Bits and bobs

Random thoughts about random things by a random person


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I got it! I got it!

For the last 15 or 20 years I have wanted to own a Dutch oven. OK…I’ll admit that is NOT the catchiest first line of a post and I may have already lost you. I hope not because it really does get exciting. Well, kitchen-gadget exciting. To me. 🙂

So, yeah…I’ve wanted a Dutch oven. And maybe once a year in the past decade or two, I would venture out to see if I could purchase one. Each time I end up drooling over the Le Creuset options. They get amazing ratings and, seriously, they are beautiful. The colours! Oh myyyyy – the colours!!!

But the price tag. Oh dear – the price tag. For a 7 qt one, I’d have to fork out about $350 CDN or more. And I can’t justify that. So I would drool, occasionally caress and fondle, and then walk on. I would also look at the other non-Le Creuset options that were more budget friendly, but I honestly had no idea which would be the best direction to throw my money. Then, dejected and disappointed, I would give up and leave it alone for about another year.

Then, for some reason, I would forget the past failures and convince myself somehow that this year – THIS year – it would be different. I’d find a killer Le Creuset sale or all of a sudden the “Dutch oven switch” would flick on inside my brain and I’d know which of the more economical versions I should get.

You know what happened. Or didn’t happen. I never got one. The cycle just continued over and over and over. And over.

And so, this past Friday morning while I was lying in bed (I had the day off), the “Let’s look for a Dutch oven!” urge hit again. Maybe it’s my age, but before I got too gung-ho, I told myself not to get too excited. (You know by now that I like to talk to myself.) I could look, but I knew my past track record, so I wasn’t allowed to get disappointed when (not if) I didn’t find anything I could buy.

So, without further ado and without even hauling my arse out of bed, I grabbed my tablet and started searching.

It didn’t take long for my hopes to begin to be dashed against a shore of broken crockery dreams. The prices were still high (go figure) and there was still a sea of unknown economical options from which to choose. I was, again, adrift.

But then I thought of the America’s Test Kitchen. It’s a show I started watching a couple of years ago on PBS. It is just what the name purports it to be: a test kitchen. I love it. In addition to testing recipes, they also test kitchen gadgets and equipment. (Do you see where I’m going here??)

The light bulb went off! I thought, “Surely to heaven they’ve tested Dutch ovens!!” While I knew that if they had tested them, the unattainable Le Creuset would be at the top of their list, I also knew that whenever they give their ratings, they also provide a recommendation from the more budget-friendly options. So…off I went to Mr. Google and he did not disappoint!

Here’s where I landed: Dutch ovens. As you can see, the Le Creuset was at the very top, but then…there it was! A Cuisinart was the budget recommendation! A brand I knew and could (hopefully) afford!

Back to Mr. Google, now with a specific brand in mind. I thought I had it in the bag. Not so. The first search results showed a couple of Cuisinart options, but they were still pricey, for me (between $160 and $200 CDN). Ahhh boo.

But then…just when I was about to throw in the towel for another year…there was an option from Costco. It was the exact same as the $160 one that Walmart had, but it was only $80. Huh? I clicked the link thinking it must be a smaller size and you just couldn’t tell that from the thumbnail image. Nope! Same size…same everything except for the price. Before I jumped on the excited train, though, I thought that maybe I was on the US Costco site instead of the Canadian one. Nope…It was Canadian. Seriously? I mean, I know different places have different prices, but THAT much of a difference? (And the Walmart one was on sale, BTW.)

Anyhoooooo…I wasn’t super keen on the colour of the one at Costco, but for the price, I could absolutely learn to love it!! (It’s not that I didn’t like the colour…it just wouldn’t match anything in my kitchen.)

Just as I was about to put it in my cart, I saw a thumbnail of another one in a colour that I liked better AND it had four small, individual Dutch ovens with it. For $10 more. Double huh? So I clicked. Sure enough, 7 qt blue Dutch oven with 4 individual ones for $90.

I still thought there had to be a catch. Then I figured it out. The shipping. Cast iron would have killer shipping fees. There’s no way they’d ship it for free so that’s how they were going to get me. So I looked…Nope. Free shipping.

WUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT?

So, now after 15 or 20 years, I am the owner of not 1, but 5 (!!!!) Dutch ovens!!! Woooooohoooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!! My budget was $100. Taxes in this set was $101. Not too shabby if I do say so myself!!

(I just checked and Walmart has the same set right now for $180. What even???)

PS: (Cuz what’s a day without learning something…) Technically, “Dutch” ovens that have enameling are actually “French” ovens! Nobody knows that term, though, so, much to Le Creuset’s chagrin, we just call them all Dutch ovens. You’re welcome.


