Happy St. Brigid’s Day

Scarves out for the attention of St. Brigid on the eve of imbolg!

St. Brigid is a 5th century Irish Saint. And a Celtic fire goddess. How Christianity is interwoven with Celtic mythology is something that can only be sensibly discussed in an Irish pub! Indeed, the celebration of imbolg, about halfway between the winter solstice & the spring equinox, goes back even further. Through the times of the mythological Tuatha Dé Danann & probably further, all the way back to neolithic times. But whatever the origins, February 1st is celebrated as both imbolg & Lá Fhéile Bríde, St. Brigid’s Day.

Neighbours passing by our Canadian homes over the years have been treated to occasional displays of (mostly unrecognizable to them) flags of Irish counties, green lights on Paddy’s Day, & other traditional oddities. Nothing, though, is as strange as seeing scarves tossed onto winter-stripped shrubs at the end of January!

While we are usually still white & frozen at this time of year in Canada, in Ireland, spring is imminent. Crocuses & snowdrops have been blooming in January. And, this year, I’ve already seen pics of bright yellow narcissus blooms on the social media pages of my Irish friends. Though, sometimes, I feel like they’re growing them indoors & sharing pics with the sole purpose of irritating me! 😜

So what’s with the scarves on the bushes?

Brigid, the saint & the goddess both, have a large portfolio of responsibilities. She is the patron saint of farmers, milkmaids, blacksmiths, fisher folk, mariners, children, poets, & Lord knows what else. She stands, side by side, as a patron saint of Ireland, with her contemporary, St. Patrick. Known for her kindness & charity, Brigid is also famous for turning water into an endless supply of beer! Funny enough, she is not one of the patron saints of beer. Go figure!

Again, what is the thing about the scarves?

If you toss a ribbon or scarf out on a bush on the eve of St. Brigid’s Day, it’s said she passes by overnight to bless the cloths. These will then protect you for the next year. And they are reputed to cure ailments, like headaches, pains, & other afflictions! Probably worth a shot, if you are so afflicted.

Hey, if nothing else, especially during these pandemic times, it makes for a great interactive story opportunity for the kids. But, even for us adults, what’s the harm in having a scarf round our neck that’s been naturally freshened outside overnight! 😁

If you have covid-confined kids that you’d like to entertain, try making a St. Brigid’s cross. You’ll find plenty of simple instructions online. If you can’t find any reeds growing around your garden at this time of year, try plastic drinking straws, craft pipe cleaners, or cut strips of card stock. Very entertaining & a great time consumer for kids. That’ll be St. Brigid protecting your sanity during covid too. And I pray those refreshed scarves will keep us all safe ’til we’re vaccinated!

Stay safe out there & …

Happy St. Brigid’s Day! ☘️☘️☘️

DIY Fast Food

DIY Murg Tikka Masala

It’s probably not helping my diet, but I am trying to help my local businesses, by getting takeout. Or maybe I’m just putting that virtuous spin on it by way of excusing the bad behaviour! 😜

Every now & then though, I just don’t feel like another takeout meal. I feel like something home cooked. But I don’t feel like cooking it.

DIY homemade fast-food is the answer.

Between cans, jars, & leftovers, you can sometimes be serving dinner faster than you can find the car keys. Or call out for delivery. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve noticed an increase in the pantry inventory of canned foods & sauces in jars. It was never a plan, it just evolved that way.

Take that Murg Tikka Masala, for example. It’s a quick concoction of some leftover chicken, frozen peas, a can of mushrooms, & some chopped onion & garlic. With a jar of tikka masala sauce thrown in at the end. A few sprigs of cilantro & a splash (okay, it was a cup or two!) of cream finished it off & it made for a mouth-watering, gustatory delight. Even the rice was that quick-cook type. Bring it to the boil, turn off the stove, & it’s ready to serve when everything else is done. The whole meal had little to no prep time, & very short cooking time. It’s all just too easy. These pandemic skills will be carried forward to when this whole covid thing is, hopefully, just a bad memory for us. Buy some cans & give it a try. And if you already have, send me your fast recipes!

I think that Murg Tikka Masala just means Chicken Pieces in Mixed spices, right? Convert any food name to Hindi & it sounds way more delicious & exotic to my western anglophone ears. I wonder if that works with Irish!?!

Fancy a plate of my special Píosaí Sicín Spíosrach? No? Maybe I’ll just stick to coddle & boxty for the Irish stuff then! 😜😁😂

PS … Make sure you make enough for more leftovers next day. That’s even faster fast food! Stay safe out there.

