At the Other Home

We’re back in Bavaria, Mutti and I. The drive was uneventful, no traffic jams on the Autobahn but still the same fairly long, but scenic diversion as last time. Judging from the state of the roadworks, it will stay with us for some time, probably until the end of summer. Partner also arrived at his place safely.

Our yard is partly overgrown with lots of lovely red corn poppies. The roses are not yet in bloom, although the rosebushes do have a lot of buds. It looks like they won’t be opening next week, so we’ll probably end up missing seeing them in full bloom which is a pity. It’s cooler here than at my place and so the plants are not as far along.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Mum wants to stay here by herself when I return to Baden-Württemberg. Not sure if that would be a good idea.

We equipped our newly sprouted plants on my patio, and some of the other ones as well with glass spheres filled with water. These spheres have a spout to fill them up with water. The spout is then set into the earth and the water is supposed to seep out to keep the plants watered. Not sure if it will work, but I hope it does, as otherwise I think our small sunflower sprouts might not survive our week away.

When I set out with Curious Dog this morning on our walk, at 8:00 a.m. it was still quite cool. But if I had worn a jacket, I’m sure I’d have been too hot. It was a nice walk through the wood. We had already been in the woods yesterday afternoon, but that wasn’t very relaxing, as CD was hyped up after the trip and pulled on the leash like a champion. This morning we also met the neighbours’ new dog – a sand-coloured adolescent bitch who seems very nice and is slightly smaller and a lot skinnier that CD. Curious Dog was a bit too boisterous with her, but I’m sure they will be friends. Luckily they didn’t get a male dog. She’s from a shelter, which my next dog (not for many years, I hope) will also be. It will be interesting to see if she will get any bigger. She’s a mix and one can’t say how big she will end up as. Her paws seem to indicate that a bit more growth is possible, but as she’s already eight months old, it probably won’t be much more. This morning she was a little shy with CD, but we met her again when we returned from our after-lunch outing and they were quite friendly with each other.

On our walk this morning, we found that one of the field by the side of the bike path has a planting of real poppies (big purple ones, not the small wild red ones one sees everywhere on the boarders of the field and that we have in our garden). I wonder if they are intended for harvesting poppy seeds or if it is just a field of flowers. That farmer has lately started growing unusually crops like pumpkins for pumpkin seeds and oil (which is unusual for this area), so maybe they are branching out with other creative crops. Interesting! I do like me a delicious poppy-seed cake.

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I worked this morning from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to make up for yesterday’s half day off. Did some planning — mostly looking up and noting down in my calendar the deadlines until October and found that all my documents have due dates for updates in October and the deadline for one lot of new documents is also in October. That’s a bit of a pain, as I’m on vacation in October. Our trip to the German Baltic coast is also planned for October (if Corona doesn’t derail the plans). Oops. I’ll have to prepare everything ahead of time.

After the midday walk with CD, I went grocery shopping. First to the village shop and then to the supermarket in the next town. Went better than I thought it would, considering it’s Friday. Probably it’ll be worse tomorrow. I got a piece of apple and poppy seed cake for our afternoon coffee break (the poppy field put me up to it). Also, a chocolate muffin. Mum and I shared both. The cake was lovely, the muffin so-so. Then I did a bit of reading – Flannery O’Connor short stories (some very strange characters in those stories) and then it was time for another dog walk in the woods. The woods are again fairly dry, but there was still some water in one of the deep puddles, so better than last time. The leaves that were silky and bright green last time are now stiff and a darker green. I might cut back some of the greenery on my path into the woods, as it has become, like every year, rather overgrown. Brushing through too much undergrowth lead to having ticks and ticks can transfer nasty infections. I have already collected at least ten ticks off Curious Dog after each walk and I’ve removed a couple that had already attached themselves to him, poor guy. But he’s very good about having them removed. He always gets a treat after each tick removal and my tick removing tool is very effective. Last year I had about three tick myself and also removed them with the same tool. I hate those beasties.

During the night, somebody raced through our narrow road with their car and clipped a temporary road barrier, a little beyond our house. Mum heard it. A neighbour heard it too (I didn’t), but nobody knows who it was (so far). The speed limit on our road is 30 km/h because it’s so narrow – only one car fits, so one car has to back up if two meet head on in a narrow part. At night, and even sometimes during the day, some stupid idiots like to speed through. We always joke about sticking out an arm or something from our entry (a stairway between two sheer walls) to give them a fright, but we’ve never actually done it. If they swerved, they’d end up in the small orchard opposite our house. So, quite a bit of Schadenfreude was felt by the neighbourhood, as the speedster from last night must have dented their car.

