Sunday, March 29, 2015

Well Traveled, Creative and Whimsical

Suitcase and Heels
Today I was organizing my "bookmarks" and I rediscovered a few sites that I had saved because they were created by people that I know, or friends of / relatives of people that I know. I am in awe of how informative and professional these sites are! They inspire me and I would love to learn more about web design.

Suitcase and Heels 

Suitcase and Heels is a travel site created by Melissa Hogan (in the photo above). Her dad is a friend of ours. She loves traveling and everything to do with traveling and her sight has some great tips for those who are up for an adventure!

Two Stitch Knits


Two Stitch Knits
Two Stitch Knits is a site created by the niece of a friend of mine. While I have never met this young woman, I admire her creativity. She is relatively new to the art of knitting, but has embraced it enthusiastically. Her blog is full of great ideas and inspiration!


Sunshine and Whimsy

I love reading this blog! Sunshine and Whimsy is created by Amanda, the girlfriend of a guy, Tony, who is a FB friend of mine. He is a technician in the IT department at the school where I worked in Beijing. Amanda and Tony are engaged (she is Canadian, a Maritimer and he is Chinese) and she sometimes writes about the cultural differences that come up in their relationship. Also, as the title suggests, a common theme in her blog is living life in a positive upbeat way.

This week she posted a photo (below) that makes her happy. I can see why! It is a sure sign of spring in the "jing"! And it speaks to me as I see that the building in the background is the "middle - high" section of the school where I worked, which brings back fond memories.

I will definitely be checking out Amanda's blog as her wedding with Tony approaches. She has already made arrangements for her "bachelorette" weekend in Hong Kong!
Sunshine and Whimsy
                                     

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Coping Strategies


The end of March and this is what greets us when we open our front door! While I have vowed not to dwell on the miserable, depressing, isolating, unrelenting, horrible winter we have had, and apparently continue to have, I deserve at least one rant. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to!
Falling short of playing "The Glad Game", I will attempt to put a positive spin on things and share my coping strategies - NETFLIX! I've read a few good books this winter, signed up for a winter course (which got cancelled) and even embraced the beauty of winter by visiting some ice caves, but my true savior has been Netflix. 
                                                           
              
Since the arrival of streaming and PVR-ing, I can't seem to be bothered with viewing something once a week at a specific time. I want it - when I want it - as much as I want - or as little -  and without any annoying commercials! The CRTC has recently forced service providers to offer "pick and pay" type packages so that consumers are not paying for bundles that include programs that they don't want. Our viewing options seem to be looking up. It will be interesting to see where the industry is in a few years.
In the meantime, as I mentioned, my new best friend Netflix has filled many a housebound winter day or evening with viewing pleasure that I will share with you. 

So, here are some recommendations:
  • House of Cards
  • Orange is the New Black
  • The Hour 
  • The Bletchley Circle (same era as The Imitation Game)
  • Call the Midwife
  • Rake (very entertaining)
  • Mr. Selfridge
  • Damages
  • The Fall
  • Kingdom
  • Suits
  • The Good Wife
  • Last Tango in Halifax 
  • Bates Motel (hokey but somewhat entertaining)
  • Scott and Bailey (quite good)
Yes! I have actually spent all that time viewing! Imagine if I had put that time into reading classics, or history ..... how smart would I be? Like my mother used to say .... "Lynn, if you knew your school work as well as you know the words to all the songs on the radio, you'd be an A student." I guess somethings never change!

Personally, I enjoy the British shows. The characters are more realistic without the superficial Hollywood glam ...... plus they have cool accents! If you have the US Netflix, MI5 and Peaky Blinders are both good.

So ..... now, hopefully, as the days grow longer and weather improves I will pursue more worthwhile activities and interests that take me out of the house more often.






Monday, March 16, 2015

One Thing Leads to Another!



Well, we had our "Indian Gourmet" night...... a very delicious evening! While my friend Juliette and I had grand ideas of choreographing a "Bollywood" style dance with jangling waist scarves and all, we made do with some Bollywood music from Songza and a little fun with some henna tattoos. Below, one of our male guests gets tatted up ...... looks like he needed a beer to help with the pain!


I even found a humongous piece of sari-like material at Value Village for a table cloth and added a little elephant from Thailand and a prayer wheel from Nepal (close enough!) for decoration.


Good food, good friends and plenty of refreshments ensured that a good time was had by all. The next day, however, when I was gathering things up, I noticed the beautiful handwriting on some of these little place cards. (I provided the cards for everyone to put the name of their dish on.) These lovely hand written letters seemed to capture the exotic names of the dishes we were serving! I'm still trying to figure out who done it ....... Cinderella(s) where are you?


