Monday, 19 May 2008

Some of Various Things

Janey, over at Whittering On, invited me to play along with the Various Things Meme which has been doing the rounds in the blogosphere. It didn't take much to persuade me . . . as it is easy enough to relate what I did today (not much), and who doesn't enjoy the opportunity to improve the world with a billion dollars of hypothetical money?

However, since I can't prepare any recipe without making alterations, I am allowing myself the liberty of editing this meme to suit myself. (If you want to see the original format, plus read some good stuff, you will have to visit Janey.)

First, the prosaic part-- also known as "my life:"
(and since the day is almost over, I've included some commentary on if and how I accomplished these mighty tasks.)

What are six things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

  1. Walk. I did walk 6 miles today -- a rather minor walk for me now that I'm "training." I walked with someone new, and that was fun because I could quiz her on her life story -- which was part "Hideous Kinky" (without the illustrious father), and part "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," only set in an economically depressed part of Wales.

  2. Order roses. I spent about an hour on the David Austin website, only to discover upon email receipt that my roses aren't going to be delivered until NOVEMBER! Being the impatient sort, I was pretty much expecting them on Thursday -- so this is quite a blow. I am now in a quandary -- and wondering if I should run around finding bits and pieces of what I want, drive to the David Austin nursery in Wolverhampton (also the ancestral home of the great Nigel Slater, and not exactly close to us), or just settle in and wait until the next growing season.

  3. Have lunch with a friend. I enjoyed a delightful lunch (goat cheese, tomato and rocket baguette) at this pub. Topics included 40th birthday parties, ex-husbands and new husbands, educational dilemmas, the trials of living with adolescent girls, and our daughters' upcoming trip to Spain -- the ostensible purpose for the lunch.

  4. Tutor JC. The mother left JC's spelling homework for "us" to complete -- the accomplishment of which led me to conclude that my assistance is well-worth every pound she pays me. We finished up with two stories and a little bit of digging in the garden -- activities much better suited to JC's interests and talents.

  5. Design invitation for upcoming charity fundraiser. This has been put off -- again -- for tomorrow.

  6. Make quiche lorraine and a pavlova. As our shelves are beginning to runneth over with the bounty from our chickens, my youngest daughter proposed an egg-rich dinner menu. Both recipes came from Tamasin Day-Lewis's Kitchen Bible -- a cookbook I heartily recommend to anyone who wants dependable recipes for the English classics.

And now for the unlikely scenario called: What would you do if you were a billionaire?

Janey mentioned that this particular fantasy is something of a mental preoccupation with her, but I've given little to no thought to it. If I'm honest, I think that I don't fantasize about having more money because I've already reached my level of comfort with tolerable ratio of guilt -- which means not having to worry about paying my bills. My husband would groan if he read this, as he is the person who worries about the bills . . . but without being totally obnoxious, what I mean is that I really don't aspire to anything (bigger house, fancier car, designer handbags) that would require a bigger infusion of money. I feel very lucky and blessed to have a nice house AND a savings account. I'm good.

I actually think that having too much money tends to ruin people, so I suppose that I would tend to aim for "security," rather than luxury, when it came to bequests for family and friends. I would like to give my children enough money to pay for college, buy a first (modest) car, and put a down-payment on a home . . . but not enough to live an idle, dissipated lifestyle!

Have you noticed how a billion dollars can go awfully far when you think of spending it on your family, particularly if you have no taste for private planes or yachts, but doesn't seem like much when applied to huge international needs?

Not long ago, I read an article about the culture of giving in the UK. Apparently, charities which help animals or raise funds for cancer research/support do really well, but other sorts of charities really struggle for a piece of the public's interest. I remember, in particular, that shelters for domestic abuse have a difficult time raising funds. It just stuck in my mind, as sometimes things do, that retired donkeys are a more popular cause than battered women.

