Favourite things

Homecoming:

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After being away for a month, I’m home. My favourite person met me in the airport on Tuesday night, then took me home where he had made dinner and stocked the kitchen with the basics until I could get to the store. It was a good month away, but I am so glad to be home.

Favourite things

Secret gardens:

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This photograph was taken when the garden was in bloom, but I found it in my library of pictures. I pass this garden every day on my commute to work — it is beautiful in all seasons.

Eat your vegetables

Since being in the States for the past three weeks, I’ve eaten out a lot — Saltgrass Steakhouse, Alamo Cafe, Cracker Barrel (2x), Ruby Tuesday, Rising High Cafe, Olive Garden, El Fenix, La Madeline, Panera Bread (2x), Cattleman’s — and I have noticed something about their menus. Only two of these fine establishments featured little “V’s” to indicate vegetarian options: Rising High Cafe and Panera Bread. What a difference from restaurants in the UK where you can usually find at least one option that is vegetarian if not vegan (even if it is always risotto).

Instead, those other restaurants (the steakhouses excluded) had other symbols in their menus to indicate low-calorie or low-fat or even “healthy heart” options. But I am somewhat confused why none of these restaurants, save the two soup, salad, and sandwich lunch cafes would offer meals for vegetarians. Most of these are chain restaurants — and I mean, really? Olive Garden, an Italian restaurant, doesn’t offer any meat-free pasta dish?

I’m not vegetarian, but I do eat a mostly vegetarian diet at home. Partly because meat is expensive, I just prefer vegetables, think that it’s a healthier lifestyle, and because my boyfriend is vegetarian. I’m used to eating meat maybe once a week and this meat-heavy diet the past three and a half weeks is feeling very heavy indeed. I’ve found myself ordering only sides, asking for chicken or prosciutto to be left off the salad, ordering broccoli and cheddar soup only to be annoyed that it had bacon in that wasn’t in the description.

I am still baffled that these restaurants would go through the trouble to mark “healthy” or “low calorie” entrees and forget that purely vegetarian meals might be the healthiest and lowest calorie options of all! And those people who are trying to lose weight or feel healthy by choosing the “healthy” but still meat-heavy options might need to revisit the adage to “Eat your vegetables”.

Granted, I know I have one of those frames and metabolisms that sheds pounds more quickly than it can gain them, but I will be glad to get back into being once more mostly-vegetarian and live in a country that accommodates such eating choices.

The Curfew

Opening line: “There was a great deal of shouting and then a shot.”

the-curfew-by-jesse-ballA strict curfew is in place in the dystopian city of C; one simply does not stay out “too late”. Free speech and music are banned and secret police prowl the streets. William Drysdale, former concert violinist, now works as an epitaphorist for a stone mason. His wife disappeared some years earlier, leaving him to raise his mute daughter alone. But when William learns some news that keeps him out after dark, Molly is left in the care of her neighbours. This elderly couple used to run a puppet theatre and help Molly to pass the night and make sense of their cruel world by putting on a puppet show. Enchanting, and heartbreaking, this is a beautiful novel.

The Curfew by Jesse Ball is the happiest depressing book that I’ve read. I was at times reminded of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The tragedy of the story is made all the more poignant by the touching and playful relationship the father and daughter have despite the harshness of the tyrannical regime. Riddles at the breakfast table, a game of being elephants — the Drysdales found happiness in the small things of life. The final section of the novel is the play written by Molly. The play, “A LADDER OF RAIN AND THE ROOF BEYOND” is both enchanting and sad; incredibly childlike, and yet also filled with the surprising clarity of understanding that children often have. Even though it has a gutting ending, I am glad to have read this novel.

In review

Continuing my blog’s annual tradition, the past year in review:

January: I begin the year with a few days in sunny Cyprus with Chris before returning to dark Scotland. Ros passes her viva with flying colours and we all celebrate.

February: Winter is still dark. I start taking voice lessons and Lent begins.

March: Spring comes at last and I attempt to plant flowers and end up forgetting to plant a garden. The month ends with a research trip down South, including research in London, a conference in Oxford, and very brief jaunt to Cambridge.

April: The house turns upside down for April Fool’s and Easter cometh, with all the solemnity and ceremony and joy my church can muster (which is quite a lot). After finishing a draft of a Thesis chapter, I visit Lola in Poland.

May: More work on the Thesis and Kelly comes to visit for two weeks. We go to London and then I introduce her to Fife. The month ends with my birthday, celebrated with friends and mint chocolate chip ice-cream cupcakes.

June: The Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic torch comes through Town, and I watch with pride as Ros, Allie, and Rob all walk across the stage to get capped and graduate. That same week, I served in Allie’s wedding and danced the night away at her reception ceilidh.

July: Not finding summer in Scotland, I run away to Croatia for a few days with Joanna to enjoy the sunshine and Mediterranean and spend a unbelievable afternoon in Istanbul. I spend lots of time watching the Olympics.

August: A certain young man begins to endear himself to me. After their mission trip to Ukraine, my parents visit for two weeks and we visit the Isle of Skye.

September: I began the month with a research trip down in Oxford, where it is lovely, as always. Then the changing of the housemates: Ros moves out and Elena moves in. Term begins, including the launch of the Postgraduate Christian Forum (PGCF). I take another trip to Poland, this time to help Lola move to London.

October: Work on the Thesis continues and I buy a bike. Life is very busy but with in-town busyness: thesis, museum, church, choir, PGCF, swimming, socializing. The month ends with Edgar Allen Poe readings and a Halloween ceilidh.

November: More work on the thesis. See October: life is busy, but life is also good. F. helps keep me sane by reminding me to eat, sleep, and by going on walks.

December: I furiously continue work on the Thesis chapter with elation and tears, while hosting a St Nicholas Party and performing in a Christmas concert. Then I jump on a jet plane to Texas, where it is sunny and warm; drive to South Carolina to have a belated Christmas with my brother’s family where I meet my youngest niece and nephew, and then drive back to Texas to ring in the New Year with Kelly.

What a year! I did quite a lot of travelling this year and am rather proud of the fact that my passport is almost full. (It only needs three more stamps to be completely full — I foresee a trip sometime between now and June when it expires…)

And this year? The ending of the Thesis and the great unknown afterward — but it will be an adventure. Here’s to 2013!