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Some Books worth reading

I am still trying to figure out how this blog business works, but I think I’m beginning to get the hang of it.
At any rate, here are two books that I’ve read recently that I think are worth passing on to you.
Jillian Cantor’s “The Hours Count” is a novel about the fictional Millie Stein, a neighbor and friend of Ethel Rosenberg who was executed for espionage in 1953. The setting is Knickerbocker Village in New York City and the action takes place between 1946 and 1953 with the epilogue taking place in 1978 on the 25th anniversary of the execution. While Millie is the central character, the historical Ethel is of unique interest. The themes are friendship, motherhood and truth. Were Julius and Ethel innocent? Were the set up? History seems to tell us that they were innocent, but Millie is never sure of who is telling the truth and who isn’t. There are mysteries from beginning to end that keep the readers’ interest. Highly recommended reading.
The second book is Colum McCann’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking”, a novella and three short stories. The novella features the death of J. Mendelsohn from which the mystery ensure. The prose is almost lyrical and the story holds the interest to the very end. The short stories are similarly powerful, set in Afghanistan, Galway and London. A recurrent theme is man’s search for meaning and hope.

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Two Books worth Reading

Just returned from Kamloops and visiting with Reissa and Dale.  Great and exciting time.

First Book:  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is a hilarious and often poignant novel about a man who has recently lost his wife and has been forcibly retired from a job he has held for more than 30 years.  Ove, the title character, is somewhat of a perfectionist and a stickler for rules.  He might also suffer from a bit of OCD.  But he is definitely a “grumpy old man” who holds no truck with the modern world and really doesn’t understand it.  Over the course of the novel, Ove begins to unwind a bit and the reader comes to understand and really love him.  He learns patience and empathy and how to continue living.  This is a wonderful novel.  (Translated from Swedish by Henning Roch.)

Second Book:  Serial Monogamy by Kate Taylor. Sharon, the main narrator, is a successful writer, a wife and mother of young twin girls.  She has recently been commissioned by the Toronto Telegram to write a serial novel on the bi-centennial of the birth of Charles Dickens.  The story within the story is mainly about Nelly Ternan, Dickens’ mistress for the last decade or so of his life.   Each instalment is dated.  At the same time as Sharon is writing, she has discovered her husband is having an affair with a doctoral student of his (he’s a Dickens scholar and lit. professor at the U. of T.  He moves out only to return to Sharon and the twin girls when Sharon is diagnosed with breast cancer.  The two stories are parallels.   Taylor has researched Dickens’ life thoroughly and written about cancer without being cloyingly melodramatic.  “It is what it is.”  But the book is a excellent examination of a marriage that is both strong and weak at the same time.

Another interesting book

Tapas on the Ramblas.  As if the title isn’t intriguing enough, the story line, settings and plot intricacies will have you turning the pages.  I think this is the first of Saskatoon writer Anthony Bidulka’s Russell Quant mysteries although I’ve read three others, but out of order.  Having been to Barcelona and tasted tapas on the Ramblas (Barcelona’s main pedestrian thoroughfare) I was intrigued from the very start.  Quant is the gay former policeman, now a private detective working out of Saskatoon.  The previous stories centred around Quant’s adventures in and around Saskatoon, interesting enough, but this time Bidulka takes us on a Mediterranean cruise while the detective tries to solve who is it that is attempting to murder businesswoman and (hated?) family matriarch Charity Wiser.  Besides the regular interesting characters this time members of the Wiser family (there’s a family tree at the start of the novel to help you keep them straight – and they’re not all straight by any means) create a wealth of interesting and amusing characters.  Bidulka writes with not only a keen eye for setting, but a truly enjoyable if rather camp sense of humour.  And of course, the ending will surprise most readers.

The Illusionists: Live from Broadway

Went to the Princess of Wales theatre yesterday afternoon (New Years Eve day) to see The Illusionists.  We had excellent seats near the front of the second balcony and anyway, it wouldn’t have made all that much difference because they had a screen which brought you the action as if on T.V.  At any rate, it was all a bit underwhelming.  First of all, the music was completely too loud and distracting.  The little boy in front of us – about 4 years old I’d guess – was so frightened that his parents actually covered him up and gave him earphones.  I don’t know why live entertainTment has to be so loud all the time.  Or am I just showing my age?  Jeff Hobson who acted in a way as M.C. was probably the best.  His magic was his comedy.  One especially funny moment involved a child picked apparently at random from the front row of the audience who turned out to be the best part of the entire show.  But Hobson was funny in his own right.