So, as I said, one thing leads to another. I am now inspired to learn more about creating cool handwriting (for an artistic person, mine is atrocious!). I've posted a tutorial below on this topic and I hope that I will be persistent enough to do the practice required. I doubt that "hand lettering" will become my new art form, I'd just like to be able to create something visually pleasing when required to sign a card, fill out a name tag or post a yard sale sign.

Hand Lettering for beginners - Hey Mimi DIY 

The best tip on this video is to pick a font from your computer (or what ever) then print it out and practice, practice, practice! .... I'm inspired!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ice Caves

I guess there are a few good things about winter after all ...... I said "a few"! I just spent a lovely day outdoors with some old friends and new at the Midland Ice Caves. With the weather being sunny and mild, snow and ice seem quite beautiful.

Juliette, Diane and Pam at the beginning of the trail.

We began with a long uphill hike through a field. Had the weather been cold and windy, it might have been miserable, but it was very pleasant and I'm sure we burnt at least a few calories!

Onward and forward!

Juliette looking very "sporty" with her Nordic poles! 


Finally we reach the crest of the hill on the other side of the field!


Diane, Pam and Barb on the easy part in the woods.



After a trek through the woods, there they were! Now we know how Sir Edmund Hillary felt when when he reached Mt. Everest! LOL!

Barb navigates the steep hill to the caves.


We made it! Let the exploring begin!

Pam and Lynn



Going back. downhill was much easier!


The end of a great adventure .... well almost - now to Mama George's for a treat!


Friday, March 6, 2015

Indian Gourmet Night

Next weekend we will be hosting our "gourmet club" and the theme is Indian! I have to say that, next to Thai, this is my favorite type of ethnic food. When we were living in Bangladesh I thought we would encounter more "Indian" type flavors (since Bangladesh used to be part of India), but we did not. Even though we were invited to the homes of several "locals", the food did not seem to have the same flavors as what I know, to be "Indian".

Below are some photos from Bangladesh where, markets and spices etc. are similar to India. One of the best (local meals) we had there was at the home of the family in the photo. The gentleman in the middle worked at our school and the others are all part of his family.

Top left - our fellow staff member and his family. The others were taken on a trip to a local market.

So ... to get thinking about Indian food I've done a little research:

India is a big country and each region has its own unique specialties in the food department. When you Google "Indian food" or "Indian recipes" the possibilities are endless! 

It's all about the Spice

Basically, it's the spices that make this mind boggling array of dishes uniquely "Indian". Curry powder, used in many recipes, is actually a mixture of spices: turmeric, chili, fenugreek, cardamon, cumin, coriander, saffron and mace. Garam Masala (masala - means spice mix) is called for in many Indian dishes and is also a blend of spices. Most Indian families blend their own "Garam Masala" so quantities often vary. Garam Masala consists of: cumin, black pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. The difference here is the blend of savory (cumin, pepper etc.) and sweet (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg) together. "Tikki" Masala is Garam Masala plus - ginger and mint. So as you can see - it's all about the spice!

Cooking oil and sides

If cooking oil is required, vegetable oil such as sunflower or canola is commonly used. Some recipes may call for "ghee" (we often saw this in stores in Bangladesh or Sri Lanka), Ghee is actually clarified butter. Since many dishes are a mixture of meat and or vegetables in a flavorful sauce they are usually served with rice as a "side" or perhaps naan bread to soak up the juice. Traditionally basamati rice is used.

Chutneys, and pickles are also traditional accompaniments to the Indian dinner table and of course you gotta love samosas!

Popular Dishes

So here is a list of some popular Indian dishes:
  • Butter Chicken
  • Rogan Josh (lamb or beef in a spicy sauce)
  • Vindaloo (a spicy curry dish with either beef or chicken)
  • Tandoori Chicken
  • Malai Kofta (mashed potato balls in a cream sauce)
  • Palak Paneer (spinach and cottage cheese)
  • Chicken Tikki Masala
  • Chole (chick pea curry)
  • Paneer Makhabi (Indian cheese in a tomato sauce)
The list above could be endless! 

If you begin to research Indian cuisine, you will not find a lack of information ..... it can be overwhelming! I've posted a link to three websites below. Tarladalal.com is a popular website featuring contemporary as well as traditional Indian food. Indianfood about.com offers a lot of information about the culture and regions as they pertain to food in India. All Recipes - Indian Food is very user friendly (especially for North Americans) and it even has videos for may of its recipes! If you follow the link below you will find specific categories such as: main dishes, sides, appetizers and desserts ..... too easy!