Keep safe, world!

Meetings and More Meeting

This work week has been full of meetings (well, online calls). The normal recurring meetings, new meetings for a new project, and lots of one-off information meetings. Very taxing. I usually end up doing other things (like answering emails or analyzing error messages in my area) while listening in on meetings that don’t concern me much. So at least they are not a total waste of time, but I still find them tiring. At least the meeting flood is done for this week. Tomorrow is only one short meeting in the morning. I’ve got the afternoon off, as Mum, Curious Dog and I will be driving to Bavaria after lunch. To make up for the afternoon off, I’ll be working on Friday morning instead and, since I never usually work on Fridays, there’s no meeting then either. I’ll hopefully have time to get ahead on a tedious task that I’ve been procrastinating on. And I need to do some work planning for the next couple of months.

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And then we have another long weekend, Whitsun, with a public holiday next Monday. Looking forward to doing a lot of reading, as I haven’t had much time for it this week. Even at night in bed, currently I find myself getting sleepy after a few pages. I haven’t got ahead with Beloved, because I have it as a hardback, not on Kindle, so I don’t read it at night, as keeping the light on when Partner’s trying to sleep is inconsiderate (he says it doesn’t bother him, but I don’t have a good feeling about it). I need to get a really small book light that doesn’t light up the entire room like my bedside lamp does.

I’ve found some old hairpins that I’ve never used (not sure what I got them for) and I’ve put them to use to pin back my fringe. I’ve decided not to get a haircutting appointment and instead take another stab at growing my hair long again. I used to have quite long hair until a few semesters into University, but it’s been cut short for years now. I can’t stand long hair getting in the way all the time, so I always used to have it up in a ponytail or a bun, so eventually I got tired of it and had it chopped off. I tried growing it out again in 2005 but gave up when the intermediate stage was too awful. Let’s see how long I will keep it up this time. Mutti is thinking of having me cut her hair, at least at the back. I’m not too keen, but I guess I’ll have to try it. Partner will probably try to get an appointment for a haircut.

Today, during my lunch break, I cleaned the skylight in my bedroom. I haven’t cleaned it once since we moved in almost two years ago and it really needed a clean. The glass itself was no problem, but the frame around it was gruesome. A lot of gunk that was hard to get out of corners. I did it fairly roughly (not enough time for a deep clean) and should do it again, but I won’t do that before autumn. It has an outside sunshade that’s always down and is quite dusty and dirty too, but I didn’t do anything with that. No time and very awkward to clean. Maybe I should take a brush to it, but the dirt will fly everywhere. If I hadn’t put down an old shower curtain to protect the carpet in the room today, it would have been dire. I hate wall-to-wall carpets, although I’ve got used to this one. Wish the floor was tiles or wood or laminate as the rest of the floors are. Much nicer and more hygienic. Ah well, this isn’t likely to change soon, so I’ll have to lump it.

It’s nice and warm today. My app says 22°C, but it feels hotter in the sun. My weather app also says, that temperatures won’t reach 30°C in the next 14 days. Hope that’s true. The longer it stays below 30°C the better. I really don’t like the heat, and it’s hard to sleep when it gets hot at night in our attic bedroom. At the moment, it’s perfect and I’m sleeping really well.

Took Curious Dog on his afternoon walk quite late today, after dinner at around 6:30 p.m. It will probably get even later when it’s really hot, as there isn’t much shade around. The woods are quite far, and the fields only have a few shady spots, but around 8 p.m. the sun drops below a hill and then the shadow falls on the fields and the walk is pleasant.

Keep safe, world.

Weekend Doings

Had a lovely long weekend involving a lot of cooking. We had two of the new recipes which we tried out recently, the savoy cabbage, mushroom, bell pepper with past dish and the lentil with pineapple garam marsala over brown basmati rice. We also had two of our favourites, home-made pizza and potato salad with tempeh. All very tasty. Last night I made a vegetable soup with cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, yellow lentils and the left-over bit of savoy cabbage. Good for a slightly cool day. It was a bit cold and rainy starting Saturday, I think. Before that, it was warm and muggy. We also had a lemon cake and an apple cake, both baked by Partner, with just a tiny bit of unskilled help provided by me.

