Saturday, 28 February 2015

Bokrean The Annual Book Sale

Every year at the end of February since the 1920 book lovers have a high holiday. It is the start of the annual book sale. All the major publishers mark down books at the same time. In the past they have made special print runs for the sale, but anymore it is usually regular books that are sold at a much lower price than normally.

I happen to have one of the country's best independent bookstores in my town so I buy almost all of my non-ebooks from them and I always buy my book sale books from them. This year I ended up with two books on my first pass (I will probably go back again :)).

I bought two books in Swedish, both of them non-fiction

 The first one is En av oss (One of Us) by Åsne Seierstad which is due to be released in English on March 5th. It is the story of the massacre by Anders Behring Breivik of 77 Norwegians. It also weaves in the stories of those who were at Utøya. I've started reading this book and so far I am pretty hooked. It tries to tell the story of why. Why did this man kill so many of his fellow countrymen. I've wanted to read this book for quite some time and so it was a real find for me.
 The second book is one I hadn't heard of before but that I think looks really interesting. Utvandrarna och den stora depressionen (The Emigrants and the Great Depression) by Ulf Beijbom. Beijbom is an expert on the Swedish emigration to the US and in this book he looks at what came to be the end of it, the start of the Great Depression when the promised land became a nightmare for many of those who had left their home country. I think this will be a nice accompaniment to my history studies in the future so it is going on the shelf for now.

Have you bought any good books lately?
Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What I did Yesterday

Yesterday (February 24th) I went up to Falun to see the FIS World Cross Country Skiing Championship Women's 10km Freestyle race. It was so much fun. The atmosphere was fantastic and I had a great spot to watch from. What was even more fantastic was that Charlotte Kalla (Sweden) won gold, Jessica Diggins (USA) won silver, and Caitlin Gregg (USA) won the bronze. I don't know which of the women were happiest. I took a tonne of pictures. Here are some of them.

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Monday, 16 February 2015

Book Review: The Year We Hid Away

The Year We Hid Away

Author: Sarina Bowen

Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Genre: New Adult Romance

Synopsis: Secrets. Everyone has them. Some are big. Others small. And sometimes it is important to just be in the moment, however, sooner or later secrets come out. Scarlet and Bridger both have secrets but they also have each other.

Thoughts: This book has a bit more of a mystery aspect to it than the other books in the series. Why does Bridger have to run off? Did Scarlet's father really commit the crime? And that in some respects appealed to me. At the same time the threat from the body guard seemed a bit silly. On balance however I really liked this book.

I liked that both Scarlet and Bridger learned that it actually helps to share burdens. This became extra clear at one point when Scarlet says to Bridger:
"You just had the same fight with Hartley that you picked with me."
Bridger's answer was almost a grunt. "I noticed."
I know I am very guilt of trying to do things myself, I've gotten better over the years but when I was in my twenties...I had to be in dire straights for me to ask for help. When we are in our twenties we are so desperate to be thought of as adults that for some reason we have come up with the idea that asking for help is taking us back to being children, when in fact knowing when you need help and asking for it is the actual sign of maturity.

Like the other books in the series this is also a love story. Part of me loves that love story, and part of me hates it. It uses the sad old trope of finding the right girl turns player boy into a loyal boyfriend, and that annoys me quite a bit. At the same time in this type of book it actually makes more sense. I don't think it is impossible to think that someone who is a player at 18-19 wants to settle down when they become older. It just seems like quite a jump. But I did love it because I am a sucker for a nice boy who loves a girl.

I did like the fact that Scarlet didn't want to make a big deal out of losing her virginity. I think that making it into a big deal in pop culture has led to more let downs than not. But that the same time, did it have to be so darn good for her :). Yes I am hypocritical here.

Overall this was a good, entertaining read that I won't mind reading again.

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Friday, 13 February 2015

Book Review: The Year We Fell Down

The Year We Fell Down

Author: Sarina Bowen

Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Genre: New Adult Romance

Synopsis: Starting college is hard. Starting college in a wheelchair is harder. The cute boy next door can make it easier...or he can make it harder.

Thoughts: This is the first book in Bowen's The Ivy Years series. I've already reviewed book 3, The Understatement of the Year and this one is also good. Not quite as good, but I think it will be hard to top that book with a "regular" romance book. In the romance genre it does stand out. The characters are likeable and easy to relate to.