Therefore, if I fall into a billion dollar honeypot I would like to set up some shelters for women . . . and include a scholarship component to train and/or educate women to be able to take care of themselves. I know that there are many reasons why women don't/can't break away from abusive relationships, but those financial fetters (not to mention illiteracy) are still such a major barrier to independence.

Speaking of female empowerment issues, I just read a horrifying account of life in Yemen titled Is this the worst place on earth to be a woman? (Observer Woman, May 2008). Apparently, female illiteracy rates are around 71 per cent in Yemen -- and women are denied almost all citizenship rights. Crippling poverty and a lack of access to healthcare complete the ugly picture. In one of those interesting coincidences, Lionel Shriver also cited Yemen in her recent article on the population explosion in the third world. Despite the fact that it is "one of the least developed countries in the world," (Cooke, OW, p. 48) Yemen's population is booming. Hmmmm . . . see the connection? So despite the fact that there are very high maternal mortality rates, complicated by the fact that very young girls are made to wed, the babies just keep coming.

Not to be a goody-goody or anything, but it would make me feel guilty to be wishing for more, more, more. Everything about my day provides ironic contrast to all of the women who have so little, and I realize that. I know that it doesn't do much good to wear a hair shirt, but we needn't be so greedy, either.


Brave Sir Robin said...

Aren't there any nurseries nearby? At least a "big box" garden store? They won;t have some of the more exotic selections, but they will have things suited to your growing area.

Or is that a strictly American thing?

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Oh, Bee, your roses! I have to say, other short store hours, "out of stock" is one of the most annoying shopping experiences here in England.

BTW, I had my first rose bloom today. It's a gorgeous pink growing on a seemingly thornless bush--but no smell?!

Bee said...


Oh yes, there are lots of nurseries and "garden centres" -- including one in walking distance from my house. They had one or two roses that I wanted, but not in the quantity that I want. I'm going to call David Austin tomorrow and see if there are any other possibilities . . . because I'm way too impatient to wait until November.

We don't have any roses blooming yet, but I have a quite few with buds. Roses without a smell are so sad!! All of my new roses will have gorgeous fragrance. I'd like to pull out some of the old, hoary roses that don't have scent . . . but there is just so much to do in our garden!! I was just out watering the new plants; it is dusk now; and I was absolutely freezing!

Brave Sir Robin said...

it is dusk now; and I was absolutely freezing!

It is currently 92 F in Port Lavaca/

Wanna trade weather?

Bee said...

Well, maybe not . . . and definitely not without some good AC!

I had a long talk with my mom today and she mentioned the HEAT WAVE . . . also that Salado got hit by a mini tornado . . . and also that Jenna Bush just had most of her wedding in Salado!! She had her rehearsal dinner at the same restaurant (The Inn on the Creek) where I had mine. Or maybe she just stayed there. I can't remember all of the details . . .

Anyway! Despite my loathing for her father, I admire her for organizing a really secret, down-home wedding for herself.

Bitty said...

Last things first: I've begun to admire Jenna, too, because she could've had the big splash and didn't go for it, she's showing a decidedly progressive bent in the subject of her recent book (what? Acknowledging the humanity of the "other"?:, and most importantly, because when she and Mom were on Larry King, she said she was thinking about her choice for president, not just knee-jerking for McCain. Ok. Done politickin.'

What I was going to say was that I wish I had the time to properly comment on your posts. For now, I'll just say that someday I'll have a lot to say about your eloquent and thoughtful musings.

That, and this is the second blog I've read today that mentioned Hideous Kinky, and I'd never even heard of it until about 8 hours ago. I think I am supposed to read that book.

(Less than 200 pages to go in The Blind Assassin!!! I know others are finding it a drag, but as someone who has read a number of Russian novels, I know that when I pick up a 540-page book, I can expect a good amount of detail, and it's simply not going to be a short trip. I guess I'm emotionally prepared.)

Bitty said...

To clarify, that's my paraphrase of what Jenna said about her presidential vote, not precisely her words.