The Korean “Manipulator”, Yu Ho-Jin was also mesmerizing as he made his scarf into cards which then seemingly disappeared into thin air and back into his scarf once more.  He came back at the end with more hand/card tricks that were delightful.  Could have used much more of him.

Andrew Basso, “the Escapologist” escaped from the “water torture” tank in full view of the audience within three minutes and it was suspenseful, but I’ve seen it before and it’s a bit “old hat”.  He was only on stage for the one “trick”.

Darcy Oake, the one Canadian who is billed as “the Grand Illusionist” was okay, but the fact that I really can’t remember one of his illusions says something I think about the performance.

Dan Sperry billed as “the Anti-Conjuror” did some rather disgusting tricks – like placing a toonie in his eye and then cutting it out of his arm.  I thought his performance could have been avoided altogether.

Kevin James, “the Inventor” was actually boring.  He too chose a child out of the audience, but she was stilted, seemed scared and he did very little to settle her or help her perform.

Colin Cloud, the Scottish “Deductionist” was similarly unimpressive.  The tricks were fairly obvious.

Altogether I enjoyed watching the illusionists and magicians on America’s Got Talent more than I did the show at the Princess of Wales.  Perhaps T.V. just lends itself better to that kind of show, but really, The Illusionists at the live theatre was a disappointment.

 

 

Breakfast

Okay, I admit it.  I watch cooking programs on T.V.  Not all the time, but sometimes.  Lately I’ve been watch “Gusto” and I particularly enjoy Jamie Oliver’s presentations.  A couple of days ago, on his 15 minute meals program he did a breakfast recipe that is really 15 minutes that turned out to be fabulous.  Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Porridge     Jamie Oliver     http://www.gustotv.com/recipe/chocolate-porridge/

Makes 12 portions           Total time: 20 mins. (that includes cooking the porridge)

Ingredients

  • 200g blanched hazelnuts .85 cups*
  • 200g Medjool dates .85 cups
  • 400g porridge oats 1.7 cups         
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 heaped tablespoons quality cocoa powder
  • 1 orange

For Each Portion

  • 200ml coconut water .88 cups
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Greek yoghurt
  • 80g fresh fruit, such as raspberries, blackberries, sliced banana, grated apple and pear, segments of orange                             .85 cups
  • optional: 1 pinch of ground cinnamon or quality cocoa powder

Directions

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan on a medium heat until golden, tossing often, then tip into a food processor. Tear the stones out of the dates and add the flesh to the processor with half the oats, the vanilla extract and cocoa powder. Finely grate in the orange zest and pulse until fine, then stir the mixture back through the rest of the oats. Pour into an airtight jar, ready to use.

When you want a portion, simply put 65g of the mixture into a saucepan with 200ml of coconut water and heat gently over a medium-low heat for 3 minutes, or until it’s the consistency that you like, stirring regularly and adding splashes of water to loosen, if needed. Serve each portion with a spoonful of Greek yoghurt and 80g of fresh fruit. It’s also nice finished with a pinch of cinnamon or a dusting of cocoa, if you like. And remember, if you up the number of portions you’re cooking at one time, simply adjust the cooking time accordingly. Chocolate porridge – how cool is that!

Get ahead & batch it up

Make up a batch of this dry porridge mixture and it’ll keep happily for up to 2 weeks, making your brekkie routine super-easy.

This recipe comes from Season 1, Episode 5 of Jamie’s Super Food Family Classics.

Jamie Oliver: Super Food Family Classics: © 2016 Jamie Oliver

I hate it when they use metric measurements instead of cups, but the conversion tables help.  I still find myself guessing, but in this case it turned out great.  You’ve got to try this.  I made a large batch of the dry ingredients and put it in a plastic container (I collect these) that I got from cashews.  Seals tightly.  Then, using the same measures that the instant oatmeal called for, I cooked the cereal using coconut water.  It took about 5 minutes to get to the consistency I wanted.  I put some raspberries and blueberries (they’re on sale at Fortino’s this week) and a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.  No milk.  WOW!!  great as like Jamie said.

Try this and let me know if you enjoyed it.

