thoughts that run through my head in the middle of the night!

Finally, I still await the completion of the kitchen. And in the middle of the night I find that the cabinets start reorganizing themselves and I start to imagine throwing this paraphernalia out and wondering if I have chosen the right colour for the walls and before you know it I'm wondering what the hell I'm going to cook for Christmas. And then after everyone leaves -- what about New Year?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Light at the End of the Tunnel -- If not in the Cabinet!



The upper cupboards of the above cabinets were supposed to have been glazed. Apparently, the manufacturer does not do these particular cabinets glazed, because they are too large.  They claim that they sent an email when the order was placed, but not being suspicious at all, I suspect they just sent the non-glazed doors without explanation...There is a way to work around this by removing the centre panels from the present doors, routing the inside and fitting glass -- this would be done by our kitchen people.

We have decided that  we will only have the cabinet on the left glazed and will leave the one over the television as it is. I have had confirmation of this plan and await work to begin . Then all that is left is to choose the colour of the paint for the walls, which we hope will be a very pale shade of salmony apricot. Whew! What a palaver!

Friday, October 14, 2016

OMG

This side of the room was just right...

Several months ago I wrote a post about my plans for a new kitchen! The idea was that it had been planned with my son and the work would be done when The Man and I were in Portugal last February. My son agreed to be the project manager. For one good reason and another we had to delay the implementation of  the plan until we left for France in early August.

The kitchen is installed. There are a few glitches to be taken care of, but otherwise it looks great and will look even better in the not too distant future. But ...

I wish I had been here... on the one hand...

On the other hand, it was best The Man was not!

Instead of our usual 36 hour trek back to the North of England, The Man decided to take the overnight ferry from Caen to Plymouth. From Plymouth it is about 5 hours to get home. The drive from our house to Caen was 8 hours. We were not able to get a cabin and so had to sleep -- or in my case try to sleep -- in reclining chairs for the 6 hour sail across the channel. The Man slept like a log.

By the time we arrived home we were both exhausted.

We headed for the new kitchen -- it was more or less a tip.

The Man looked around, "It's rather stark."

I looked around noting first of all that cupboards that were supposed to have been glazed were not -- leading to a feeling of personal dismay. "You don't like it, do you?"

"No, I'm afraid I don't," came an equally stark reply. He made a cup of tea and went for a sleep.

Suddenly wide awake, I went to work cleaning and clearing up.


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Time to Wind-up the Lot!

It's a lovely morning in the Lot today. On Friday we begin the long trek back to Southport and while I am ready for returning, still it's so pretty here and so pleasant that I don't exactly relish saying goodbye to summer.

There are few places, if any, in the world that could be described as prettier than the Lot. There may be places that are more majestic, with towering mountains and tremendous waterfalls -- but for just downright pretty I have yet to visit anywhere that can beat it here. Ranked 92nd in terms of population, this department has an impressive range of scenery -- from rugged, scrubby limestone plateaus to lush rolling countryside and dramatic limestone cliffs there is no place better to relax and unwind and to enjoy the best food. But it is definitely a place for outdoor living. winter is cold and wet and indoors.

And now I have procrastinated long enough, it's time to get on with packing up ... but first there is the matter of catching a few more rays of warm sunshine ...

Will try to ad pictures when I once again have an Internet connection that is not quite so slow!



Saturday, September 24, 2016

La Cuoca


Indeed! Thatsa me!! I brought my certificate to France as |I think the most suitable place for it is the kitchen wall here. But I still need to find a suitable frame for it. You will all be impressed to know that this feat was accomplished in  about 3 hours in the midst of Chianti-land. It was, in fact a great fun day with lots of laughter and lunch -- the result of our culinary efforts.

Our chef and teacher, Alan, was amusing and accomplished. We started the day with a visit to one of the local markets in Florence -- checking out the hams and the cheeses and the fruits and the vegetables. Wine and goodies were served at about  10 a.m. -- too early for most of us. My son and Alan hit the coffee bar soon afterward and I suspect they may have each had a Grappa to wash out the dregs in their cups...

Florence was a very hot and sticky city that day and I was pleased to find myself in an air-conditioned bus and on our way to the countryside and the place of the cooking school.  It was a very grand place. The winery was also a kind of museum explaining the history of chianti and the soil that produces this produces this particular variety. We were to eat surrounded by wooden barrels and a sense of the 'ages' enveloping us.

In the first part of the lesson we learned how to make a true bolognaise sauce and also a fresh tomato sauce made with very fresh cherry tomatoes. Alan made these two sauces and we had to make the pasta to accompany them. In addition we made our own dessert: tiramisu!

