Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Animals and books

It has been a busy few weeks and I am pleased to say that my brain is slowly beginning to work a little better. I forget fewer words and have had no more coffee maker disasters.

There is a man who lives in Mao who breeds Great Danes and he wanted to bring a female Dane here who was on heat, to live with Goofy for a while. I said no, Danilo said yes, the dog arrived. She had only just started her heat as he wanted them to fall in love pre-bonking. Goofy predictably fell in love with her - her name was Matari - Lobo was not allowed to be with his best mate Goofy and fancied Matari as well so they had to be kept apart.

Grumpy was upset her boyfriend Goofy was with another woman so it was a stressful time for all of the dogs and me! No idea if Goofy did the deed, but Matari left after two weeks, leaving Goofy howling at the gate for a few days. Dogs are now back to normal - thank goodness.

Sticking with the animal theme. as you know we no longer have water delivered from the local water company into our cistern. So we buy it every couple of weeks from Water Man. You call him up, he goes to the river, sucks the water into his truck, comes to us and pumps it into our cistern. Trouble is, the river has more than just water in it, so this time, he deposited a frog into the cistern along with the water. I only realised when I saw the lid of the cistern propped open with a wooden ladder which Danilo had put in there for the frog to climb out.

Please note, the metal box in front of the WATER CISTERN is the box for the main electrics for the house. Please also note the prevalence of taypee sticking all of the wires together.

I thought this was daft until I Googled and found out that all over the place ladders are put in drains for frogs to climb out and what is more, frogs and ladders are used to forecast the weather as they only climb out of water and up ladders if it will be fine, and if it is going to rain they stay in the water! No idea if our frog climbed out, but the lid is back on.

Remember I said the todys were back - the gorgeous tiny green and red birds. Well they disappeared after a day and Danilo discovered they had unwelcome squatters in their little hole in the base of the tree - a family of tarantulas - mum, dad and lots of babies. He disposed of the squatters and the other day the todys returned! I just hope they stay this time. The female is higher up the twig as she has a little bit of black on her green wings.

Oh and even more news, I am a grandmother again! Ana and Alberto (stepson number 2) welcomed Adriana to the world a month early. Though a little small, 6.5 pounds, she is lovely and Danilo and I went to see her in Ana's mum's house, where Ana is staying for the 40 days she is "at risk". Not sure what she is at risk of, but most all women here have to be with their mothers for the 40 day period with a whole list of things they cannot do - like go outside, look at the moon, and they have to have cotton wool in their ears so the cold air doesn't get to their brains.

Proud grandpa Danilo

Ana, Adibel and new baby Adriana

Alberto with his new daughter

Mother's day is very important in the DR, but this year I had no visits from the kids as Ana and Alberto stayed with the baby and was Adibel's, number one granddaughter,  fifth birthday. Danilo was on a course in the capital and returned in the afternoon, cooking me a massive sancocho for my Mother's Day celebration. We ate sancocho for a week.

Finally, as you know I love reading memoirs and this last month I have read two fabulous books, both brilliant and both different.

The first was by Beth Haslam and is called Fat Dogs and French Estates part 1.

This was my review on Amazon.

"I was attracted to this book as the title mentioned the words Dogs and French – and I love dogs and love France. I was certainly not disappointed. The book describes the author and her husband travelling throughout France house hunting, well, estate hunting, to find their perfect home. They took their fat dogs with them.
The characterization of Beth’s husband, Jack, the dogs, and all of the French people and estate agents they meet along the way is superb. There are fabulous descriptions of the estates and the countryside and you really feel you are sitting in the back of the car along with the dogs. In addition, there are unexpected history lessons about different parts of France as well as interesting information about many of the towns and villages.
That in itself would be sufficient to make a good memoir, but what moves this book from good to great, and even fabulous, is the humour throughout. I started off smiling sometimes, then giggling occasionally and eventually was collapsed with laughter, even snorting at stages. It is so very funny I have not laughed so much in months.
I highly recommend this book, and I know I now have no choice but to read the rest of the series. I must admit I was concerned that they might not live up to my now high expectations, but having checked the reviews on Amazon – they are all five stars as well. Thank goodness! I can’t wait."

There are three more books in the same series so my next task is to get those. Really worth it, pure escapism, some learning more about France, and just pure fun.

The second was by Gina DePaulo and is called Unopened Doors.

