Thursday, 26 November 2020

Book Review / Good And Mad: The Revolutionary Power Of Women's Anger by Rebecca Traister

Ms Traister wrote Good and Mad in just four months because she wanted to keep the intense intellection and emotionality flowing from a series of connected events happening in the United States as fresh as possible such as Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election, International Women Marches, #MeToo/#TimesUp, and record numbers of women running and winning political office in 2018.  With each paragraph, she succeeds in sustaining her passion.  My finishing the last page was like letting out a sigh of satisfaction, wonderment, and joy, as if her book was a long love letter, but focusing not on all the emotions connecting two people, but instead on the many intriquing facets of anger as they relate in the struggle for gender equality throughout its long, honourable history, describing in an intimate tone⁠—at times, soothing, at other times, invigourating⁠—various guideposts that has led the way and will continue to do so. She writes:

In the popular imagination, feminism has since its inception been on the verge of collapse, thanks to the intensity of its very real internal conflicts: divisions over race, class, sexuality, and generational difference, not to mention the flare-ups of personal jealousies and combative power plays. These rifts have often been serious and damaging. But they have not set the women's movement apart from any other social justice movement, from the civil rights or Black Power or immigration or gay rights or the New Left or socialist movements, all of which at times been riven by generational, racial, gendered, and class divides, by homophobia, strategic differences, and personal feuds, To some degree, this is the nature of mass activism.

The nature of mass activism is what it is because what it is fighting is what it is.  Entrenched power for a few is only able to hold onto to its privileged position by encouraging and cementing through mass media, education, and policing a climate of division and distrust. To break away from the 'normal' interface to wage protest against 'normality' is a supreme challenge. Taking two steps forward, one step backward is to be expected.

The author participating at a Bay Area Book Festival

Grounding women's anger by showing how it has repeadedly got the job done despite being perceived through the distorted lens of the powerful white male minority as crazy or in less dismissive terms as ineffective is essential. In many instances, women expressing anger was the exact trigger making significant advancement towards social justice possible. Mrs. Till directed an incandescent fury after her murdered, teenaged son Emmett was beaten beyond recognition by white supremacist terrorists on August 28, 1955 by demanding that not only would his hastily buried body be returned to her, but his wake would be conducted via an open coffin so the horror of what was done be seen.

Ms Traister guesting on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

The expertly cut gem of insectionality shines throughout her writing, reflecting light and emitting a rainbow of colours, sending enlightening beams right through the fog of structural, systemic racism and sexism. She quotes Brittney Crunk:

White women and black men both want what white men have--white women want to have corporate power and black men want to be patriarchs. Black women a) know we're never going to get that and b) don't want that. We don't want to wield corporate power and we don't want to oppress people. That's why I look to black women as the political future.

Ms Traister admits though expressing anger and channeling it into action is effective and emboldening, it is also demanding on relationships and families which was born out during the second feminism wave in the 1960s of which I can personally confirm because that's when I was a young woman. Additionally, if being angry will cost you your livilihood among other supports, this approach doesn't align with everybody who is focused on the arc of progressive change. Regardless, Good and Mad inspires, upskills, and empowers.

Childhood photo of the author: girl power and some!

À la prochaine!


I Saw Emmett Till This Week At The Grocery Store (Poem by Eve L. Ewing)


Book review / Inferior:  The True Power Of Women And The Science That Shows It by Angela Saini

Book review / The Golden Thread : How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St Clair

Book review / Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Warner Townsend

Book Review / Against Empathy by Paul Bloom

Book Review / The Tulip by Anna Pavord

Book Review / The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt by Robert I. Sutton

Book Review / Florike Egmond's An Eye For Detail: Images of Plants and Animals in Art and Science, 1500-1630

Book Review / Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal

Baking From Around The World by Jessamyn Waldman

Rodriguez with Julia Turshen

Book Review/The Confidence Game: The Psychology Of The Con And Why We Fall For It Every Time By Maria Konnikova

Book Review / The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art by Joyce Carol Oates

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Whole Wheat Muffins Marbled With Ginger Orange Raisin Puree & Topped With Orange Icing

Several weeks ago, I posted about preserving a huge quantity of raisins close to their due date by making a puree. A small batch was done separately, one spiced with ginger and enlivened with orange juice which I envisoned would eventually marble whole wheat muffins. The vision has been realised and here they are! And they are beyond fabulous, fluffy, rich with egg, butter, and milk, sweetened with maple sugar and the oh so tasty ginger orange raisin puree, not to mention the extra oomph of orange icing.

makes ten (batter filled to the brim which is my preference) to twelve muffins (batter filled 3/4 to the brim)

  • Flour, whole wheat, 240 g (2 American 8 fluid oz cups)
  • Sugar, 100 g ( 1/2 American 8 fluid oz cup/8 T)
  • Sugar, brown, (1/2 American 8 fluid oz cup/8T) or in my case stir in 1.5 tsp of maple syrup into white sugar
  • Baking soda, 1 tsp
  • Egg, l
  • Vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp
  • Milk, whole, 1 American 8 fluid oz cup/16 T)
  • Orange ginger raisin puree, 4 T (recipe is here)
  • Orange juice and icing sugar depending on the amount and consistency of the finished icing (I use 3 T of juice to about 9 T of confectioner's sugar)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Liberally brush a 12 muffin tin pan with butter, making sure each well is well doused along with a bit just outside their perimeters. 