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“The House by the Side of the Road” by Sam Walter Foss

I came across this poem today and it really touched me so I thought I’d share it. To me it’s beautiful. I hope you like it.

Firstly, it reminds me that I need to do more to serve and help people. I’m more like the hermit he refers to. But I need to put my house – myself – by the side of the road more.

I also love the imagery that he uses. And I love that he puts us all on the same level: “The men who are good and the men who are bad, As good and bad as I” and “They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong, Wise, foolish- so am I.” It gets rid of the “us” and “them” idea that prevails so often.

The House by the Side of the Road

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

There are hermit
souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house
by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban;-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house
by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears-
Both parts of an infinite plan;-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened
meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my
house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Link to source: https://www.alsintl.com/resources/poetry/the-house-by-the-side-of-the-road/


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Soooo not my generation

I went out to lunch and dessert with a friend today. The food was fine (I really enjoyed the Korean BBQ cauliflower “wings” at Pure Kitchen and the waffle cone at Moo Shu. YUM!!), but this is not a food post.

It’s a people-watching post.

In particular, it’s a two-young-girls-who-were-at-Moo-Shu-watching post. I say “young girls”, but they were about 18-20. To me, those are young girls. And it couldn’t have been clearer that there is a huge generation gap between us.

They were the poster children of living your life through your phone and being completely oblivious to the real world around you.

First, they spent an inordinate amount of time picking their flavours. I felt so badly for the poor girl working the counter. She was so patient. I mean soooooo patient. Moo Shu makes their ice cream themselves so they don’t have 30 mass-produced flavours or whatever to pick over. I think there were maybe 10 or 12 flavours. I’m not known for quick selections and even I made my decision before they did. In fact, my friend had gotten there a while before I did (I had parking issues) and she said they had been there at the counter quite a while before I even arrived, completely oblivious to the fact that there were people waiting in line behind them.

I need to explain that it’s a tiny ice cream parlour. There are seats for maybe 12 people so you can’t help but see what’s happening. The girls – let’s call them The Gigglers (cuz there was a lot of that going on) – came over to an open spot at a table right next to us. We had no choice but to be aware because they were inches away from us.

Where most people would eat the food they’ve ordered when they get it, The Gigglers proceded to behave as though they were on a photo shoot. They didn’t just take the now-normal 1-3 pictures of what they were about to eat. No…that would be too…too…I don’t know. But it wasn’t an option.

Instead they took I would say at least 30 pictures. First, inside the shop (because apparently the whole place needed to be part of the photo shoot): standing in front of the store mural on the wall right next to us, showing just the ice cream in the bowl, then them (one at a time and then together), then various shots at the table (giggling constantly, of course). Still all the while not even having dipped their spoons in the bowl, other than to show the spoon in a pose.

But then…la pièce de résistance: They took it outside!!!!! They left their coats and bags and WENT OUTSIDE to TAKE PICTURES!!!! OF THE ICE CREAM!!! IN WINTER!!! OUTSIDE!!! Sure, it was a warmer day than it’s been in quite a while, but it was still below freezing. Plus…what the heck??!!

It was funny. And ridiculous. And to me dumbfounding. Eat the goll-durned ice cream already.

Eventually they did. Tiny spoonful by tiny spoonful, while sitting together – on their phones.

They were still at it when we left. They might still be there, drinking it with a straw by now, though, as it’s been about 3 hours.

Well, I tell you, it could not have been clearer that I am part of a completely different generation.

But somehow, even while I have my judgy old-lady attitude on, I suspect that they are equally comfortable and happy in their living-online existence as I am with my living-IRL* existence. And (other than the bit about not caring about how your actions impact those around you), who’s to say it really matters anyway?

*IRL = in real life. Yeah, I know some online lingo. I don’t live online, but, hey, I’m not a total luddite! 😉


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Honesty is the best policy – or is it?

OK…Here’s the thing. I’m 49 and my whole life whenever anybody has talked about qualities they really value in other people (either in people in general or in a significant other), invariably at or near the top of the list is “honesty”.

And, in the interest of full disclosure, for quite a while I was one of those people.

But I’m not so youthful anymore and am considerably less naive than I used to be and what I have learned is we don’t actually, really and truly want honesty (in the truthful sense of the word). Even when people say they want you to be honest with them, they frequently don’t mean it.

Maybe some of these will sound familiar:

“I can’t stand anyone who can’t at least be honest with me.”

“I can handle pretty much anything else in a person except dishonesty.”

Blah blah blah.

Maybe there is a rare individual who truly means it when they say that they want complete honesty – all the time. Maybe. I’ve just never met one (that I’m aware of). And I’m certainly not one. Like most qualities, honesty, to me, has a time and a place. It’s most of the time and in most places, but it’s definitely not all of the time or in all places.