So put on your "shalwar kameez" (ladies) and your "punjabi"(men) and try out a taste of India!



Photo
A typical (middle class) kitchen in Bangladesh. This lady cooked us some delicious potato pancakes!
My grade 7 language arts class all dressed up in their shalwar kameez and punjabis! 

                                 



Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spring is NOT Just Around the Corner

Apparently spring is NOT just around the corner. according to meteorologists, cold weather, and even snow, will continue for the rest of March and perhaps into April ..... especially in Atlantic Canada! The summer, they say, in my neck of the woods will be very warm, with lots of rain! We just can't seem to catch a break!

I have been very proud of my ability to refrain from posting rants about the horrible weather we've been having this year. When I returned from "old people land" in Arizona, I was determined to make the most of my senior years, winter weather and all ..... but it ain't easy! A course that I signed up to take was canceled due to lack of interest and in spite of my determination to brave the snowy roads, there have been days when it's just not worth it to go out. Therefore I have been resolved to pass the time with reading and viewing (haven't been in the mood for art making lately). Thus I am always on the look out for a new title ........ of a book, Netflix series, or movie.

Books

I'm not interested in investing time reading a book if it's not my cup of tea so I depend on the recommendations of others (even though that's not a guarantee). It's kind of like using a GPS ... take the advice, but ultimately decide for yourself. 

I often choose books based on interviews I've heard on CBC,  Heather's picks on Indigo, Google research or recommendations from friends. 

One book I read recently, offered by a friend, was A Season in Hell  by Robert Fowler. The author, a former Canadian diplomat, was captured by Al Qaeda and held captive in the Sahara for 130 days. If it wasn't recommended by an other female friend of a similar vintage, I would never have entertained reading it. However, to my surprise it was a page turner!


As a result of a CBC interview of the author, psychologist Brian Little I read the book Me, Myself and Us - a study of the science of personality. According to new research, we may be "hardwired" to be an introvert or an extrovert, but depending on our circumstances we can act "out of character" in order to adapt to the situation. In other words, I may be an introvert by nature, but because my job as a teacher requires it, I become an extrovert during the school day. We all have our "true colours" - they just don't always show up. - A very thought provoking read!

 Me Myself And Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being

I just finished The Silver Star by Janette Walls, a quick, delightful read that I zipped through in a day and a half. Her other books, The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, which I enjoyed very much are based on similar themes - mature and resourceful children who thrive in spite of having flaky, incompetent parents. I especially loved the fact that The Glass Castle was based on the author's own family!

So .... now I am in search of some new reading material. Sometimes I think it takes me longer to look for a book than it does to read it! As I said, I'm a big CBC radio fan so I tend to be influenced by their suggestions. The other day I was listening to a piece by one of their regular contributors who reviews books and I discovered her website (The Ludic Reader, below), so I am hopeful that I will find a few exciting new "reads" to help me survive until spring actually arrives!


Here is a link to a previous post with a list of books that I have enjoyed!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Every Action!

Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction!

Well, as I told you I joined Google + so that I could back up all of my photos. I really didn't know what I was doing but magically all my photos appeared on the Google + site. They are all there, even though it takes me a while to find what I'm looking for. I assume that once I get used to the program, it will get easier.

So, as I said, or actually as Isaac Newton said, "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" and just as I was patting myself on the back over my wise and forward thinking implementation of Google +, the "reaction" appeared. To my surprise, while I was reviewing some of my recent blog posts I noticed that some of my photos did not appear - a grey blank symbol in their place! After much research I discovered that by joining Google + somehow any photos that I have uploaded from my Picassa web albums disappeared!!?? It seems that other people who have blogs have had this problem as well so it is comforting to know that it's not just me. I've read that Google is planning to "phase out" Picassa and get people to switch to the "new" program (Google +). I always assumed that if you uploaded a photo (no matter from where) that it would stay there until you removed it. 

Where to go From Here?

So what to do about this situation. I can go back and reload the photos that have been lost, if I still have them! Other bloggers are far worse off as they have used Picassa for all of their pics. (Other bloggers are much more serious than I am as well.) I might consider starting a new blog in another program like Wordpress. Perhaps a fresh start is what's needed! 

The whole thing brings me to another good point that photographer, Sean McGrath stressed, be sure to get at least some of your photos printed! Computers crash, technologies change, but (short of a house fire or flood) you will always have hard copies. Good advice!

Another piece of advice he talked about, was refraining from taking and keeping (electronically) large numbers of photos. It can be overwhelming when you begin the process of sorting them out. I guess it's like telling a story. If there's too much detail and information the listener just tunes out. So when it comes to photos ...... how many images do really you need to capture the moment?