Results … Month #26

Unbelievable! 😜😁

I was on vacation last week, local driving only allowed without quarantine, & I really enjoyed myself. That’s fat-person code for “I stuffed my face the whole time”! In my defense we were in Cape Breton & it’s tough not to have seafood. At least twice a day. The seafood wasn’t the issue, of course, but the stuff that accompanied it might have been a problem. Especially the desserts! 😜

If you ever get the chance, when this whole pandemic is behind us, seize any opportunity you can to visit the island wonderland that is Cape Breton.

Nature’s beauty & bounty, with Acadian & Scots Gaelic flavours!

But enough of that, let’s get back to this month’s weigh in. I had no warning that the battery was on the way out. But I’ll admit that I was overjoyed to see, instead of a big number, a big “LO” on the scale this morning. Fortunately, I didn’t have a spare battery available so I’m starting off this month thinking that my weight is low & that I don’t need to worry about it! 😂

Okay, I know I’m being silly. But let me take a little pleasure from it. Just for a bit.

Hope all is well in your little corner of the world & that you’re getting through all the complications & limitations of living with the pandemic. I’ve adjusted to many of the restrictions pretty well, but I’m definitely struggling on the dietary front. Maybe this month I’ll find the key to losing weight, while enduring this new normal.

Have a great September & stay safe out there.

Working From Home

My Work from Home Colleague!

I think I’m getting the hang of this working from home thing at last. It was a little chaotic at the start. I found myself getting caught in unplanned online video conferences with yesterday’s t-shirt on. Or with a three-day beard. Sometimes, I discovered that I’d forgotten to comb my hair, but only when my headshot popped up on screen. Now I have a much better routine. But I also keep a hairbrush in my desk, just in case!

I’ve always done some work at home, so my office is well set up from a technology standpoint. Nothing special, I’ve got a desk, dual monitors, fast internet, great cellular signal, & all the basic stuff you might need. My office is big enough not to be claustrophobic, with a nice view out the window, overlooking a forested strip with a babbling brook running though it. The most practical addition I’ve made is to squeeze in an armchair & ottoman. My back suffers after a few hours at the desk, regardless of where I’m working from, & this proved a Godsend. A few minutes stretched out on this comfy old chair is a wonderful cure. Can’t believe that I didn’t think to do this in my real office. Years ago.

I must admit, my home office is a little untidy. With my desktop covered, I’ve taken to using the floor as a sorting surface. I really need to work on that. And my office is pretty boring too. Functional, but really plain & blah! I’ve taken to studying the backgrounds of home offices on TV these days. I’m trying to watch less CNN & Fox News (a story for another day!) & my entertainment tends to come from BNN Bloomberg now. I’m fortunate to still have a job & I figure BNN offers the best insight into my future job security. I time my lunch break to catch my favourite show on BNN. Not only is the stock market very entertaining during these crazy times but, with different guests being interviewed every day, this show is a great source of home office inspiration.

You can tell these people have already done what I’m planning to do. Their home offices have improved, week by week. Some of them look so good now that it’s as though they’ve been professionally staged. Strategically positioned highbrow books, nice artwork appearing on the once-bare walls. Accent furniture pieces. Fresh flowers. And some people introduce their doggies to viewers. Very cute, almost makes me want to rush out & rescue a puppy!

On the back wall, I think I’m going to go with some artwork. And some enigmatic bric-à-brac on a console table. That should all make for good idle chat. While we wait for the late-comers to sign into those online meetings. Though I might have to refinish the table so it matches the decor a little better. Another thing for the to-do list!

I’m going to put my own artwork on the wall. I once painted, & even sold some paintings along the way. If there had been cellphones back then, I’d probably have some pics of those works to show you how brilliant I was! 🤪

Sadly, I abandoned the hobby when I got engaged with an early version of Adobe’s Photoshop software. I’ve long been a photography aficionado, so superimposing digital art manipulation on my photography hobby was a perfect fit. It was fast & efficient. And it made a few of my mediocre photographs look better. I’m thinking of doing a gallery of artsy pics of my real office for my home-office wall! 😂

The weirdest thing about working from home is the lack of social contact. I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I had come round to hating airports, but I’d kill to be back flying again. On the other hand, I don’t want to die, so that probably won’t be happening any time soon. I really, really miss the office & customer interactions. You can’t spend a career in sales without enjoying time with people. Regardless of career, I think we all need this social interaction. Many of my friends come from the ranks of my colleagues & customers. Even though some of the bastards buy competitive products on occasion, they’re still my friends! 😜

Our colleagues, customers & suppliers are all very much an important part of, not only our work, but of our social circles too. I find it difficult to imagine, despite the potential cost savings, that too many companies will go to a 100% work-from-home, office-less model. It’s just not a social solution & that aspect of working life may prove too important a contributor to the bottom line. Thankfully!