We took Curious Dog for long walks in the morning, which was nice. Up the hill and twice down through the wood on the right, once down through the wood on the left (the longer one, with less shade, perfect for yesterday’s cool overcast weather). Curious Dog did a lot of barking at the neighbor’s new puppy, a mix of Appenzeller and Entlebucher Mountain Dog. Very cute, but CD is not yet a friend of his. Hopefully, they will get used to each other and get along. It would be rather annoying if they decide to hate each other as the neighbours’ yard is right up against ours, just separated by a low wall and a chain-link fence. At the moment, CD tends to growl or bark every time the puppy is out in the yard. In addition, a big white Spitz-type dog (or maybe it’s a large Husky) was visiting yesterday afternoon – a big affront for CD, who doesn’t like that dog at all.

Today I’m quite sleepy, despite the restful long weekend, because Curious Dog had diarrhea in the night and needed to go out three times between 3:00 a.m and 4:30 a.m. and I didn’t really get back to sleep afterwards. Good thing this has only happened about twice in his life. Last time was at the old flat when we didn’t have a yard and I had to take him for a short walk in the middle of the night. But he seems okay again. Had his food and his walk as normal and I gave him a tablet against parasites, which he’s supposed to have once a quarter, but which we only give him if it seems necessary (usually about three times a year).

We watched the director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, which we had seen at the cinema when it came out. The director’s cut was better, although I had forgotten how violent it was. The siege of Jerusalem reminded us of the siege of Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings. It was fun debating the historical accuracy (not very accurate). On Disney+ we watched Thor: Ragnarok, which was a strange mix of serious scenes and slapstick elements, but I liked it. I generally enjoy films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I also did a lot of reading: finished Dombey and Son, read some poetry, some of Beloved and a lot of The Priory of the Orange Tree (in fact, almost finished it). Also a lot of short stories – finished all the available collections of Ali Smith’s short stories. They were marvelous! Next I’m going to start reading Flannery O’Connor’s short stories. I saw a recommendation for them somewhere and think they sound good. I’m doing well on my reading goals for May.

I also did the usual cleaning, without getting annoyed about it. A benefit of mindfulness. Shopping only took a few minutes, as I only had to pick up some bread at the bakers’ and a couple of things at the supermarket that I’d forgotten on my weekly grocery haul. Did that on Friday morning, early around 8:30 a.m. when the shops were still empty. Going shopping on Tuesdays or Wednesdays is a really good idea. It leaves the weekend for other household chores and still leaves plenty of time for pleasant things. I’ll be keeping it up, I think, in future, when Corona is done (though who knows when that will be).

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Lots of things in Germany are opening back up, but there’s also new outbreaks, centered on restaurants or churches or meat-processing plants. We don’t go to restaurants much in normal times, so we certainly shan’t be going now. We’re not churchgoers, either. I’m also not going to the office and will stay with once a week shopping trips. Currently debating about a visit to the hairdresser’s. I’m not convinced that it is a good idea. But then, it only takes about 45 minutes. Maybe I should just call and ask them what they are doing to manage the infection risk. We’ll be going to Bavaria again at the end of this week, for our usual week at our house. If we are going to get an appointment (Mum needs one too), I’ll have to set it up tomorrow. Who knows, maybe they are already booked out.

I also need an appointment for tyre changes (winter to summer) and a service appointment for the car. I always procrastinate on these things, but I really should do it this week, so that I can get the tyre change when we return from Bavaria. I could then pick up some things from the office, although that’s not urgent.

I also have to pay some bills that I’d meant to have done on the weekend, but that I also kept postponing. Paperwork is such a pain for me. I need to apply some mindfulness to it and see if I can change my habits around it. It’s not really that bad, in fact, the procrastination makes it worse.

Work today was fairly tiring, what with not having slept well last night and a lot of fairly boring meeting, and a taxing one involving a lot of notetaking at the end of my working day. I much prefer having those types of meeting earlier in the day.

My rosebush is in full bloom at the moment. Such a pity that it only lasts a few weeks and one of those we’ll miss, since we will be away next week. Though this rosebush does get a some additional roses later in the year, too. The roses in Bavaria will probably not be blooming yet. Hopefully, we won’t miss their bloom, since it’s quite lovely. The garden is larger and so are the rose bushes. We’ve got some all throughout the garden, one in an arch against the side of the house, another larger one in front of our balcony (took ages last autumn cutting them back) as well as random other ones. Mum wants to plant some other flowering plants to nourish bees and other insects. Maybe we can take a trip to a garden centre. Mum has also planted a few sunflower seed in pots that are just coming up here on my patio. Hope they will survive our being away and not dry out. We’ll have to think of something.

Keep safe, world.

