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Archive for the ‘Things I like’ Category

In thinking about the #me too posts on social media from all the women who have experienced harassment, abuse and assault, I found one instance going over and over in my head, in which a senior executive of our company humiliated me for absolutely no reason, pushing the backs of my knees at a party so my legs collapsed and I ended up on the floor, inevitably leading people to assume that I had had too much to drink. I never took him to task, just as I never complained to my boss about the off-colour joke he told in our staff meeting that felt directed at me, just as I never told anyone about the two boys who attached me in a ditch when I was about 15, but I managed to fight off. Women are taught to feel embarrassed and ashamed when we have done nothing wrong, and so-called “decent” (and even not-so-decent) men are given a free pass when they use their power against us. #Me too; I’m really angry that this is the case, so angry that women are still treated as second-class citizens, and furious that we are expected to be quiet about it.

It was announced in the last week or so that the US have increased entry requirements for flights, and airlines have said that there will be increased passenger screening, including that we may have to attend interviews before boarding flights, and so I have to say, “sorry, my US friends and family, but your government is making it very hard to want to come and visit!”

I keep hearing people (on media and social media, though less so in real life) referring to people as having Resting Bitch Face. I’ve never liked bullying, and ridiculing someone for their looks is simply another example of that, when they can’t help having a down-turned mouth any more than someone can help having blue or brown eyes, or ginger hair (also an area of discrimination I find childish and despicable), and I find the use of the “B” word, which I try never to use as there isn’t a male equivalent, is just adding salt to my wounds. And for the record, although I have a mouth that turns down naturally, I also have a happy smile, and if you dare to say that I have RBF then you’ll never damned well see it.

 

 

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I’ve had a lovely hour or so, immersed in the lives of the initial x365 bloggers, back in 2006 and 2007. Even ten years later, events of the last weeks have shown strongly that we still have a role to play in each other’s lives, that we are important to each other, and that we feel each other’s joys and, sadly, our sorrows.

Most shocking to us all was when our dear Deloney suddenly lost his Mlle. Vague. Some of our group wrote the most beautiful tributes to her and to him (here, and here), which are beautiful whether or not you know him. Susan in particular talks about grief and love, and should be read. I am not so eloquent so I have written privately, and I continue to hurt for him. But it’s not about me. There’s only so much we can do when we live on the other side of the planet , but I hope there is some comfort from knowing that others are thinking of him across continents and oceans, especially if he’s awake in the wee small hours and feeling alone. I see others of our number, or friends of friends, reaching out to him, and it warms my heart and restores my faith in humanity.

Lali is blogging again, which makes me happy even if I’m not always able to keep up with her posts. Most recently, talked about things she misses from her life in green Vermont, and it reminded me how exotic some of my friends are, when she refers to her childhood in Spain and South America, or life with deer, bears and an ermine. Now, whenever I think of Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, which I saw on display in Krakow four years ago, I’ll be thinking of her. Like several of my very brave friends, she suffers from a chronic and painful condition, and as she remembered the person she was when she could cope with her outdoorsy and active lifestyle, I just wanted to hug her … carefully,  gently.

When Lali or IB write about Vermont, I always think of an AFS friend met in Thailand and again briefly in Delaware at Sharon and Chai’s in the 1990s, and when Dona writes of her family memories that never fail to touch me, I think too of other AFS friends last seen in Thailand in 1981 who live near DC, and other bloggers I’ve met through my other blogs who live there or nearby. I love it when the various parts of my life intertwine

Another of our x365 group has reappeared on Fb, after a difficult time, and I am happy to see her again, but sad to think of what she has been going through, and wish we could sit and talk over a coffee, though I’m sure she has plenty of people doing that with her too, not least another of our x365 number who lives in the same city, and who regularly brings another unvisited city to life for me.

On the brighter side, the lovely and clever Indigo Bunting wrote a birthday limerick for me that has made my day. I also was amused to find that, in her quarterly list of birds (that has taught me to be more observant, and to appreciate and love birds along with their crazy names), there was a Greater Yellowlegs, which made me smile. In another internet life, I was given the nickname Legs, and those said legs are Greater rather than Lesser, and although they’re not yellow, they are very pale and would at least glow in the dark as does (I imagine) the Greater Yellowlegs.

IB wrote a birthday limerick for Helen too, in which she bemoaned Helen’s absence from our blogging community. I concur. It always makes me happy when Helen pops back in to comment. She staunchly resists social media, where even Mrs S has returned to our fold, but if she tried it, she might learn to like it. And when I think of Helen I think of Deloney, and another blogger friend “met” more recently who lives in their city, putting it firmly on the map of places I must go before I die, because there are people I must meet before I die too.