If opting for maple sugar instead of brown sugar, stir in 1.5 T of maple syrup to 1/2 cup of sugar and reserve.

Using either an electric aid (in my case, a stick mixer) or elbow grease, cream butter, sugars, and baking soda until resembling mashed potatoes.

In a separate small bowl beat the egg with the vanilla and add to creamed mixture. Beat in the milk, and then gradually the flour until it is all barely incorporated. It's time to fill the muffin tins.

Fill the tin 1/4 the way and drop about 3 to 4 small amounts of the raisin puree. Repeat until the well is either 3/4 filled or in my preference, to the brim.

With a wooden skewer inserted right to the bottom of a well, swirl the batter, Turn the pan a quarter, and repeat.

Bake around 17 minutes or until centres are springy to the touch and/or a skewer is inserted and comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for a minute or two and then work carefully around each well with a butter knife. Turn the pan over and gently shake out the muffins. Let cool.

For the icing start with one tablespoon of orange juice and add enough icing sugar to get the consistency desired. The topping can be quite thick where it is spread on or it can be close to watery so it soaks into the muffin which is what I did.

Best whole wheat muffin ever! It's quite sweet, so besides gracing the breakfast/snack table, it would do just as well if served for dessert. The surplus chez nous was frozen and I can't wait to eat one of these soooooooooooon. Egads, they are DELICIOUS.

À la prochaine!

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Heat Pump Installation

My most vivid memory standing out on that day full of disruption and commotion which also was the second day of the new lockdown was The Calm One trying to find his mask before he sprinted down the hallway leading to the bathroom from which one of the two workers, both Moldavians who live in Paris, the epicentre of the Pandemic, had cried out while handling a major leak from an ancient toilet tank fastened high up on the wall caused by certain pipes just removed in the sous-sol. Before The Calm One could locate his mask, the installer called out again, and The Calm One flashed out of sight. Soooooooo, there were two unmasked people, strangers to each other, in a small, unventilated space. I cracked open the bathroom door and dangled the city-issued blue jobbie inside, robotically uttering mask, mask, mask, mask, mask, until it was grabbed. In three days time, fourteen days, the recommended time for quarantine if one suspects exposure, will have lapsed. Despite not having any covid symptoms as of yet, our oximeter is never that far away. The workers arrived masked, but soon discarded them. They mostly worked in ventilated spaces like outside and the sous-sol with its front and back doors opened, but still. The two men did a fabulous job in about eight hours. When first staring at the tangled mess of dusty pipes covered in ghostly, insulation strips dangling from our thirty-five-year old gas system that was in place when we moved here ten years ago, a long, tortured series of ooh la las came from the installers. They agreed not to place the outside unit on the side of the house closest to a neighbour as was originally planned because it makes a noise like a loud fan along with the air getting pretty blown about from time to time. However, the change in plans meant more work for them because they had to drill through two rooms to get to the side farthest away from other houses.

The jumbled mass of pipes/valves were replaced. The old boiler and water heater were removed. We were told that our old gas system was way more powerful than needed, spewing out more gunk than was even necessary because all those decades ago gas was cheap.

The spanking new HUGE water heater was put in a corner.

To the left of that went an evaporator, and to left of that . . .

. . . a compressor that is connected to . . .

. . . to the outdoor double fan condenser in the east garden, essentially a reverse refrigerator. A refrigerant runs throught all parts of this system. Our upstairs which is where we live (our home is a pavillon sur sous-sol, a common abode in France) is heated via the heat pump set-up through existing water radiators. This arrangement also heats the water for the kitchen and bathroom. Part of the deal was our getting an induction stovetop to replace our gas cooker which once installed will allow us to cancel our gas service.

A most lovely rosemary of the hedge type had to be hacked down to make room for the outside unit.

The mass of aromatic foliage will be composted eventually.

Fortunately about two months ago I took two rosemary cuttings which have rooted well. Our household will not be sans rosemary!

A very plain, straightforward thermostat was affixed to the centre hallway wall of our upstairs living quarters. My goodness, everything is so much more comfortable, very much like being in a luxury hotel providing tons of almost instant hot water with pronounced pressure along with a stable temperature in all rooms. I am glad that this government subsidised program approved us as participants; acceptance took about four steps spaced over several months. The part of the expense we need to pay is in the form of a loan with a moderate rate of interest which can be paid in full if we wish before the final scheduled payment. Our Total Conversion To Alternative Energy Project which now includes the completed installation of photovoltaic panels (no government subsidy, but an interest free loan) and the heat pump will continue with our getting a storage battery in due course. Following that, if required, we will get more photovoltaic panels.  Though our motivation for our grand project at present is to reduce our monthly utility bill, the eventual goal is not only to get off the grid but also to earn income by selling surplus energy back to the sector.

See you next week!



Thursday, 5 November 2020

There's A Heat Pump Chez Nous!