Asparagus and Salsify

Last night, when I tried to read, I kept nodding off, so gave up and went to sleep. Maybe that was too early for me, because I woke up before 5 a.m. and couldn’t drop off again. After some tossing and turning, I gave up and started reading in the morning instead. The good thing about the Kindle app on my tablet is that it doesn’t require a bedside lamp which would disturb Partner. I’m now ahead on Dombey & Son and hope to finish it by end of Friday, so that I can devote Saturday and Sunday to Beloved. I can only read that one during the day, as it is a hardback. I love Beloved, so I treated myself to one and I’ve had it for years.

Work today was not very uplifting, just the usual drudge. I’m in a slump regarding work. Hopefully things will pick up after the coming long weekend. Only one more workday, tomorrow. Thursday’s a public holiday and Friday is my regular day off. I’ve got some stuff that I’ve got to get finished this week that’s coming along fine and then next week we have some minor deadlines. Then it’s time to get cracking on the deadlines for August and September which, the earlier one gets ahead with those the better. It’ll get too hot in July and August and people will be on vacation, and things will drag. But if all one’s projects are in a good shape by the end of June, it’s tolerable.

Since tomorrow is a day before a public holiday, which always creates a run on supermarkets (worst if the upcoming holiday is Easter or Christmas, but bad in any case), I did our weekly grocery shopping today. We’re having white asparagus with new potatoes and a spring onion soy yoghurt sauce. This is our vegan version of a typical German spring meal. The classic version is white asparagus with some slices of cooked ham, potatoes and Sauce Hollandaise. White asparagus season lasts from around mid-April until June 24. This year’s problematic, because there are not as many seasonal workers around to harvest the asparagus. The corona crisis is really highlighting the importance of seasonal workers and also showing up that they often have rough living conditions. Too crowded and not enough sanitary facilities. Also, long hours and back-breaking work – I wouldn’t want to do it, I don’t think. Although I wouldn’t mind trying it out, to see if I could do it. White asparagus is dug out of the ground. It grows in long rows in raised beds and you have to dig down next to the shoots and cut them off about 10 cm underground. If they grow much above ground, more than just the tips, they grow bitter.

We used to have black salsify in our garden when I was a child. In Germany it’s sometimes called the “poor person’s asparagus”. It’s very nice (I think) but it tastes nothing like white asparagus. And it’s a winter vegetable. It grows deep roots that are a lot of work to dig up. My dad used to be responsible for digging them up. It involved a lot of expletives. One has to wear gloves when peeling the roots, as they exude a perniciously sticky milky substance that leaves brown stains on one’s hands (and everywhere else). After peeling, the roots need to be immersed in lemon water to stop them turning brown. Usually I just get Schwarzwurzel (black salsify) frozen, it’s less hassle.

Where was I? Oh yes, asparagus, tonight for dinner – very yummy.

We also had a rhubarb cake for coffee, very nice. Partner made it, he’s the backer in the family. I bake too, but not nearly as much. I’m too lazy and tend to get impatient. He’s also traditionally cooks the asparagus, as he introduced it to me. I just mixed the yoghurt sauce, as that is my specialty. Also, Partner usually does the cooking during the week and we cook together on weekends. I do the meal planning (with his input) and the grocery shopping, which he hates. Sometimes Mum cooks as well and she always cooks when we’re in Bavaria. She also almost always does the dishes (unless it’s too much, then Partner and I do it them together. We don’t use a dishwasher). A good division of labour, that works well for us.

Keep safe, world.

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The Terror and Erebus

Some time ago Partner and I watched the first season of an Amazon Prime series called The Terror. It was about the Franklin Expedition that tried to find a north-west passage to the Pacific from England in the 19th century. It was lost with all hands. The series was called after one of the two ships, the Terror (the other ship was called Erebus). The series was also called The Terror because the expedition was haunted (in the series) by blood-curdling inexplicable misfortune (not being clearer so as not to give anything away).

We really enjoyed the series, but of course lots of it was fantastical. For instance, all those sailors and their officers and the captain had a dress-up party, where they all showed up in drag and a lot of fun was had (until the tragic end). I thought this was made-up. Who goes on a dangerous expedition and brings along women’s clothes and other costumes to have dress-up parties on the frozen North Sea? Boggles the mind, right?

Well, I got the book Erebus, by Michael Palin for my birthday from Partner (I wrote about this book before on the blog) and it turns out that this is actually taken from real life. Before the ill-fated expedition to find the north-west passage, the Erebus was on an expedition to get as far south as possible and they had these types of shenanigans to keep up morale.

Life is stranger than fiction.