She didn't say "knee-jerk," but I do believe she said "thinking." :)

debski beat said...

Hello Bee I finally found my way here ! I have done my walking for the day, I had to walk through the process they send you on to be able to do this.

I do not think you will be able to get really good roses for a while but November did strike me as a bit odd, really odd but what do I know.

Make a lovely creme brulee Bee and use some of the lavender about now to scent it with instead of vanilla, its very 'now' or hopefully will be after this posting, I believe the gardens if used with thought can really jazz up most things.

I cannot have lunch with a friend as I am awaiting new home office furniture, a surprise for my own Siguemund, known in my house as The Bearded One. I will however attempt that very soon.

The Tamsin Day Lewis thing. bless her I have tried with her but until she ties her hair back instead of flicking it in a Tourettes style (minus the tics) into the food I cant go there with you Bee. However Nigel Slater is wonderful, what a joy in the cooking world and his book he wrote, Toast, is brilliant especially if you are a UK Baby Boomer.

I am not qualified to comment on Yemen. Like you I am in the comfort zone. The Bearded One does not so much comment on bills but more that the bequests for our wee bairns as described by yourself are more akin to living wills, at 23 and 25 respectively for L&L, we have done the college (university) education, and have high grades on the car and I know deep in my DNA that the home will follow, the truth is Bee, The Bearded One is starting to think that by the time L&L have finished with general 'needs' he will have nothing to leave them. Mother In Law has given us a fridge magnet it says " be kind to your children, they choose your nursing home", she is 92 and as sharp as a tack, living in her own home, she has not had to succumb to her own advice yet, but the thought is now planted in Bearded One's mind.

Oh by the way Bee, in my usual ditzyness I have just discovered that I am reading the wrong Rushdie book. I am reading The Enchantress of Florence, I'll plow on tho' and after the Booker I'll let you know what I think.

Sarah Laurence Blog said...

Bee, that’s a nice to do list. How good to think of charity when imagining billions. Thank you for drawing attention once again to disturbing news stories in developing countries. It’s important both to enjoy life and to think about others. You blend the two well in your blog and in your life.

Alyson said...

I must say I envy your to-do list. I dream of the day when I can just go to lunch, on a weekday, with a friend. Soon enough, I'll be there.

I love your billionare list too. I know a lot about domestic abuse (not myself, but close family) and it's infuriating to watch these women stay with their bully husbands because in their minds they have no choice. I wish I could do more for them too.

Brave Sir Robin said...

it's infuriating to watch these women stay with their bully husbands because in their minds they have no choice. I wish I could do more for them too.

There was a time when I would have said the same thing.

I understand a little better now why they stay.

k said...

thanks for visiting me. i've been so neglectful of my & everyone's blogs lately. i guess i've been busy but when i think of what might have been keeping me so busy i can't really think of anything. i guess the days just get shorter the older i get.
i love memes, and i'll do this one soon.
happy wednesday! do they call it "hump day" in england? i've always hated that phrase because of what "humping" meant when i was a kid. it was that thing you giggled about on the playground.

k said...

ps/ helen hunt adapted the novel by elinor lipman into the screenplay. she collaborated with some other people on it. have you read any lipman? i loooooved "inn at the lake devine."
i'm reading "twilight" right now by stephenie meyer and couldn't be more into it. deliriously romantic. are you still reading the booker winners? i was disappointed at the lack of them at my local half price bookstore. and if i go to the library i'd have to pay my fines. which are huge.

Alyson said...

BSR - I know what you mean. The reasons are complex. It's not a simple matter, but still I wish there was a way to make the trasition easier for them so they'd feel they could.

Anonymous said...

I feel embarrassed to be human when I read about cultures that treat women so poorly.

Anne said...

So many things to respond to. First things first: did your six-mile walk feel ridiculously short today, given how far you've been going recently?

How frustrating about the roses! It does seem ridiculous that they would be back-ordered until six months from now. I would say take a trip to the nursery, but I, like you, am impatient--and I'm not sure how far "not exactly close" is.