My review says: 

"In brief, the author describes how she was victim of a mugging which caused a Traumatic Brain Injury and that in turn led to flashbacks of her childhood and a rape and near-death strangulation when she was 19. She then decides to revisit her attack of some 40 years ago and with the help of a Cold Case investigator she slowly unearths the past.

The book is beautifully written and it goes backwards and forwards between the present and the past in a seamless manner. It is more than simply a memoir; however, it is a detective novel, it portrays life in the USA in the 1960s, and you really do find yourself transported back in time. In addition, DePaulo adds in stories of other victims of violence, rape and murder during the same time period in the same area.

More than a memoir, more than a detective story, overall a truly excellent read. I defy anyone not to enjoy this book, which I was unable to put down as it draws you in from the very first page. In fact, this was the best book I have read in years."

This book really resonated with me, having had a couple of near death experiences and now suffering from brain injury. But even if you have been lucky enough not to have those, I promise you will really enjoy this book.

And for those of you who enjoy reading and enjoy reading memoirs, I really do recommend you join the We Love Memoirs Facebook Group. Why? Because the members are writers of memoirs and lovers of memoirs. There are lots of free memoirs to be won, chats with authors, competitions where you can read memoirs and, the best thing, all of the members are lovely people!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Easter comes and goes

Far too long again since my last blog post – I have no idea where the time goes.

All my brain tests were more or less normal, and I must admit the CAT scan was so impressive. For the price of US$50 you are seen immediately - the receptionist said I looked much better than last time! The results are available a few hours later and not only do you receive a written report but also photographs and a CD with even more photos on it. Here is my brain! Very impressive but Dr. Google was not very helpful in explaining what I am looking at.

Apart from the fact my brain looks like I happy face in some of the images, I have noticed no improvement in brain function. I am told it can take years so I am just getting on with it and adapting where needed. My worst performance is in the kitchen, maybe as it is there I do the most multi- tasking. As I mentioned before, my brain is like the internet – it goes slowly, and sometimes it totally switches off and I go blank – but only for a few seconds. I continue to do stupid things such as forgetting to put the cup under the coffee maker so the coffee goes all over the floor, or forgetting to put coffee in it and end up with a cup of hot water. I even put dried cat food instead of sugar in my coffee the other day. Cooking is a challenge to remember how to actually cook some recipes and I may remember one minute and then forget the next, so now I get all the ingredients out before I start. I have a wooden spoon next to my laptop when I am cooking, so I don’t forget and burn things, and a bag of washing powder when I am washing. I also write lists all the time when something comes into my head that I need to do, so I don’t forget. It is liveable with, just a little frustrating.

It has been a busy few weeks. The bookcase is finished – here is Danilo studying in his cow pyjamas.

We need more books to fill it up, but no doubt they won’t be long coming. He has started his Master’s degree in Criminal Law – which means I have been checking things on line and typing up his assignments so I am effectively also doing a Master's in Criminal Law. The university is the Dominican Open University and he is doing it part on line and part attendance so everything is done via the University website – which is appallingly slow and complicated to follow so it has taken me ages to upload assignments. I think I am getting the hang of it now.

Chivirico and Albert came for Easter week so we had to make habichuelas con dulce (sweet cream of beans), which I still loathe but it is essential Easter fare. Apparently I make the best beans that they, and Danilo, have ever tasted. Thanks to Aunt Clara's Dominican Cooking.

Knowing that they never eat vegetables at home, we had a mainly vegetarian week with vegetable chilli, dips of hummus and baba ganoush and home made naan bread.

Kids making naan bread

We also had Irish stew without meat and served with buttered cabbage. Chiv was amazed seeing that I cooked “salad” as cabbage usually eaten in salad here.

When they weren’t cooking they seemed to be fascinated with the library so it was great to see them joining Danilo in reading.

In the meantime, life goes on as normal. As I am finding it harder to write shopping lists and keep forgetting things we need to buy, Danilo is taking it upon himself to shop without a list as he knows what we need, he says. This was one of his proud purchases last week.

Yes, that is a pig's tail. I cooked it by boiling it in water with various herbs and spices, onion and garlic and then roasting it in the oven. I ate the meatier end (bit closer to the body - and  the pig's bottom) and Danilo had the tail itself. It tasted just like pork - but not sure worth doing again!