I do recommend both the series and the book; they complement each other nicely: fiction and fact. There’s a lot that’s been researched and found out about the lost Franklin expedition and the history of the Antarctic expedition that preceded it was very interesting too (like the dress-up parties on the ice). The wrecks of both the ships Terror and Erebus have been found in the meantime. It’s all quite fascinating.

Monday Miscellanea

My work computer has been sending me automatic reminders to change my password, so this morning after having logged on and read my emails, I virtuously tried to do it (instead of waiting until the last second). I was so inept, that I not only didn’t manage to do it, but also forgot my current password so that I was locked out. What a panic early on a Monday morning! I then tried to phone the help desk, but found that I had an out-dated number. So I tried a last-ditch attempt with the old password and luckily I got it right again. Otherwise I would have had to call a colleague and ask them to look up the help-desk number for me. Next time I need to change a password, I will wait until I’m properly woken up – or maybe not attempt it on a Monday! Don’t know what was up with me. I did manage it a bit later in the morning. It’s not hard…

The rest of Monday wasn’t much better. One meeting after another in the afternoon, most of them boring. And then on our afternoon walk, Curious Dog went and threw himself on top of some smelly poop, so I had to give him a wash (well, a wet wipe-down – at least it was pretty localized). What a pain! Only a bit stuck to his fur, but his harness and collar had to be cleaned too. I was rather annoyed and went straight back home with CD after this stupid stunt, but I took him out again after dinner. It was warm and pleasant, and we met one of his friends, a terrier bitch. They had a little romp in the fields. So that made up for the earlier aborted walk.

I did have a very nice weekend. Friday was my mother’s birthday. I baked some sweet yeast buns with a blueberry compote (which she asked for) and gave her a book, Empire of Grass (part of the series The Last King of Osten Ard by Tad William). The German edition just came out in March and the second volume will be out in June (it’s only one volume in English, but the German translation is usually longer). I gave her the first books of the series for Christmas a couple of years ago. She liked The Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series (so did I) and this series is a continuation. For dinner, I made a cream of potato soup, which she also requested. It was all very nice. Partner also gave her a book. Mum is a reader; it runs in the family Though my Dad was even more of one, as was my grandmother on my Dad’s side.

Saturday morning, I took Curious Dog for his morning walk and afterwards went to the bakery to pick up some bread. In the afternoon, I pulled myself together and vacuumed the entire house. I’d meant to have done it already on Friday, but I procrastinated and did it on Saturday instead. What with cooking, baking, and taking Curious Dog for his three daily walks, I didn’t really feel like doing much housework. As I’d done a lot the weekend before, vacuuming was enough. I’ll do some more cleaning during the week (maybe) and on the coming long weekend (definitively). One sure thing, there’s always something to clean.

I did wash all of Curious Dog’s bedding and towels – always good to do that on sunny days, when everything dries fast.

I did a lot of reading. Short stories by Ali Smith, my current Dickens, Dombey & Son, of which I’ve read just slightly more than half. Some non-fiction. Some poetry (early morning reading in bed). I’ve read the first chapter of this month’s Toni Morrison, Beloved. Yep, it’s still one of my favourite novels ever.

Also did some meditation, but not as much as I’d meant to do. What with all the reading, there’s less time for meditating. I need to find a better balance. Meditation is too important for me, I shouldn’t let it lapse (well, I didn’t let it lapse, but I should give it more room in my days).

The rose bush in my yard is starting to bloom. Very nice yellow blossoms with some red blush or edging, and also a sweet perfume. Some aphids, though. Just a few that I removed by hand. But there’s another bush that’s teeming with them. Not sure why, it didn’t have any (that I remember) last year. I may just cut off the parts where they gather (mostly at the tips of some of the branches). That’s probably the easiest way to get rid of them without using chemicals or mucking about with soapy water.

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We had a lot of Italian ice-cream as well on the weekend. Once on Mutti’s birthday and again on Sunday, when Partner returned. The ice van that parks basically in my driveway almost every day when it’s sunny at 5:30 pm is a real temptation. Still, we usually only buy some once or twice a week. Too expensive otherwise.