I think that Corey's struggles were portrayed very well. I don't know anyone who has had such a life changing injury but I know the desire for something that was, and also the trap of always being happy. Not to mention feeling like you don't quite fit. 

 Although there was some infidelity it didn't feel bad. I am very much a "people need to define their own relationships" and to me as a reader both parties in the relationship were in some form of agreement on the parameters of the relationship.

For me the living arrangements took me back to my own college days so I think that influenced my views on the book, the whole boyfriend across the hall is something I remember with fondness :)

One thing I have been thinking about while reading these books is the casual underage drinking. I am not naive enough to think that drinking doesn't occur, and I like that in many respects the characters take care of each other when they have had to much to drink. However, as a teacher of New Adults/Teenagers it makes me uncomfortable. I know we drank a great deal in college and I am trying to see the characters actions through that lens and not my teacher lens, but when the boys buy the girls alcohol I have a hard time with it. I guess I am getting old. In part I like that Bowen presents what I know is a realistic view of what happens on a college campus, but at the same time the fact that the drinking doesn't have any consequences apart from a hangover bothers me. I am quite conflicted here. 

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Teacher musings

I've been a teacher for just over four years now (I started on January 10th 2011). In that time I have become Head of the English Department, responsible for the economics program, teacher of the year (won once, nominated two more times) and most recently team leader.

The thing is, I don't FEEL like a good teacher. I feel like I have more bad days than good days, and I still want to scream at my colleagues when they ask my advice "WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME!!!! YOU HAVE BEEN TEACHING FOR OODLES LONGER THAN ME!!!!!" Yet they keep asking my advice (I don't usually scream, I offer advice) so obviously I don't give bad advice. This past week some of this changed. I actually felt that, on balance I had had a good teacher week. Everything did not go the way I wanted. But on balance a good week.

So what changed?

Well I got myself a duckling (aka student teacher, he follows me around like a little duckling, so duckling he shall be here). And for the first time in my teacher career I have to continually explain WHY I am doing something. This means I have to THINK about what I do, in doing this I have come to realize that I actually do things for the right reasons. I have reasonable expectations. I do my job well. I still have a lot to learn. But I do my job well.

I'm writing this here so I can go back and read it when I feel like I suck at it. On the days when thinking isn't an option, when I just react. I am a good teacher.

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Monday, 9 February 2015

Secret Garden Colouring Book: Picture 1

Last weekend I picked up the Secret Garden: 20 Postcards at my local Indy bookstore. Over at the WTM many of the ladies have started doing Zentangles but I am not feeling brave enough for that so I choose colouring. I love colouring books and now that there are grown up ones...well I couldn't resist. Here is my first effort.

If I re-did this one I would not make the background black. it is a bit boring now that I see it.

I also need to get some more coloured pens/pencils. I want some more vibrant colours. Anyone have any suggestions for good brands?

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Grantchester vs. Grantchester

One of the ladies at the WTM recently recommended The Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death: The Grantchester Mysteries to us and I pounced on it. I adore cozies and one set in Cambridge in the 1950s, couldn't be more perfect. Add to that the fact that they have just started showing the tv show based on the books here in Sweden and I can't help but do a Grantchester vs. Grantchester. How close does the tv show come to the books? I have so far only read the first short story and watched the first episode so my thoughts are on those two.

First off...the Amanda chick...who is she and why the bleepedy bleep should I care??!!??!!

I loved the relationship between Chambers and Keating in both the book and the tv series. At first I was annoyed that they weren't friends at the start of the show like they are in the book, but the more I think about it the better I think it works for tv that they aren't friends. There were to many already established relationships with him, it was probably good to have a new one to balance it all up. It is always nice to see friendships between men on tv. What I especially liked about this one is that it is a friendship between relative equals. They need each other without really needing each other if this makes sense.

One thing that is always difficult with tv shows is to show the inner lives of the characters, which is probably why most of us say we prefer the books (my one BIG exception to this is Outlander but that is a post for another day). Our inner lives are so much richer than what we verbalize and what we show. One of the things I really enjoyed in the book, but that didn't come out in the episode was Chambers struggle with being everything to everyone. He felt that he wasn't taking care of his parishioners as he should. As a teacher this is a struggle I can relate to (and I do not go and poke my nose into crimes :) ). This is hard to show on the screen, although I think they did sort of a credible attempt at showing the difficulties in balancing when they showed him trying to write his sermon. But it was still something I found lacking.

