Wanted: Public Libraries

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I love reading.  If there is one activity that I can do the whole day, it would be reading.  I read anything and everything.  I learn so much from reading a variety of reading materials.  Nowadays, I usually spend about 30 min reading the newspaper, 1 hour reading blogs on cooking or the environment, 1 hour reading a book, usually suspense or mystery and 1 hour reading online articles to be used in my online classes.  Any idle time, waiting for doctors or appointments, I read some magazines like reader’s digest.  Of course I also browse cook books when I’m deciding what to cook or bake.

I’m lucky that I grew up with a bookworm for a mother.  Our walls have shelves filled with books.  I haven’t even  finished reading all her books yet.  Growing up, we always borrowed from the school library and spent all our leisure time reading.  I think we’re the only kids whose mom would tell us, “Why don’t you stop reading and watch TV instead?”  We were such geeks.  Growing up, I usually read short novels but as a young adult, I learned to appreciate inspirational and self-improvement books.  Now, I even appreciate historical books and biographies.

Now that I have my own family, we have our own collection of books.  Most of the books we buy are reference books.  We have lots of books on Geography, Physics, Design and of course, cook books.  I seldom buy fiction except children’s books.  I’m lucky to have access to fiction books, I can always borrow from my mom or from friends so I don’t feel the need to buy fiction books.

But that’s me.  What about other people who are not so lucky?  I often read about drives to bring books to schools, to build libraries for children and to get children reading.  This is very admirable and definitely needed.  However, that leaves out the adults.  Don’t they need to read too?  I am envious of other countries who have public libraries and residents don’t have to purchase the books they want to read for pleasure.  Even tourists can borrow from their libraries.  How come we don’t have the same system?  I know that given all the problems in our country, this is minor but I think it’s important too.

Who knows, maybe more people would read if they have something to read.  Not everyone can afford to buy books.  I’m sure they’d rather spend their hard-earned money on necessities.  But we should also feed their minds.  Maybe they wouldn’t have to continue watching inane shows on TV if they had a book to read instead.  Maybe they’d decide to change the course of their lives if they read inspiring stories of other people.  Reading should be for everyone and all should be encouraged to read, not just students.  Reading fosters lifelong learning.  And that’s what we all are.  We are all learners in this lesson called life.

 

Plastic

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The other day, Yumi and I went to the grocery store to buy some stuff, like cooking oil and butter, tocino and dishwashing liquid.  When we got home, we had a total of 4 plastic bags for such a small number of items.  They put the butter in a plasic bag, the tocino in another bag, then they put these bags with the cooking oil in a big plastic bag.  The dishwashing liquid was placed in a separate small bag by itself since it can’t be mixed with food.

I think plastic bags per se are not evil but using too much and using it indiscriminately is definitely harmful for the environment and eventually harmful for us.  The government is trying to reduce the usage of plastic by implementing a “no plastic bag day” once a week, every Wednesday and I know there are several establishments who are strict in implementing this in their stores.  It’s a good start but I don’t think it is enough though.

Even if we all used reusable bags to place all our purchases in, what we purchased would have some sort of plastic or packaging as well.  I buy refills for most of our household products like cooking oil, dishwashing liquid, shampoo, fabric conditioner etc.  All these are placed in plastic.  I don’t know if this is better or if it is better to buy the original packaging which has hard plastic which could probably be recycled.  But I think recycling should be the last resort and if the object can still be used, then it should.  Shampoo containers can be used countess times and I think it never has to be replaced ever.  But of course buying refills would also use up plastic.  Is it possible to have a distributor who can sell us just the contents?  Can we bring our empty bottles and have it refilled?  I think this is economical for the producer as they don’t have to spend for the containers anymore.  Of course, this would require that customers buy into the idea.  But I think if advertisers give it the right spin, consumers will take the trouble to bring their containers.  Of course it would be better if they get a benefit, like maybe a discount, the same way you get P5 off your drink at Starbucks if bring your own container (I think it has to be a Starbucks container, though).