In parts of Germany, some people were demonstrating against the Corona virus measures. Lots of people claiming (against all evidence) that it’s no worse than a normal flu virus, or that it only gets the “weak and ill” (nasty and heartless opinion), or that it is a conspiracy to steal our freedom or our livelihood or whatever. All sorts of bullshit ideas. I think staying at home has some very odd effects on some people’s discernment. Or maybe they are just nitwits in general. I’m OK with people protesting the measures, but do they have to team up with conspiracy nuts and right-wing Nazis? If I found myself associating with such groups, I’d absent myself tout-de-suite from the demonstration. We do need a discussion about the measures and how they can be safely dialed back down, because the economy is obviously super important and people need their jobs, but does such a discussion need to include wacky conspiracy theories? Or does it need to imply the “the weak and the sick” can be left by the wayside? It’s disgusting how some people ignore other people’s health and life – they’d be yelling a different tune if they were “weak and ill” themselves. Not to mention that it’s total rubbish, as perfectly healthy young people also get it and die from it. It’s also hypocritical that this type of rhetoric comes from the far right, who are otherwise always blathering about Western culture and values. What values? Makes my blood boil.

Keep safe, world

Aubergine Experiment

End of my work week today, phew! It was a boring week workwise. No looming deadlines, just a lot of tedious stuff and unreliable software tool that exacerbates the boring tasks.

Yesterday was my weekly shopping trip, so I’m all done with that as well, except that I went shopping in my lunch break and one of the shops I frequent (the organic produce and specialty shop) is never open during lunch (small town syndrome). I’ll probably pop over tomorrow just before lunch, when hopefully there won’t be any queues. They do have some stuff that I really need, like soy yoghurt and tempeh. And their produce is very good, though pretty expensive (I just buy produce there that I don’t get in the other grocery stores I frequent).

It’s been pretty cold at night (the ice saints, as I explained in Monday’s post), so I’ve temporarily stashed my few outside pot plants in the guest loo. Guess I’ll be taking them out again on Saturday. Next week looks like it will be a pleasant 20°C during the day and no more night frost until autumn, I should hope. Also, next Thursday is a public holiday, so that’s something to look forward to. Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day). Only three days of work!

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This week Partner tried a recipe for a new vegan cheesecake. It turned out fabulous and was super easy to make. There are some great vegan cheesecake recipes on the Internet and in baking books, but often they require a lot of ingredients and are complicated and longwinded to put together. In this case, the “cheese” topping was easy. Just some cashews soaked and then pureed with some added maple syrup, lemon juice and grated lemon zest plus the same amount of cooked and pureed millet (same amount as the cashews). This was mixed and put on top of the cake bottom and just refrigerated for a few hours. Sounds strange (we had doubts), but it was great on the first day and even better the second. It didn’t last longer than two days! Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo. But we’ll be making this cake again. The recipe is for keeps. And I’m sure it will be possible to combine the mixture with some other fruits to get some variety. It tasted better than the non-vegan cheesecake we bought at the local bakery a couple of weeks ago.

Last weekend we also had a rhubarb cake which was very nice. I bought some more rhubarb this week and will be making a compote with it, to go with some simple sweet yeasty buns that I’m planning to make tomorrow. Partner’s gone to his place in North Rhine-Westphalia this weekend and so I have to do my own baking, if I want any home baked goods on the weekend. Not too fond of baking, so not going to make anything that’s complicated.

Today I cooked an aubergine curry. A bit of an experiment, but it turned out quite nice: one smallish aubergine (eggplant), cubed, and one small bell pepper, cut into thin strips, an onion, cubed, two medium cloves of garlic and a piece of fresh ginger all cut into tiny little cubes. Then all steamed in a bit of water, seasoned with curry, paprika, turmeric, and some ground coriander, with about a tablespoon of peanut butter added to make the sauce creamy. At the end, I added some chopped leftover chicory and some dried thyme and rosemary. Also, some soymilk and salt and pepper. Served over whole basmati rice. Turned out very nice and didn’t take terribly long.

I’m going to end the day with some meditation and some reading. Some TV and some petting of Curious Dog.

Keep safe, world!

April Reading

As I was a bit miffed about my failure to meet my goals in March, I made up for them in April.

Ongoing projects:

  • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
    276 pages, my quota for March and April. I had a total fail on this goal in March but got all caught up again in April.
  • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
    Total fail again. It’s not really an issue, as it is an optional goal, so I don’t really care about not getting ahead with this book this months. Maybe I’ll manage to read some of it in May.

Poetry:

Helen Gardner (ed.) The New Oxford Book of English Verse
I’m up to poem number 364 in this anthology, up to John Dryden (1631 – 1700). At one poem per day, I’ve almost fulfilled my year’s goal. However, the goal is about creating a habit of poetry reading, so I will keep it up. I’m enjoying it very much and I do my reading each morning in bed, when my partner is blocking the bathroom. So, I have about 20 minutes at the beginning of each day for reading poems. A nice way to start the day. I mark the poems I especially like with a sticky note, so that I can later revisit them and maybe search out some more of that poet’s work.
Here’s a very short poem by one Francis Quarles (1592 – 1644), number 264 in the anthology:

Epigram
My soul, sit thou a patient looker-on;
Judge not the play before the play is done:
Her plot has many changes; every day
Speaks a new scene; the last act crowns the play.