Vesper and Craig have both also had birthdays this week, as have friends in the UK, met on the internet and in real life, and in-real-life friends from here are also marking another year on the planet, so it is not simply birthday season in New Zealand in October, but globally in Mali’s Sphere of Family and Friends. On the Libra and Scorpio cusp, there are so many people I love and admire, and I love to be reminded of this.

Birthday boy Craig lives in Florida, and when – as lately – things happen there, I often think of him in the same thought as I think of the friends I met through student exchanges in 1979 and 1980 in New Zealand and in Thailand respectively, who also now live in Florida, and who all talk about storms and space shuttles and post photos of manatees and sunny beaches and alligators.

These links around the world, born on the ether and solidified over the years, or born in real life and maintained on the ether, make me happy and sad, they educate me and delight me and sustain me, and add to the richness of my life. Our hugs may only be virtual, but our love is real. I am so very lucky, and so very grateful.

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I was lying in bed this morning thinking about which café I’d take my out-of-town cousin and her cousin to when we met today, when it dawned on me to actually invite them home to lunch. I knew instantly that I would serve my go-to Italian spinach pie that I have been making for years. Almost everyone I have made this pie for has asked me for the recipe, and today was no different.

My spinach pie was a regular for our bookclub, it has provided comfort for a friend and her family, it works as an hors d’oeuvres with drinks, it’s the perfect lunch recipe with a salad (my favourite with this pie is a cherry tomato, roast pepper and mozzarella salad), can be eaten hot or cold, and so is great for a picnic or for making ahead.

Erbazzone – isn’t it fun to say? – hails from Emilia-Romagna in Italy (a part of Italy I’ve not yet visited) and, as with any traditional recipe, the ingredients vary; some recipes use eggs (I just use one), some add bacon or pancetta, and the vegetables in it need to be green and leafy, but don’t have to be spinach. I always cheat and use pre-made flaky puff pastry sheets and a 500g bag of frozen spinach, and if I’m feeling lazy (90% of the time) I’ll throw in a 100g packet of grated parmesan, but I do always make fresh breadcrumbs with four or five slices of bread. The recipe is very forgiving, and so it doesn’t matter if I have more spinach, or accidentally make more breadcrumbs that I need, and if I end up with more filling than expected, I treat it as a bonus, and add an extra pastry sheet for another, smaller pie.

So, because I wanted to do something different on my blog today, I thought I’d share it with you by providing a link to Julie Biuso’s food blog, as I use her recipe (though there are many others on the internet) from her Long Italian Lunch cookbook, and feel that I owe her many thanks for this fantastic recipe.

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My major project at the moment is sorting through hundreds of photographs from our trip. Both my husband and I had cameras – his a compact but with an enviable 40x zoom lens, and mine a mirrorless with interchangeable lenses – and we snapped away merrily at anything that took our interest.

There’s a point of view, often expressed scathingly, that those of us who like to take photographs (I’m focused on travel photography, rather than events or family gatherings) become observers, rather than staying in the moment, really experiencing what is around us. I heard this opinion again recently on the radio here, and then saw another article about it, and I have to confess that I’m getting a bit sick of the holier-than-thou attitudes of those who profess it. They seem to assume that photographers just want bragging photos they can put up on Instagram or Facebook and that by looking through a lens, we’re not actually looking with our eyes. As with anything, there are always extremes, and I like to walk the middle road.

I take photographs, but either before I take shots or after or both, I drink in the experiences. We spend a lot of money on our travels, and I am determined to embrace them – the sights, sounds, food, and feelings – to the limit. As I am a writer, I like to fully experience something so that I can describe it later. For every photograph of a fjord in Norway or a grand building in St Petersburg or every volcanic cone or lava field in Iceland there were dozens taken in my mind or written about in my head, and believe me, they take much more concentration and awareness of where I am and what is happening around me.

When I take photographs, I try to capture what had me gasping in awe, or laughing in amusement, or reeling in horror, in those photos. Whilst I’m an opportunistic photographer – I take what is in front of me (or within easy walk!), rather than carefully planning and composing shots – I also try to think about what I’m taking, and why I am taking it. I’m not good at taking photographs of people, as I feel rude and voyeuristic, though I adore looking at others’ shots of interesting people or people in interesting places. I wish I was braver!

I find thinking about composition or zooming in gives me an added appreciation of the view or events in front of me. Zooming, in particular, allows me to capture small nuances that might otherwise be missed. For example, I’ve learned a new appreciation and love of birds since I’ve had a camera that could capture them in detail. And sometimes there might be an unexpected bonus when we look at our zoomed-in image.