There is one city who is imposing a total ban on the use of plastic bags.  I think this is very admirable but I just don’t know how effective or realistic this is.  Let’s say you go to market to buy your food supplies for the week.  You buy some fruits, and put this in your bag.  Then you buy some vegetables and these are put in your bag as well.  These items are dry and I think it’s ok to place them in your bag without any plastic.  Then you buy some eggs.  Where will you place the eggs?  Then you buy chicken, where will you put the raw chicken?  Obviously there are items that do need to be placed in plactic bags, or some other container as they can’t be mixed with the other items you’re buying.  Would the market vendors be put out of business because they have to provide plastic bags to place the chicken in?  Are the consumers supposed to bring tupperware-like containers to place the chicken in?  How can we make this ban realistic and get all those involved to participate?

There are so many things left to say about this topic but I’ll talk about it some other day.  I know that I need to make some changes, both as a consumer and as a seller.  I’ll try my best to bring containers when I go shopping next time, and I think I’ll also give discounts to my customers if they bring their own containers when they buy my cookies.  I guess that’s as good a start as any.

Sweet Persian Bread (nane sheer)

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I finally tried out this recipe from the flatbreads book of a friend.  Actually, I thought I wouldn’t have to bake this early in the week since I made lemon squares last Sunday and I thought it was last at least until Wednesday.  But Yumi had developed a liking to it.  She ate 4 bars last Sunday, and 4 bars again yesterday.  I, of course ate the same number of bars.  Jon also ate his share.  So today, there was only two left and I told her she could have it.   So it’s only Jari who’s still has not a fan.  I’ll probably have to make some again this weekend.

So I thought of making Sri Lankan Coconut Breakfast Bread.  I had set aside some shredded coconut yesterday when I made chicken curry but when I brought out the coconut from the refrigerator this morning, it smelled a bit funny and to be safe, I decided to discard it and bake something else.

So, I finally made Sweet Persian Bread.  It was the first time that I actually made something that had to be rolled so of course it wasn’t perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I definitely need more rolling practice.  It turned out okay and this is how it looked like after it’s been cut:

It looks very rustic.  It was good and as suggested in the book, goes great with coffee.  It’s best dunked in coffee to soften it a bit.

As a I sit back and enjoy my coffee and my bread, I think to myself, this is the life!

 

 

This week’s list

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It’s time to make the list for stuff I’m thankful for:

1.  Electricity – I’m glad to live at a time and a place where electricity is almost uninterrupted.  I say almost since we had a 3-hour interruption last Saturday.  I know that there are places that still don’t have electricity and that certainly affects their way of life.  I just hope there is some way to bring electricity to them and for our electricity to be sourced 100 % from renewable resources.  (I can dream, can’t I?)

2.  Pandelimon – I really loved making it and eating it.

3.  Baking with children – It was a great bonding activity and very enjoyable for all concerned.

4.  Silpat – This is the silicon mat I use instead of parchment paper.  It was expensive when we bought it maybe 5 years ago but I probably would have paid more had I used parchment paper during the last 5 years.  Aside from this, I also prevented stuff from going into our bulging landfills.

5.  Coffee – I have recently learned to drink coffee black.  I used to think it tasted bitter but I now appreciate its flavor.  Before, it doesn’t matter what beans were used since coffee tasted the same, masked by sugar and cream.  But now, I can taste the different types of beans.  Of course, I just love it because it goes so well with sweet, sinful stuff. 😉

Well, that’s my list for now.  Until next week.

Pandelimon

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Yesterday, I made my first attempt at making flatbreads.  Jari woke up early and was asking what’s for breakfast.  The flatbread book that we had listed Scottish Oatcakes as breakfast fare so I looked at the recipe.  It was very easy and straightforward and so I decided to make it.  I somehow already knew that my attempt might fail since the recipe called for oatmeal and all I had were rolled oats.  The authors even noted that they tried using rolled oats and while it was edible, the texture was gritty and not appetizing.   Being the stubborn person that I am, used to substituting whatever was on hand, I still tried it.  And, as the authors said, the result was dismal.  Nobody liked it.  Jari ate some since he was hungry but he didn’t finish a whole serving.  I had to eat everything else otherwise it would have been wasted.  When I topped it with vanilla ice cream, it became softer and palatable but it was very tiring to chew.  At least I’m sure I got my fiber requirements yesterday, hahaha.  Maybe I’ll try it again sometime but I will make sure that I have the correct ingredients.

So today, being a very lazy Sunday, I wanted to bake something and try something new.  I had to recover from yesterday’s failed attempt.  I was going to make pita bread but then I remembered that I wanted to try making pandelimon.  My sister sent me the link to the website (kusina ni manang) for the recipe she uses and I decided to give it a try today.