I can do this & I’m getting better at it with each passing month. But I really hope we get a successful vaccine soon. How are you doing with this whole work from home thing? Let me know. And I wouldn’t mind if you sent me your ideas for home office decor either!

Just in case I’ve got to walk around during one of those online meetings I’m off to hunt online for a pair of dressy flip-flops now! 😁

Stay safe out there. 😷😜

COVID Conundrums

What am I?

I used to think I was a capitalist …

‘Til the government offered subsidies to help stave off layoffs & paycuts!

When those measures were announced, I breathed such a big sigh of relief & I held my hand out. Should I be worried that I’m a (grateful!) socialist now?

Since I’m sucking at weight loss during lockdown, I’m trying to distract myself by learning a little about things I’ve ignored for years. You can’t watch the news these days without wishing you’d studied psychology, sociology, political science, economics, & maybe a little Celtic mysticism! These are soft sciences. That means that you can make a very cogent argument, that is totally meaningless, but nobody can prove you wrong. Right!?!

Very useful in these confusing times.

Over breakfast news this morning, I heard that this is “the first time prices have risen to the negative value”. They were only previously positive in the timeframe being discussed. So what the duck did this mean? Why did the guy not just say the number went down? There is some sophisticated subterfuge being employed here, & it can only be designed to keep the uninitiated outside the pale.

How is it that neoliberalism, in economics parlance, is a faith of those on the right? I thought that anything with the word “liberal” in it was at least three shades pinker than the white centre of the political divide. Are all the meanings reversed when you go from politics to economics? And now that we’re on the colour spectrum, why are Canadian liberals red, American blue? Who is being backward here!?! The conservatives adopting the reverse in both countries, of course. Is it true that the French flag represents the balance between the left and the right? And not the liberty, equality and fraternity thing, because that is just a conspiracy theory pushed by the radical centrists!

Trickle down economics. Didn’t that fade away in the era of Reagan & Thatcher? Now it’s being touted by governments again. I remember my Dad calling it “Sucking Up” economics. Because, he said, they make it look like they’re giving you something … while sticking the vacuum cleaner hose into your pocket!

I’m still sick of politicans sniping at each other. You’d never run a good company this way. It’d be like the materials manager blaming the lack of inventory on the production manager for using all the parts. When the operations manager is asked to intervene, he deflects the blame onto the temporary workers & fires them all, while requesting the human resources people hire more accountants who will recalculate numbers that look better. Without even getting into the challenges of outsourcing & upstream supply chain management, it’d be a total duckfest. So why is it a good idea to try running a country like this? Don’t we all need to be on the same team to succeed? Especially during a crisis.

One real criticism I have of our news media is the lack of real investigative analysis & critique of the COVID responses around the world. The gross data is on TV every dinnertime, but I don’t see too much detail on which countries have the better healthcare systems, for example. This is an amazing opportunity to learn about such things. Digging into those details might educate us, the general public, on some key attributes of our differing approaches & societies. Such data might influence us on how to choose our next politicians. And I’m not presupposing what that data might reveal. It might, I would hope, have an influence on how our governments makes changes for the future. Though it may touch many of us, & our families, COVID-19 has a mortality rate that isn’t threatening for most of us. Despite that, it can’t hurt if we are better prepared, in case an even more virulent & deadly KISSYOURASSGOODBYE-23 virus rolls through a few years down the road.

My biggest conundrum? If we’re all adding to the national debt, who’s loaning us the money? And can’t we just print more to pay it back? Or is there an ink shortage now!?! 😜

Okay, so I’m having a little fun with some of this. On the premise that if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry. But I’m genuinely interested in learning a little more about economics. I would especially like to see some comparative studies on healthcare systems. If you can recommend a source of balanced information in any of these areas, please send it my way. Indeed, I don’t think I know any economists, so if you can introduce me to anyone in the field, I’d welcome the connection.

Let’s hope we can keep most of our jobs & that we can all come back stronger & better from this. Meanwhile, even if you feel it’s not necessary, please help make a fellow human feel a little better & safer … and if you can … wear the damn mask when you are asked! 😷😁

Stay safe out there, all.