Note: I’m not talking about when people stick their noses into our business when they have no reason to be there…I’m talking about when we engage people in conversations and we raise up certain topics or ask questions and don’t like what we hear in response.

My experience shows that what we actually want is “selective honesty”: a reflection of our own thoughts, feelings and perceptions back to us. But we can’t seem to admit that. We think we want real honesty, but, from what I’ve observed, when people are honest with us, if it’s not what we wanted to hear, we often don’t take it very well and frequently blame that person, when we are the ones who engaged them in the conversation in the first place.

I think we just don’t know how to handle honesty. Maybe it’s because being honest about what we want or need in that conversation makes us too vulnerable? I don’t know. We also don’t know how to receive it or how to deal with the drama that frequently ensues when we give it.

I’ve found myself uncomfortably situated on both those sides.

When it comes to being honest, I’ve gotten in a lot of trouble over the years. Sometimes I misunderstand social cues or misread a situation or conversation. Someone asks a question, I assume they genuinely want to know my opinion and I give it. That’s landed me in hot water a fair bit so I have gotten in the habit of telling people now not to ask me a question if they don’t want me to answer it honestly. Or to be clear as to what they want. If I know that all you want is a comforting, reassuring answer (regardless of its validity), then I can do that. I’m just not always good at identifying those situations on my own. I have a couple of friends that I’m very careful about ever giving my thoughts or opinions about anything to – even something as small as what I think about a book or a movie – because on any given day the reaction to even such small things can be really and truly just not worth the bother. It’s hard to have a friendship that way, but it is what it is.

When it comes to receiving honesty, I have learned to take a step back and really be sure, before I ask a question, that I am ready for whatever the answer is. If I’m not ready for absolutely anything, then, if I can avoid it, I won’t ask the question. I try to remember to clearly let the other person know that I really do want their honest opinion or thoughts if I do decide to ask the question. I don’t want them to feel awkward or uncomfortable (based on my own experiences) or to be afraid of how I might react. And I also try to be clear as to when I’m just looking for reassurance and someone in my camp to make me feel better. Because that’s OK, too.

Not that I’m great at either. I’m definitely better at the 2nd bit because I’ve made it a conscious behaviour/decision – especially about not asking a question or raising a topic if I’m not ready to hear something I might not like or agree with. But I’m still not very good with knowing when I should and shouldn’t be honest with other people. I don’t know if I ever will be, at this point. But I keep trying!

In any event, I think the old adage should maybe be slightly adjusted. Maybe it’s not honesty that’s the best policy.

Maybe honesty about honesty is.


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The five-hour lunch

A friend of mine got back from a trip to Paris a couple of days ago so we arranged to meet for lunch today to catch up. We both had stuff to do in the afternoon, and we have been known to have some lengthy (and happily entertaining) visits so we decided to meet at 11:45 to give us ample time to visit AND get our various errands done. How naive we were!!

Today was more marathony than even we usually do. You’d think we hadn’t seen each other in years instead of a couple of weeks. 🙂 I think our previous record was 3.5 or 4 hours. Today we topped out at 5.25 hours! We both got there at about 11:40 and we walked out at 4:55. Not a word of a lie. The only time I looked at my watch, I thought it was probably somewhere around 3:00. Imagine my surprise when I saw it was heading towards 5:00! It did not seem like we had been there for 5 hours!

Have you ever had one of those lunches? If so, because I’m dying to make a list out of this, the following might sound familiar…

You know you had a great marathon lunch when:

  • The sun hadn’t reached its noon apex when you arrived and was about to set when you left.
  • The people at the table next to yours were having breakfast when you were seated and the people sitting there when you left were having dinner.
  • There was only one person left from the shift that was on when you got there.
  • You showed up and the hostess said, “We just switched over from the breakfast menu to the lunch menu. I hope that’s OK?” And when you left a different hostess said, “Have a good night!”
  • You had so much fun you don’t even mind that you got nothing only your list done afterwards!


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Always learning…

As I mentioned in my last post, I turned 49 not too long ago. I’m well over half-way through my use of this mortal coil and yet I am still constantly learning things about myself.

For example, I started work in a new area in July, after having worked in a couple of areas where I had felt a great deal of dissatisfaction and frustration. Today, I was catching up with a couple of former colleagues and they asked how things are going with this new position. I told them how much I’m enjoying where I currently am and they asked why.

I gave it some thought before answering.