There were 14 students in all: 7 of us were in the same family; the remaining 7 were Americans. In fact of the whole group, only my son was British -- and he is American, too, by right of birth. During the lesson we sat at a counter with the appropriate ingredients we would need in front of us. I am not a bad cook and the making of pasta is particularly easy. |However, came apart at the first hurdle!

"It's only pasta" was Alan's mantra and he repeated it to me when I stumbled. The instructions were quite clear. Take the flour, mix the salt (tiny bit) and make a well in the centre. I did as I was told. We were then to break the egg into the center and stir it up adding flour a little at a time until you had a soft ball. But when I broke my egg into the centre it ran up and over the wall of flour I had not ensured was quite high enough -- and started to run towards the edge of the counter and , God forbid, the floor! As any right-minded student would do, I endeavoured to stop the flow by deluging the runaway egg with flour and mashing it back where it belonged into a soggy and unwieldy mess!

I was mortified, but no one else witnessed my dilemma because they were too busy getting it right! And then Alan came and quoted his delightful mantra into my ear; "It's only pasta"!

Eventually, I managed to roll out an acceptable piece of pasta dough and made the required ravioli stuffed with ricotta; and the tagliatelle from the bits on the side. Then all of our efforts were collected onto a huge communal platter and we off to learning how to make tiramisu. Not hitches there. I made my individual dessert with no difficulties. I remember absolutely nothing -- or almost nothing about how to make it. However, my son makes the best tiramisu I have ever had, so I figure wait for him to come home and then get him to make it!

Lesson over, it was time to make our way to the dining room to enjoy the fruits of our so- called labour! And very enjoyable it was, too...
The Graduates: The Broad, The Son, and The Sister!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

You Just Never Know What Will Happen Next!

So basking in my newly discovered method of connecting successfully to the Internet,  not to mention the late summer heat wave, I was very happy to be able to Skype with my eldest son in South Korea. This week brings their  celebration of  Thanksgiving,, Chuseok so he and the children have several days off for the celebrations. Which also means it is very convenient to Skype!

So there we were discussing the food he was planning to prepare and the guests he had invited when all of a sudden he got a very peculiar look on his face and said "We are having an earthquake". His wife I could hear in the background, and he jumped up and ordered everyone under the doorway. And |I sat here in France, having witnessed the room shake, looking at a blank screen and hearing their voices in the background.

In less than a minute he was back in front of the screen 'shaken but not stirred' explaining what the sensation had been like -- he said it started very slowly and suddenly the intensity of the shaking began to increase -- he said that was he most frightening aspect because he had no idea when it would stop intensifying. Heejung, soon had information that the earthquake had registered as 5.1 on the Richter scale. Earthquakes are very rare in South Korea, despite the fact it is so close to Japan, which is on the Rim of Fire. Until yesterday 5.5 was the most severe that had ever been recorded. Heejung suggested that perhaps the North had tested another device, but  son said their town was too far south to have felt any aftershocks if they had. We talked for a few more minutes and then he went off to inspect the building and any  damage that might have been incurred.

Later I received a message from him that there had been a second earthquake, this time measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale -- and the largest earthquake ever recorded in Korea. The epicenter of both events was not far from their city of Geongsan and was a place I had visited with my daughter-in-law almost two years ago.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Posting Post Brexit under the Shade of the Old Oak Tree

I could, of course, blame post Brexit blues. Which wouldn't be entirely false -- at least for a couple of days. At that point I was forced to leave for two weeks in Italy visiting my son, Andy, who lives about an hour north of Venice. A week later we were off to Florence for a week with my youngest sister and her two sons and their girlfriends. We all stayed in a beautiful old villa in the hills overlooking the city's Duomo. Idyllic, yes it was. It was also unbearably hot.

I will write more about my Italian adventures soon. Once back in the UK we had only a few weeks to organize our annual sojourn to France and also dismantle the kitchen for it's renovation. An anecdote to the kitchen is that I am so glad I am not there as is usual with these things it has not been straightforward -- nor was it ompleted in the promised two weeks!!! More about that later, too...

So here I sit in the French sunshine of September -- under the oak tree, with an mobile Internet connection enabling me to at long last do a bit more than download email and check the weather forecast. It is not perfect, but it is a vast improvement and better than having to beg Internet access from willing friends.

As for Brexit... No one quite believes it will actually ever happen and everyone is afraid that maybe it will. It has occurred to me and I have heard it compared to the 'phony war' of World War II. On the one hand -- please just get on with it -- and on the other maybe it won't happen after all. Personally, I feel pretty much 'doom and gloom'. Not particularly about Britain, as much as about the whole European Union and its future. Of course if I really want for 'Doom and Gloom' this coming November could Trump all of this into something far more alarming...

Best to lie back under the old oak tree listening to Classic FM , blissfully content and almost carefree...