For example, here’s a long shot of a farmhouse dwarfed under a rock face, and then the close-up when we were able to find an off-road park.

But I was truly delighted when we got home to discover that this shot included a lot of old turf buildings outside the main farmhouse.

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The unexpected turf buildings

Blown up they’re grainy, but even when I look at the long shot, I now know they’re there, and it tells me so much more about Iceland and farming life and living there in the past.

I don’t take photographs just for Instagram. In fact, until we left on this trip I didn’t even have an Instagram account, and I probably posted more photos (maybe one or two every couple of days) on Facebook for family and friends who were interested. Equally, because I adore travel, I also adore seeing other people’s photographs too.

I don’t take selfies for a lot of reasons. But when they’re too frequent – they always seem to be more about the person (“look at me, look at me, look at me,” as Kath would say) than the place or events occurring where they are. Though my father always said that he liked to see a photograph with a person in it, so we always take a few shots with one of us in it or both, and likewise, when family or a friend is travelling, I love seeing their faces pop up in exotic places. Most recently I’ve loved seeing friends’ faces in Istanbul and Macchu Picchu and Scotland.

Unlike a lot of people, I actually do things with my photographs when I get home, and love looking back at favourite trips in our photobooks (and albums in the pre-digital days), or with the photos hung on my wall or the ones that flick up in my screensaver (which is one of the best ways to regularly see your favourite photos). I have a good memory for people and places – but seeing the photos keep the memories alive. And besides, it means we’re getting better value for money for those flights and accommodation every time I look at a photo and smile.

It’s not a case of “pics or it didn’t happen.” Many of the most memorable occasions on our trip could not be captured in a photograph. Driving across the vast sand and ash plains of southern Iceland, desperate to beat the predicted high winds that could sandblast our rental car (and empty our bank accounts), was a bit scary but quite exhilarating. Likewise, it was wonderful driving through the huge lava fields of southern Iceland, enjoying the textures and play of light of the lichen and moss growing on the lava, imagining what it must have been like as the lava flowed. The three or more hours we spent sailing through an archipelago of islands when leaving Sweden gave us a wonderful snippet of rural and weekend Swedish life. Standing out on the deck of our ship as it spun on a pinpoint in the river in St Petersburg, pushed and pulled at the same time by tugs, was a special treat few would ever get to experience. Photographs couldn’t really capture these experiences (although I tried), and yet these were such special parts of our trip.

My name is Mali, and I unashamedly like taking photographs. Doing so helps me stay in the moment.

 

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(The 17th in a continuing series)

  • It’s good to be enthusiastic about things we love, whether we win or not.
  • Good manners and gratitude take us a long way.
  • When we love our pets, we get the love back.
  • Stand up to bullies, because it’s the right thing to do.
  • Cocktails (or mocktails) can make us happy, and should be savoured.
  • It’s worth taking pride in our appearance, especially on special occasions.
  • Writing to your penpals is important.
  • I’m more like my sister than I realise.

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Late last year I brought home some of the items I’d chosen from my mother’s house after her death, and since then I’ve been getting particular pleasure out of using a few simple, small items no-one else wanted.

  • A particular teaspoon that always used to sit in our sugar bowl when I was growing up, as we used it daily to sweeten our tea, or the porridge or weet-bix for breakfast, now lives in my own sugar bowl.
  • Whenever we had colds, a lemon and honey drink was prescribed, made with a glass lemon squeezer that was perfectly proportioned for the job at hand, unlike any others I’ve found in the 30 years since. Now though, my search is over.
  • One of the first things I learned to cook was a stew that needed to be thickened once the meat and vegetables were ready, and I would vigorously shake up a flour and water mixture in a small aluminium* canister with a thankfully tight lid, ensuring all lumps were gone, and use it to thicken the sauce smoothly. It lives in a kitchen cupboard now, and although I don’t use it very often (preferring these days to thicken by reduction, or use arrowroot or cornflour), I smile whenever I see it.
  • The glass measuring cup I used when I learned how to cook, and most importantly how to bake, now sits in the same cupboard, and I use it whenever I can, although as it predates metric measurements, I am less confident in using it for anything requiring precise amounts.

These valued inherited items don’t make me rich, but they do make me happy.

*yes, that’s how it is spelt.**
**yes, spelt is spelt spelt.

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  1. A hot shower
  2. A sharp knife (in the kitchen)
  3. Birdsong
  4. A long walk on a still day
  5. Clean sheets
  6. Sleeping in or getting up early
  7. Writing with a good pen
  8. Curling up with a good book

Microblog_Mondays

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