With the Pandemic back on the front burner along with my doomscrolling Twitter regarding the American Presidential Election, I have enough focus and time to give just a teaser on the continuation of our total conversion to alternative energy project. We already have had PV panels put on the part of the roof facing south last year, and this past week we did the second stage of this plan with the installation of a heat pump set-up. Out went the gas boiler and gas water heater, and in went this stupendous system. Once we replace our gas cooktop with the induction jobbie the installers left with us, we can cancel our gas service. The next and final step will be the purchase of a storage battery. Following that, if required, we will get more PV panels. Our eventual goal is not only to get off the grid but also to earn income by selling surplus energy back to the sector. Next week I will provide more info and photos regarding the day-long fitting of our new, fabulous, and environmentally friendly arrangement. Until then, here's a photo of the outside exceedingly pretty double fan unit.

 See you next week!

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Preservation of Produce: Raisin Puree

The other day I finally noticed two, large,  long-neglected bags of raisins in our sous-sol cupboard. They were a smidgin away from their due date. Though I been wanting to bake some whole wheat raisin muffins for a while, I figured doing that would use up just a fraction of this dry fruit deluge so what to do with the rest? Fruit puree, whether fresh or made from dried fruits, freezes well.

I made two separate batches of raisin puree. The larger one was covered with water.

A smaller batch was covered instead with orange juice, and a large pinch of powered ginger was stirred in. Both batches were lidded and placed in the fridge for twenty-four hours.

My 750 watts Bosch hand-held mixer did the small batch with ease, taking about ten minutes to reach a very smooth consistency.

The larger batch took forever, at least it seemed that way. About 8 PM, I started the blending. After ten minutes the mixer heated up so much that it was necessary to let it cool for about a half hour so as not to burn out the motor. This was repeated four times bringing me close to bedtime. Therefore I left the partially processed puree, covered, in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I was able to finish the blending in ten minutes. It's possible that not only was this batch significantly bigger, it is also conceivable that water doesn't macerate the raisins as readily as orange juice.  I would suggest that small batches in general would be easier to do, but also if you want to do a large one, then let soak in the fridge for two to three days. The puree is absolutely delicious and is versatile. I marbled yogurt and swirled some through hot oatmeal. I imagine that it would be great as a topping for ice cream or served with a cheese platter in place of honey or jam. Whole wheat muffin batter is just calling for the marble treatment which is what I am planning to do fairly soon, choosing the orange/ginger batch. Perhaps an orange icing drizzle on top?

To marble either yogurt or muffin/cake batter: Put separate dollops of puree and yogurt/batter in a checkerboard pattern in the first layer. For consequent layers, alternate the dollops, that is, put puree over yogurt/batter, then yogurt/batter over puree until the glass or baking pan is filled. Using a wooden skewer, insert it all the way to the bottom of the glass or pan and working from side to side, twirl the skewer. Turn the glass or pan a quarter turn and repeat the twirling.

À la prochaine!

Thursday, 15 October 2020

View From The Balcony Autumn 2020

Our front balcony entrance brings so much enjoyment, and not only to us but also to Eli the Cat who shows his appreciation for the doormat every chance he gets.

I love leaning over the railing to check out the front garden. The flowering shrubs in the upper right corner of the below photo are two abelia, beloved by bees.  When I recently did my afternoon exercise walk around the garden the other day, I got to see a HUGE bee all on his lonesome, probably belonging to the Megachilidae family, thrusting its upper body into one of the tubular flowers. 

The meandering brick path flanks the part of the garden situated between the entrance walk and the driveway. The aucuba was propagated from plants already present when we moved here ten years ago. Its evergreen, shade-loving, glossy, substantial leaves splashed with gold flourish in a spot facing north, brightening up that dark corner.

The balcony wraps itself partially around the eastern side of our home. Access to the balcony from the inside is facilitated by not only the foyer door but also two living-room French doors. Presently asters are the dominant blooms from that perspective.

While on the side balcony if one turns towards the south, the rest of the eastern planting with its ivy-covered wall can be seen as it continues into the back garden. Eli the Cat stands guard at various points along the eastern perimeter, mesmerised by sounds coming from the plants' direction, mostly made by insects and the wind.

Once back on the ground, going around the southeast corner of the house brings you to the south-facing back garden with its patio and ivy-covered pergola. The pergola-facing potting room is in the sous-sol (our home is a pavillon sur sous-sol, that is, the living quarters are on the top floor; downstairs houses the unheated garage, utility/storage room, potting/mud rooms, and cellier). The temperature is now cold enough for all the frost-tender potted plants to spend at least the nights inside the sous-sol, near the potting room's window, including the tuberous begonia which is spending the day on the table under the pergola.

It is still flowering but will start shedding leaves fairly soon, feeding its tuber, hopefully giving us a fifth year of flowers starting in June and going all the way to November.

Other frost-tender potted plants that need to be sheltered at least during the night are calendula . . .

. . . bougainvillea, osteospermum, and lantana. If successfully over-wintered, they will bloom outdoors once again.

When gardening most days, I wear woolen hats to keep my noggin warm. The summer jobbies are in the mud room biding their time.

À la prochaine!