It was already 10:30 am when I decided on this so we ended up having lunch past 2 pm.  But it was very good and I ended up eating 3 pieces of bread!  Jon cooked a potato omelet with cheese and milk which was supposed to be the filling for the bread but the bread was great on it’s own that we didn’t even finish the omelet!  I thought we’d still have bread for dinner (and Jon was making pasta) but we finished everything.  I am so full!

While the bread was rising, I made my third attempt at lemon squares.  It’s ok, still not fantastic.  I guess I’m really not a fan of it and since no one else in my family is, I’ll probably stop making it and find other recipes to try.

It was a very fun and productive baking day for me.  I’ll definitely make that bread again.  It would be great for breakfast but I don’t think I want to wake up at 4 am to make it so maybe we’ll have it for lunch or dinner again next time.

Why are they safe?

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I mentioned before that I work part-time from home.  I teach English online to Japanese students.  I don’t really teach English formally, but I provide an opportunity for them to converse in English.  Most of my students prefer just having conversation or reading an article then discussing it.  I’ve learned a lot about Japanese culture from my students and I think they have also learned a lot about the Philippines from their Filipino tutors.

Anyway, I was talking earlier to my one of my students about world leaders, Pres. Obama, Col. Gaddafi and we somehow ended up discussing Mrs. Marcos.     He asked where she is now, and I answered in Manila.  He was very surprised and wondered, “Why are they safe?”  I honestly couldn’t answer him.  I informed him that she is now a congressman, her son is a senator and her daughter is a governor.  He was genuinely shocked and amazed that one, they’re not in jail, and two,  that they got elected.  He said it was really unbelievable.

I also informed him that Mr. Estrada ran for President and got in second.  He was really speechless and didn’t know what to say.  (Of course, this could also be due to the fact that he has quite a limited vocabulary 🙂 )

That got me thinking again.  I’ve thought about his before, of course, after the elections but now I had to revisit my thoughts.  Why do we elect these people?  Why are we, as a people, very forgetful?  Why don’t we bring people to justice?  We elect these people then we complain that nothing’s changed.  Corruption is still there.  Red tape is still there.  Justice is still slow.  We can’t blame the government for everything.

We have to take responsibility and determine what we can do to change the status quo.  How will we educate the people to be mature and thinking voters?  How do we produce politicians who will really prioritize the country instead of their pockets?  How do we get people to act?  I know all these questions have been asked before and there are no easy answers.  I still think though, that it’s up to the people.  We can change the system.  If we really want to change it, we can change it.

De-cluttering

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I’m in an on-going project to de-clutter our home.  I started last year and I planned to clear a surface or a drawer or a shelf every week.  This is to make the project manageable by doing baby steps.

The first few weeks were quite successful.  I could see the surface of our divider, then the shelves downstairs was also organized and cleaned.  I threw a lot of useless stuff but my kids also got other stuff which I don’t use anymore.  (Unfortunately, these things are now cluttering their space).  I was very motivated by the improvements which made me want to do more.

Of course, after a time, I got tired of it and things started piling up again, ningas cogon at work.  It’s mostly my kids’ stuff and they have to be reminded to keep their things on their respective tables.  I have to continuously work on keeping the surfaces clear but I  usually let the papers pile up until I have to look for something then I’ll have to clear the area again.

Recently, I have decided that I need to continue my de-cluttering project and so I started clearing up our drawers in our desk.  I had so much old receipts, I even saw my contract for my pager dated 1997 and my first mobile phone subscription.  Amazing.  So, out came bags of papers and kids’ projects and artworks.  Of course I showed these to my kids first and they either kept it or decided to throw it out.

Keeping our stuff organized is really important so we don’t have to waste so much time looking for things.  It’s difficult to start but once we’ve started, I think it’s easier maintaining the order.  We just have to keep at it a little everyday so things don’t pile up and become unmanageable again.

Going through our drawers is also a great way to inventory the stuff we already have.  We might discover that we already have the things we need.  It’s best to remember where everything is kept or at least have general categories for each drawer to make searching easier and to avoid buying stuff we already have.

Hopefully, I’ll keep at it this time and get my kids to de-clutter their areas too.

By the way, just wanted to let you guys know that I’ve finally done Zumba three times this week.  Finally, after 4 weeks, I’ve met my goal!  The challenge now is to keep doing it.  =P

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