Book review: Voice of America by E.C. Osondu

African Literature voices of america osondu3Just finished this gem.

I’ve had my head in some interesting books this summer. The blog has suffered for this, but, I’m enjoying the break.

Voice of America is a book of short stories by a very talented writer; E.C. Osondu. I like how some stories related to others in the book. It rivals Chimamanda’s Thing around your neck, equally if not a bit better. I like the way he ended each story, unlike Thing around your neck, they ended with better closure, in my opinion.

His writing style read very Nigerian. The colloquialisms, the idioms, the sentence structure…the pidgin English. But all that made it authentic and made me feel I was in the middle of Lagos. I got it, others won’t. Some stories read like a Nollywood movie, but eh, a valid perspective nonetheless.

Where Chimamanda captured the afropolitan experience, Osondu, with his short stories, gave voice to the recent African transplant.

I caught myself laughing out loud sometimes. Loud oblivious chuckles are always a good sign, in my book.

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Tapas Tactics

It’s funny how Olivia won’t let me cut up bell peppers (or red onions!) in peace. She snacks on them like I’ve never seen a toddler do before. This almost-two-year old is not picky. Neither is her sister, so throwing together a quick tapas dinner this way is easy. May very well become our quick go-to meal for those days when I’m stumped for what to make. This only works with fresh farmers market produce though. Have you had grocery store bell peppers and tomatoes? Tastes like gasoline and cardboard, respectively.

quick vegan dinner, tapas veganTapasDinner3Fresh bell peppers, diced kalamata olives, diced fresh tomatoes, guacamole, black bean spread / dip, fresh jalapeno (for the adults), tomato clementine salad and toasted crusty bread.



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What staying home taught me about money, Part II

homemade tortillasHomemade Tortillas

We pay for convenience. I know that. But I didn’t really see how much convenience I was paying for until I became a Stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). In this role, I see how removed we are from the basics and how reliant we’ve become on others’ expertise. I’d leave surgery to a surgeon, but I’ve unknowingly spent so much money for convenient services and products posed as necessities. 

In Part I of this post, I explained how I used to go grocery shopping, Now I understand my shopping habits were guided by a routine that no longer suited me, I went into Trader Joe’s did the same route, picked up the same things, whether we needed them or not.

I knew we needed cleaning supplies, snacks, laundry detergent and sundry. Never once did I stop to question what I was buying and why  I was buying it. Status quo told me I needed dryer sheets, habit made me pick up the brand that smelled like fresh linen. Nothing in my subconscious told me I could just hang my laundry out to dry, save myself the cost of dryer sheets, electricity, and the static cling.

Line drying laundry

Line drying laundry

My movement back to basics has been gradual, and enlightening. I’ve learned that running the dryer for 90 minutes is a convenience that I paid for in electricity. The sun does a better job bleaching my whites, anyway…and it’s free! The gym, if and when I do remember to go, packs full of treadmills that simulate walking or running…I can run outside for free! I haven’t come across bread in the grocery store that isn’t baked without soy flour. I’m allergic to the stuff. Now I just buy flour and yeast and bake my own bread…not free, but at a fraction of the cost, tastes better too! Drycleaning? My guy’s shirts are laundered and starched right here at home. Don’t get me started on all the prepackaged food that we don’t recognize as mere conveniences; tortilla wraps, salsa, canned beans, granola, breakfast cereal, seasonings, condiments…

It sounds like I’m rapping about a DIY lifestyle. Which I am, and there’s nothing special about that, except this: When I understand how something is done, not only do I save money, but I can see convenience I’m paying for, and I can consciously decide if it’s worth it.

Kids making a Pizza

Kids making a Pizza

Another benefit is that my kids can see the real work that goes into seemingly mundane tasks we take for granted. Like when they see laundry hanging out to dry, they understand that clean clothes don’t just magically appear out of the basement and into their drawers. Or that, the yummy bread we bake together takes time to make. Or that exercise can be done anywhere, not just this abstract place called the gym. Or that soap and water, with a little bit of elbow grease cleans just as effectively as all the fragrant, and toxic, cleaners out there…that mommy (and daddy) do things to keep the house clean, an invisible cleaning crew doesn’t overshadow that reality. That dinner, does not take an instant to prepare, and is tastier, richer, and is most visually pleasing than the stuff picked up from a drive-thru window.

Is time saving worth the ignorance?

Whole industries are built around the conveniences we seek. Conveniences we may not even know we’re paying for. Explicit or not, these costs can be significant to our wallets and well-being. Industries become our “experts” and they rob us of the ability to be self-reliant. Children grow up never having to “hand-wash,” budget, change oil, or cook. Labor-saving clutches prop us up and become our expensive norm. Generation after generation gets sucked into debilitating ignorance until we are desensitized from nature and life itself.

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