There are a lot of things about where I’m currently working that would make, for many, it a very unattractive position. The program area is in a state of review and change. From day one, I was out of the gate, running. I’ve spent a large amount of time scurrying around (literally and metaphorically), trying to get up to speed on the program itself, while also making sure that everything related to the changes (system- and program-related) are being properly taken care of.  There are a lot of different pieces and stakeholders to keep track of and work with and I have to make sure that I’m available to provide needed support to the folks that I lead. And did I mention that we are very definitely on the radar of senior management so, yeah, there’s that. 

All that to say that it’s not a job that a lot of people would want to walk into, especially the way I was feeling by the end of June! And yet I am the happiest I have been at work in at least three years.

“Why?” I answered. “Because I feel useful, relevant and supported.”

I was kind of surprised at my response. I would not have thought that those things were so important to me. As I reflected later, I realized that not only are they a huge part of why I am currently happy and satisfied, they are also a huge part of why I was so dissatisfied in my last couple of positions.

I also realized that I shouldn’t actually be that surprised. I’m no psychologist or work motivation expert, but I imagine if we peeled back the layers of why people feel the way they do about their work, those three characteristics would, in some fashion or another, rise to the top of the reasons for their satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

Now, I’ve known and understood that concept in a general nature for years, but I hadn’t realized how much it applies to me. Who knew! I’ve lived with myself for 49 years and I’m still able to surprise myself! I have about another 12 years to work before retirement – I wonder what other gems I’ll learn about myself between now and then??

Curiouser and curiouser!


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50 things: What am I – crazy??

I turned 49 recently. You know what that means – the next one’s the big 5-0. Technically, I’m already in my 50th year, closing out my 5th decade. So not only is 50, well, 50, it also marks my foray into my 6th decade, which means I’m also sort of almost 60. How crazy is that???

Anyway…since I’m already in my 50th year, I thought I should do something to really mark it or celebrate it throughout the year. So I got to thinking – inspired, actually, by somebody’s blog (sorry…can’t remember whose) where she talked about doing the same thing for a big birthday she had just achieved. Because I am sometimes wont to bite of more than I can chew, I decided not to do just someTHING (singular) during this hopefully auspicious year, I decided to do 50 THINGS (plural).

50. F-I-F-T-Y. Five-Zero. In one year.

I didn’t, in fact, stop there. I started to get REALLY crazy and create goals of fifty of each type of thing. I reined myself in somewhat on that one. For example, instead of reading 50 books this year, I’ve pared that down to 25. That’s perfectly achievable. But trying to come up with a list of 50 things, each of which would require 50 things was the very opposite of achievable – I would have to quit my job in order to have the time, even assuming some sort of fairy godmother swooped in to provide the necessary means to meet my financial obligations.

All that said, it’s really hard to come up with 50 things! So, I decided that coming up with the list itself needs to count as one of the things. Seriously – don’t laugh! It REALLY is challenging!

Here’s kind of where I am so far:

  • health goals (walking, exercise bike, taking stairs at work, crunches, push-ups),
  • food goals (trying new recipes; eating vegetarian once a week at least)
  • arts/crafts goals (voice lessons, drawing lessons, painting lessons, writing more blogs)
  • entertainment goals (watching old Hollywood movies, watching more international movies)
  • educational goals (relearning things I used to love – you’ll REALLY need to hold in the laughter here – basic geometry, algebra, and chemistry; learning something about 25 different countries; learning about 25 historical figures; finishing 2 Russian language CDs I’ve had for years; finishing a Spanish course I bought ages ago)
  • spiritual goals (making meditation/prayer a more sincere part of my practice; working on mindfulness; reading scripture more regularly; learning about other people’s practices)

There’s some other stuff in there, too, but this will give you a good overview. None of them are earth-shattering. For me, the big thing is they have to be achievable. I want this current year to be one of success and, particularly, one where at the end of it I truly feel like I’ve become a better person. I’m hoping that I’ll pick up some better habits along the way and that some of the things I dip my toes into this year will become life-long interests. Some of them already are, but I’ve let them fall to the wayside, and this challenge is a way to bring them back into my life.

I have 26 things in my list already. I’ll obviously keep adding to it as I go along. And I’ve also given myself permission to change things as I go. For example, I might have to reduce the individual things under each item. I might change it to learn only about 12 countries and 12 historical figures as I come to really see how much time is involved if I try to force myself to do EVERYTHING. Right now it’s do-able. But by the time I have my full 50 things, I might realize that what I’ve come up with right now is not realistic. The thing I for sure DO want is that I will have done 50 different things. That’s the piece I’m not willing to sacrifice or bend on. So the other stuff is fairly fluid at this point.

Anyhooooooooooo… I’m documenting this so that in about a year I’ll write a follow-up post to see what I’ve accomplished and, even more importantly, how I feel at the end of it.

Stay tuned!!