Short stories:

  • Ali Smith, Public Library and Other Stories, Free Love and Other Stories, Other Stories and Other Stories.
    I’m reading my way through all the short story collections by Ali Smith and am enjoying them a lot. I read two short stories each day in April to make up for not reading any in March. All caught up.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, One World: A Global Anthology of Short Stories
    This collection of short stories by authors from around the globe was of mixed quality. Some of them I liked better than others. Some were brilliant. A lot were hard to take due to the harsh reality depicted in them – necessary though. Thing won’t get better if they are not spoken or written about. I’d like to try and find more stories from around the world. Glimpses into other cultures interest me.

Non-Fiction:

Michael Palin, Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time.
I was given this book for my birthday and took a while to read it, as I was busy with other books. It’s a great history of the voyages of exploration done by the ship Erebus in the Antarctic and Arctic oceans. The first was a voyage to find the South Pole (which you can’t reach by sea but which wasn’t known at the time). The second was to find a north-west passage to the Pacific. The famous Franklin Expedition that was lost with all hands in the 19th Century. A very well written and readable book. For someone who likes books about exploration or novels about adventures on sailing ships, I recommend it. As I’m also a fan of the novels of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian, I enjoyed it a lot.

Graphic novels:

Bechdel, Alison: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama
These two graphic novels tell the stories of Bechdel’s parents. The first one is about her father. The second is about her mother. Both are at least as much about the author (Bechdel) as about her parents. The first one is more accessible than the second, as the second one contains a lot of information about psychoanalysis, which may not appeal to every reader. Although I don’t know much about psychoanalysis, I found it fascinating. These graphic novels are very dense, and I’m sure I didn’t get all the nuances in my first reading. I think I’ll be returning to them in future (although that holds true for all books that I enjoy. I like rereading).

Novels:

  • Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
    A very good read, highly recommended. This novel has moved into first place on my list of favourite novels written by Dickens. My review is here.
  • Toni Morrison, Tar Baby
    Somewhat puzzling in parts, but also a very good read. Find my review here.
  • Mal Peet, Mr Godley’s Phantom
    A short murder mystery/ghost story with a twist. Very entertaining and clever. Made me want to look up other books by the author.

To help me keep track of my monthly reading goals, I created a score card to fill in daily. That way I avoided getting muddled about the number of short stories read or whether I was on track with the novels. Quite useful. It was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to make up for the missed goals in March and am now up-to-date and going strong. It helped that the long Easter Weekend was in April. It’s a nice success and I hope I manage to stay on top of the goals in May.

Keep safe, world.

2020_05_12

Raindrops on My Skylight

Today was a day of much-appreciated rain. Sitting at my desk in my bedroom cum office at the top of the house, I heard it pounding away all day. Very comfy to listen to when one is dry and warm, knowing that it’s welcomed by nature, since it hasn’t rained much in the last couple of months. It is a tad cool – in Germany the days between May 11 and 15 are known as the days of the “ice saints” (die Eisheiligen). Those are the saints Mamertus, Pankratius, Servatius, Bonifatius and the “cold” Sophia. After May 15, it’s said, one can be reasonably sure that night frosts will no longer occur to endanger newly planted crops. Since I’m living in a very warm part of Germany, there won’t be any night frosts, but the temperature is expected to go down to 1°C tonight. I bought a plant for my patio last Friday that I’ve wrapped up in a plastic bin liner (not having anything better to hand) just in case that’s too low a temperature for it.

Last week and the weekend were nice and warm with temperatures around 22°C, even a bit higher, which is my favourite temperature range: anything between 20° and 25°C. Higher temperatures, I don’t much care for. That’s why I’m not so keen on summer, because weeks of 32°C (or more) is just too hot for me. 2018 was dire, with the heat and drought starting in May and lasting into September. August and September are usually at least slightly better, because the sun starts setting earlier again, but June and July are just awful when it’s hot and sunny. Curious Dog doesn’t much care for those temperatures either and I always need to go on his afternoon walks very late, when the sun is low and the shadows are long. Oh well, plenty of people like hot summers. Just my personal predilection. I don’t mind it if the heat stays in June, July, and August, but now-a-days, those are not the only hot months. We’ll see how it develops this year. But since we are already almost at mid of May, it hopefully won’t get as bad as 2018. The woods could do with a rainy summer, they still haven’t recovered from the droughts of 2018 and 2019. So, I’m happy it’s raining.