I second Debski Beat's suggestion that you make creme brulee! I had one recently at the Big Sur Bakery, and it just about knocked my socks off. I would make one myself this weekend, but it wouldn't feel right taking the kitchen torch and ramekins that the Suitor gave me for Valentine's day (with the promise of actually doing something together in the kitchen) on their maiden voyage while he's off in Brazil for a week. I'll make bread instead.

If you're still looking to use up a bunch of eggs after you've made your quiche and pavlova, I have a fantastic recipe for sour cream cake. It uses six eggs, and is heavenly (if not exactly spa food).

Your mention of wanting to do more to help abused women comes at a time when my grocery store is encouraging shoppers to add a few dollars to their checkout total in order to donate a small "gift basket" (basic toiletries and such) to a local battered women's shelter. I try to participate in these programs when I can, and this week I thought of you when I donated one.

Bee said...

I have to agree with you that I am really starting to admire what Jenna is doing with her life. I have read quite a few interesting and complimentary things about her new book. Maybe the new generation of women will turn the smug Bush boys around!
That's funny that you've read about Hideous Kinky twice in one day! I can't think of a good example now, but I'm often learning about new things -- and then suddenly hearing about them again and again.
I'm always pleased to get your input -- and I look forward to the day that you have time for MORE input.

Debski Beat,
I'm so excited that you've joined the blogging world! Your inimitable voice is always so welcome.
Lavender creme brulee is a great idea . . . one of our favorite desserts, actually. Do you (or Anne) have a good recipe that I should try.
I'm sorry that you don't like Tamasin. Jay Rayner told me that he had met her, and that she was a real "hippie." (I think that's a hair reference.) I loved her recent food memoir, "What Should We Eat for Dinner," but Jennie couldn't get past the first chapter. She's a bit of a snob -- food and otherwise.
You brought up an interesting point about how expensive it is raise to children in the privileged segment of the western world. No wonder we aren't even managing to replace our population. Irony: rich countries can't afford children. Shriver's article points out that the population explosion has a direct correlation with poverty.
Last thing: let us know about Rushdie's latest. I thought that it sounded fascinating.

I would like to help others more -- and not just think about them! That's one of the my goals for this coming year.

I actually don't do it that often, but there is nothing more "nourishing" to my soul than to have lunch with a friend. You get the best conversation. Hopefully, you'll have time for that soon. Do you have some good girlfriends where you are?

As you acknowledge, domestic abuse is a complex issue. It's so easy to be emotionally trapped, and if you are financially trapped as well . . . well then, you've really lacking in power.

I've definitely noticed how the days are getting shorter (or at least going faster)!
No, I haven't read any Lipman -- although I have one of her books. When I finish doing my Bookers I will check out your recomendation. (And yes, we are still doing the Bookers! I wrote about it recently.) Like Bitty, I am almost finished (less than 100 pages to go now) with The Blind Assassin. I am reading Midnight's Children next.
My oldest daughter LOVES the Meyer books -- she has read Twilight and New Moon, and is now begging for Eclipse. I didn't realize that they were good adult reading, too! I will have to check them out.


There is certainly a lot of wickedness around. I tend to feel more guilty (about being so fortunate in my birthplace), than embarrassed -- but I know what you mean.

Yes, 6 miles feels like a dawdle now!
Please post the sour cream cake! That sounds SO GOOD.
Thanks for donating to the shelter . . . isn't it sad that they really struggle for financial support in the UK? I wonder if that is true in the U.S. as well.

Alyson said...

Yes, I do have some good girlfriends around, but having a 3 year old all day makes it all but impossible to have lunch dates with friends. Once in awhile I'll get together with one of them on the weekend, but then weekends are usually very busy family days. At this point in my life, a weekday lunch with a friend sounds like the ultimate luxury. I don't want to hurry Adam up in his growing, but I do look forward to even a tiny bit more free time during the week to do something like that.