Another thing that I thought was missing from the tv series was the growing relationship between Chambers and Mrs. Staunton. Again this is probably hard to show as much of it goes on in Chambers head but still...I really missed it. I do think this is the reason why the producers chucked in Amanda, they felt that the show lacked the romantic tension they thought the handsome lead deserved.

Despite my problems I will continue both watching and reading about Sidney Chambers and the mysteries he uncovers.

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Forgotten Bookmarks: Kitten learns about dogs

I love the blog Forgotten Bookmarks and I had to laugh when I found the following bookmark in the book Sveriges Historia 13000 f. Kr. - 600 e. Kr. The text says

  • The dogs origins
  • Historic findings about dogs
  • The dog pairs up with humans
  • Dogs life in flocks
  • The dogs in humans service then and now
  • Racial groups and features for these
I am assuming that this came from some school child making notes for an essay. But it is hilarious that the picture has a cat on it and then the text is about dogs. I guess I am easily amused

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Dalakassen January

Every other Tuesday I come home to two styrofoam boxes outside my apartment door. Dalakassen has arrived.

During the fall I realized that my eating had gotten into a real rut. I was eating the same three or four meals day in and day out. Cooking was boring. Shopping was boring (and often done when hungry so the food I was making was things that I could make quickly). I was also throwing away a lot of stuff because it went bad because I bought it when hungry without a plan. About the same time adds for Linas Matkasse started showing up in my facebook newsfeed. Linas is the most popular meal-in-a-bag here in Sweden but when I investigated further it wasn't available in my area. However I remembered that I had read about Dalakassen in the spring. Dalakassen isn't just a meal-in-a-bag service but it is a bit like a CSA in that it supports local farms in my area. It also offers primarily organic food which I like. The combination of local and organic is something that I try to support in my food shopping anyway, ever since I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver in 2008 or 2009. And with Dalakassen I don't have to go looking for it in the stores (I don't have a car so visiting more than one grocery store isn't always feasible).

I've now been getting Dalakassen for several months and I am very happy with it. There have been some weeks where I haven't liked that many of the recipes and one week almost every recipe had eggs in them (I'm allergic) but often I can adapt. For example one week it was supposed to be Spanish omelet, I made it to Spanish hash instead. Another week one meal had pickled herring, something I REALLY don't like. However I was able to give the herring away to a colleague who has been helping me a great deal. 

This past two week period was perfect. I loved all the recipes and they will all be folded into my cooking. The first one was a quick hash (pytt in Swedish) with Wheat berries, chorizo and veggies and a yogurt and sweet chili sauce. It ended up being really colorful and when I brought it to work for lunch the next day several colleagues wanted the recipe. The second meal was Plaice with horseradish cream cheese, dill tomatoes and roasted potatoes. Fish is something I struggle to make something different with and this was really good and was still good when I heated it a few days later (after having been frozen). The last one was a variation of one of my favourite dishes: spagetti and meatsauce. What made it different was that the meatsauce had celeriac in it. It added a bit of an earthy spicy flavour to it and it was great. It also had what we in Sweden call Pizza salad and what you in the English speaking world would call vinegar based coleslaw. The coleslaw also had apple in it. The combination gave a nice tang and crunch to the meal. Definitely something that will be made again.

My colleague started Dalakassen at the same time as me, but he and his family have stopped it because they felt that it wasn't appropriate for their children. I think this depends from family to family what kids eat. I know kids who have a very limited palate and I know kids who happily tuck into anything put in front of them (I'm looking at you Big Girl Curl :))

I get the small box since I only feed me, so I pay 645 SEK for three different dishes that make 12 meals. For me this is very affordable because the food shows up on my doorstep so I don't have to go shopping as often, which means that I don't go shopping as often, and therefore I don't buy as much crap that gets thrown out. It means that when I do go shopping I can usually buy just the staples (milk, bread and the likes). My grocery bill has gone down. I also don't eat in the school cafeteria as often (which is affordable but not if you do it every day) since I have leftovers.

On the whole this is a service I really really like.

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Monday, 2 February 2015

Book Review: A Modest Proposal

A Modest Proposal

Author: Jonathan Swift

Genre: Classic (Satire)

Challenges: Back to the Classics (Satirical)

Thoughts: A Modest Proposal is a re-read for me, and I read it again as I assigned it to my Seniors in the aftermath of the shootings in Paris, France.

