doing something old-fashioned

I did something old-fashioned a couple of weeks ago. I responded to a postal mail solicitation to subscribe to a physical, paper magazine. It was from The Christian Century to which I was a long-time The Christian Centurysubscriber. I let the subscription lapse, along with many other print magazines, when I was laid off in 2014. But I always enjoyed the publication, and the price was really good. In fact I looked for an equivalent price online so I wouldn’t have to wait so long for my subscription to start. I couldn’t find one.

So I wrote a check, put it in the return envelope, and mailed it off. Now I still have probably another four weeks or so before my first issue shows up. But it will be good to be seeing the magazine again.

homemade spaghetti sauce

Perhaps this was a one-off. Or perhaps I will revisit this.

spaghetti sauceI had planned spaghetti for dinner. However, I had no spaghetti sauce. I did however have a large tomato from the grocery store of which I had only used a slice. There was also a ripe tomato in our container garden along with a ripe bell pepper.

I chopped everything up, coated a saucepan with olive oil, and put in the bell pepper. I added the tomato, threw in a splash of vegetable broth, and let everything simmer. I added cumin, coriander, oregano, minced onion, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. I smoothed everything out with my immersion blender, and added the better part of a tube of tomato paste plus a dash of balsamic vinegar. I stirred everything, simmered some more, and mixed it with the pasta topped with hot links.

Great dinner!

A History of India

History of IndiaA History of India
Professor Michael H. Fisher, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $64.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back– the sale price will come around again

This is a highly ambitious course. It succeeds.

Professor Fisher starts thirty thousand years ago discussing the native peoples of India, the Adivasi, who were present when later groups, the ones who ended up controlling India, arrived. In fact he starts millennia before that if you include the first chapter in which he discusses the geology of the region. He concludes discussing modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and mentions events as late as 2016.

In thirty-six lectures Fisher covers the little known Indus civilization, the rise of Hindu religion and culture, the Muslim rule of India, the British domination of the region, and the emergence of the modern nations of the region. Fisher is not an unbiased observer. He loves India and has lived there for extended periods. He clearly has a fondness for Hindu culture and religion. Nonetheless, he offers a balanced perspective, giving all of the players fair treatment.

If you are looking for a broad overview of the Indian subcontinent this is a great place to start. You might want to invest in the video download, as I know I missed a lot of visuals. However, I listen to these lectures on my walks, so the audio download is what I purchase.

Sacred Music Friday: Benedictus

Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benedictus. Choir of St. Michael at the North Gate, conducted by Tom Hammond-Davies

after a wet winter

Things are a little different here after a wet winter.

  • Gnats. We’ve had gnats since late winter. I asked my brother about that and he shrugged his lizardshoulders and said it was cyclical. “They’re just looking for water,” he said. Terry replied, “Why can’t they look for water outside?” Exactly.
  • Lizards. The lizards are bigger. There’s more vegetation for the insects and more insects for the lizards. The lizards are an important part of our neighborhood ecosystem.
  • Missing sunflowers. The last two years there were lots of sunflowers from May and on. They bring back pleasant memories of my senior year in high school in 1971. This year sunflowers are late and scarce.

But that’s the way it is and that is how it goes.

Village Books

Village BooksVillage Books
by Craig McLay
Kindle edition $4.98, Amazon paperback $14.99
Amazon Digital Services LLC (March 28, 2012), 325 pages

The joys of working in a bookstore! This book captures that. Although I worked for a national chain and this novel is about an independent bookstore, I related to the variety of characters working there. It certainly made me think of the variety of people who were employed at B. Dalton/Pickwick in Montclair Plaza in 1975.

The story is told in the first person by one of the managers at Village Books, which, I finally learned about halfway through the book, was in Toronto. The narrator describes the various employees coming from different backgrounds with different levels of motivation. He talks about the store’s general manager who is gay, but in the closet, and who keeps looking up various illnesses to make excuses to his mother who keeps trying to set him up with women. He describes his own relationship with a woman who walks in as a customer and becomes an employee.

There are a number of threads and plot twists and the story remains a page-turner (or iPad tapper) throughout. There is the local pub, the girlfriend who is intent on becoming an actress, the Italian restaurant owner who wants to return home to Italy, and the evil corporation which wants to buy the bookstore and the building.

Village Books is a lot of pleasurable reading for $4.98. The end of the book is somewhat overly cheery (not that I don’t like happy endings) and perhaps a little unrealistic with respect to where everyone lands. The journey getting there, however, is a lot of fun.


I have been making tostadas for decades. I was glad to get back to this after installing the new sealing ring on my stovetop pressure cooker.

Here’s how I do it.

tostadaTwo cups of dry beans (pinto, black, kidney – any combination thereof), a mixture of medium hot and hot chili powder, and five cups of water. Let the beans cook for an hour, turn off the heat, and wait for the natural pressure release. Put the beans in the KitchenAid stand mixer with the flat paddle to mix and smooth. (I used to use the meat grinder, but it was too many parts to clean.)

Meanwhile, while the beans are cooking, bake four corn tortillas on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for eleven minutes.

Add whatever toppings you like.