I no longer write letters to the editor

The Star seems to have terminated our relationship without actually letting me know.  I mean, no Dear John letter (well, my name isn’t John, but you know what I mean).  No kiss goodbye, not even a hand shake.  For the past several months I have been writing assiduously about my favorite topics.  Nothing, nada, appears.  Oh well, I don’t really care because I was just ranting and getting things off my chest.  Now I have this blog and I do hope some people will read it.  I guess as long as I read that’s all that counts because really, when I rant it releases the pressure just like the release valve on my Instant Pot!  LOL

Anyway, today what’s got me going are two articles in The Star.  Linda McQuaig writes about “creeping privatization” in the medical area.  We all know that Medicare does not cover everything.  In the last year, Elandro (my spouse) has developed an eye problem which makes his eyes very sensitive to light.  He had an operation last April which was covered by a special grant to the doctor because of a study that she’s involved in.  The first estimate was that it would cost $ 1 500.  He has no insurance and anyway, if he were covered by my insurance it would only cover up to $ 200 every two years!  Big deal.  He has to have lenses inserted and that’s been a problem because of the special conditions of his eyes.  Getting these lenses has cost $ 1500.  No insurance – state funded or otherwise.  Plus he will need glasses and we all know what that means.  And let’s not start on dentistry.  (And Elandro is only in his mid-thirties.  Well at least my home care when I will need it is covered!  Although he says not!  LOL)  As a senior I am supposedly covered for drugs – I mean the prescription type.  But every year I fork over $ 100 or so and then I’m nickeled and dimed by the pharmacy to fill a prescription that the government pays for – if it is on the list.  On the other hand, when our family needed hospital care or an operation, it was free – well at least paid for through our taxes.  We are better off than some others.  But of course, the big problem is funding!  Imagine, in a country as rich as Canada, there is a problem with funding things as fundamental as health care.  Well, there is a problem with funding adequate housing, heating, even proper nutrition, infrastructure.  No money they tell us.  But if you could see the multi-million dollar homes that are  being put up in my little (formerly) middle and working class neighborhood, you might not be out of place if you questioned the idea that there isn’t enough money to go around.  I have railed about this inequality for years now and I think this might be the reason The Star has stopped publishing my letters.  Big loss to them.  So now I’m giving them free advertising by referring to articles I read there.  I don’t mind.  It gives me an outlet for the steam building up in the Instant Pot that is my brain.

Happy holidays all.

 

Tried the Instant Pot – did it work?

Well, I tried making a lasagna in my new kitchen toy but instead of using lasagna noodles which I can’t break to fit into the pot, I used curly macaroni pasta.  I followed the instructions, layering the noodles with sauce, cheese and meat all in a spring form pan.  I poured water (1.5 cups as directed) into the outer pan, inserted the spring form and then went to switch it on.  But the instructions didn’t say which button to push – just to use HP (high pressure).  So I pushed the meat/stew button and it seemed to take forever for the steam to come on.  Then I couldn’t adjust the timing.  The recipe called for 20  mins.  It was on for 30.  When it finally came out, the noodles were still raw.  So I put it in the oven (kind of defeating the whole purpose of the Instant Pot) at 350 for another 20 minutes.  The noodles were still too hard, so covered it up again and put it in for another 20 minutes.  I could have made a proper lasagna by this time.  Anyway I finally had had enough.  It tasted good, except that some of the noodles were a bit crunchy – just those around the edges.  I did something wrong and I’ll try again.  I’m not going to let a little bit of kitchen technology defeat me.

I’m getting ready for the holidays.  I’m going to make Rainbow Veggie Latkes for Hanukah.  I wanted to make a stuffed turkey breast or a roast ham for Christmas, but couldn’t find what I wanted at Fortinos, so I settled for a whole chicken which I will stuff with a chestnut stuffing.  Lots of other things to plan to cook – don’t know if I’ll use the Instant Pot again this week.  I’ll write about it if I do.

 

Instant Pot Works!!

I finally got up the courage to try out my new pressure cooker.  The Instant Pot actually is much more than a pressure cooker, but today I made rice in it!  It didn’t turn out perfect – a bit undercooked and much of it stuck to the pot, but I did it!  I’ve been delaying because to tell the truth, I’m a little intimated by it.  I think I got this from my mother who never trusted pressure cookers because she said they tend to blow up!  Well, things have changed a lot since those days 65 years ago.  I intend to make more things, but we have a lot of left-overs to finish before I do that.  At any rate, I got to work and nothing exploded.