A Modest Proposal is often seen as one of the earliest examples of satire and it is one that still has the power to shock today. I remember the first time I read it, that feeling of you nodding as you go along and then, bam, the fricassees. However to realize that he is being absurd you really have to have an understanding of the time period of when it was written. The Enlightenment was a time period of extreme realism. Where observable facts were King. With this knowledge it is much easier to see the total absurdity in the piece. The author presents the facts ever so rationally with facts and figures. Swift isn't just criticizing the Irish and the landowners, he is also criticizing his culture. For me the most effective satire does just this.

The essay continues to be relevant not just because it is one of the first examples of satire but also because of the subject matter. Although Swift uses the poor Irish as his source of food, it could just as easily have been another group of people in today's society. When I was reading it this time I thought of the "well-fare Queen" and here in Sweden, the asylum seekers. Groups that many seem to think should just "pick themselves up by the bootstraps". The fact that poverty is often a trap does not seem to enter the discussion then or now.

Classics are often hard to understand and so when I teach A Modest Proposal I have some resources I like to use because they offer a good background and discussion for my students. The two resources I used this year were a discussion from BBC's In Our Time. And a lecture I have from The Great Courses: Classics of British Literature (Audible). The In Our Time program is a discussion and offers my students the opportunity to listen to discussions in English (a requirement in all three courses I teach). I only use it in Senior English (and I rarely assign A Modest Proposal to any other year). The lecture was a new one for me and I think it worked quite well, although it also talks about Gulliver's Travels, so in the future I might also watch a movie version of that book.

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Book Review: The Understatement of the Year

The Understatement of the Year 

Author: Sarina Bowen

Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Year: 2014

Genre: New Adult Romance (M/M)

Synopsis: At the start of pre-seasons training his junior year Mike Graham's life is thrown into a tailspin when John Rikker walks into the dressingroom. Rikker, knows things about Graham that Graham can barely admit to himself. Things he hates himself for. Five years earlier a kiss in a car changed lives. What happens now is anyone's guess.

Review: This was my first experience with the New Adult Genre and it was a very happy one. I could not put the book down. For so very many reasons.

Last year I read A LOT of romance. It was the fluffy reading I needed for various reasons and most of the books followed a fairly predictable pattern. Boy meets girl. Boy and/or girl swear that they will NOT get together because they are NOT looking for love. One of them falls in love. The other finds out and freaks out. They stop seeing each other. The freaker outer realizes that they too are in love. They get back together, get married and they all lived happily ever after. This book did follow that pattern to a certain extent but it felt so much more real. The characters, main and supporting felt more real. It was also much more of a gradual growth. A gradual coming to an understanding of who you are and who you love.

Graham's fear is so very palpable that although you want to smack him over the head, you can't fault him. Especially not when one of their idiot teammates continually proves that he does have something to fear. Even when he is willing to admit to himself and Rikker that he is gay, I can still understand his fear that people will treat him differently. I don't think you need to be gay to understand that feeling. We all have secrets, big ones and little ones, and we fear that others will see us differently if they find out about them. The thing is, we can never control how others view us, and I think that this book shows us very well that Graham's fears aren't all about how others see him but also about excepting himself as he is, not how he thinks others think he should be. The section where he talks about being worried about how people see him is so wonderfully spot on.
I didn't want people to see me as a stereotype. Faggot. Queen. Fairy. I didn't feel like any of those things, and I didn't want to be called those names. I just wanted to be Michael Graham. It's just that Michael Graham was attracted to men. And always had been. (255)
The book also shows how much discrimination and bigotry against homosexuals still exist in the world today. As Bella, one of the (major) minor characters in the book says:
 'Sports really is the final frontier, isn't it? Now there's same-sex marriage in seventeen states. But the NHL is a hundred percent straight.' Sure it is.' 'Right?' she laughed. (62)

The fact that it is a big deal in 2015 when a future NFL star comes out is sad but also shows why this book is important. I really cannot understand the fear that seems to exist in some places. Do they really think they will get attacked in the locker room by marauding hoards of gay men?! Do they not realize what it says about them? That they don't think they could control themselves around naked women?

On the whole I thought this was a great book about love, friendship, growing up and about coming out. I really recommend it.

Copyright ©2015 Zee from A Tea Stained Page. This post was originally posted by Zee from A Tea Stained Page. It should not be reproduced without express written permission