On Friday, I got some more plants for the garden. About four smallish lavender plant, which Mum and I planted under and next to the big rosebush (already blooming, lovely yellow-red flowers). Also, a clematis, that I planted up against the wall and fence to the neighbour’s yard. I already planted one last year, but that was too near the hedge and didn’t thrive (it’s still alive, maybe it’ll grow some this year). I also planted another flowering plant, for the bees, that I don’t know the name of. I used to have a huge version of this one at another flat, which had a balcony cut out of the roof. It was lovely, but the plant was invested with loads of little bugs and it was a pain trying to get rid of them without resorting to pesticides (which I never do, and certainly won’t do if it happens again – bad for nature and bad for Curious Dog). Hope it doesn’t get bugs here and that it doesn’t get eaten by snails.

Before we could plant the lavender, we had to remove a kind of plastic ground sheet that was laid under a covering of wood chips. I don’t know if this ground sheet was intended to keep the earth moist or to prevent the growth of weeds, but it was laid in all the flower beds in this yard (not too many, since it is a very small yard). I’ve removed it everywhere except under the huge butterfly bush, but I’m planning to get rid of it there, too. If it were something that would rot away, fine. But plastic? I’m not having plastic in my yard. Also, those ground sheets keep shedding bits of plastic string and I’m worried that birds (or other small animals) will pick it for nesting and get tangled.

2020_05_11

So that was Saturday. Gardening. It got quite hot and sweaty. I like a garden, but I’m not so enthusiastic about the work associated with it. Especially since I also did quite a lot of housework on the weekend. I hate it when the weekend has more work in it than a workday (but it wasn’t that bad, I’m exaggerating). The best thing about cleaning and gardening the feeling of accomplishment afterwards. Just a pity that it doesn’t stay accomplished but has to be repeated all the time.

On Sunday I did some cleaning as well and, in the afternoon, we watched Antman on Disney+, which we hadn’t seen before. It was entertaining and I’m looking forward to watching the sequel, Antman and the Wasp. I also binge read Martha Wells’ new Murderbot novel Network Effect. It was great – a real novel, not just a novella, like the other installments. I like them all. They are sci-fi dealing with the adventures of a construct, a kind of android with human parts. They are real-pageturners, but the most appealing thing is the way the Murderbot interacts with humans and other AIs. Spoiler: it’s not really a murderer, rather the opposite. I hope Wells writes a few more of these novels.

I also finished this month’s section of War and Peace. I’m now at the half-way point and it’s all good. Although I’m glad I’m reading it slowly, in installments, as otherwise I think I’d get sick of it. Too much high-level soap opera. It is kind of like a soap opera, except not so unrealistic. All the characters keep suffering reversals of fortune and feeling. Some of them are plain stupid or casually evil. Most of them annoy me at one point or another. But in smaller bites I’m enjoying it.

We also tried out two new dishes this weekend. One with mushrooms, bell peppers and savoy cabbage lightly fried in a pan and then deglazed with an orange juice and soy sauce. Served with whole-wheat pasta. The other with pre-cooked lentils to which pineapple pieces were added before simmering everything in coconut milk seasoned with lemongrass, a bit of curry, and a lot garam masala. Served over whole-grain basmati rice. Both recipes were easy to cook and absolutely delicious. They will be added to our collection of permanent recipes.

Today, we’re making a cream of broccoli soup. It’s the right weather for a nice warm soup: cold and rainy. Curious Dog and I got very wet on our afternoon walk.

Keep safe, world.

David Copperfield

By Charles Dickens, the novel I read in April. As you probably know, it is a fictional autobiography written in the first person as if by the protagonist, David Copperfield. He recounts the story of his life looking back on it from settled middle age. It starts with an idyllic early life which suffers a reversal with the remarriage and later the death of his mother. He tells of his experiences at school and later as an exploited child-labourer. Another reversal occurs when he runs away from his dismal job and throws himself on the mercy of an aunt, who takes him in, provides a loving home, and enables a return to school and further education. We are then told how he lives in London, takes on various jobs, and trains himself to become an author. He falls in love and eventually enters into a somewhat sub optimal marriage. He suffers another reversal with the death of his wife and, after a few years to recover abroad, returns to take up his life again and at last finds true happiness.

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