Accounting for: February


Kente Cloth – one of my favourite cultural items for African Heritage Month

After the stay-in dark winter of January, February was more active. Including 5 hours shovelling after it snowed for 24 hours! We got two days off work for that one.


I made good progress on my recipe collection this month. I have all my recipes formatted, and need only photograph them all as I make them. Should only take a year or so! I watched a series of food photography videos on which helped to cement some techniques I’d been loosely trying. So now you will get all those typical food photos from me! Continuing on with everyday, non-fancy baking, I made bran muffins and corn bread this month.


It was a good month for getting out of the house. Our city doesn’t have an opera company. There are some live-cast operas at the movie theatre, but I have not found one I thought I could sit through. As a newbie, I didn’t think I would last 3.5 hours! A couple of weeks ago we went to see our local symphony orchestra supporting the London Festival Opera for an “opera’s greatest hits” show. That was a good intro for me. Rom and I both liked it. Also, the costumes were great!


We finally went to see the movie Hidden Figures which I loved. I mean, really, inspiring Black and women’s history plus science and math – what more could you want! In other viewing, I binge-watched Season 5 of Girls. The 6th and final season is airing now but I don’t have HBO so probably won’t see it until next year when it comes to DVD. In celebrity gossip news, DID YOU KNOW that Zosia Mamet, who plays my favourite character on Girls (Shoshanna) has been cast as Patti Smith in an upcoming Showtime mini-series based on her memoir Just Kids? I am beside myself! (This is old news, and it will be ages yet before it airs).

For African Heritage Month, I attended two spoken word poetry programs at the library. In my dreams I take the stage at a poetry slam 🙂 One of the poets was more emotional and she rhymed about urban life, while the other spoke of her country and family roots, so it was a good contrast.

While my sister was out of town, I drove my 15-year-old nephew to his activities in the evenings. It was great to spend time together. And you would be amazed by how much I know about MMA now 🙂 It’s funny, Rom has been taking an online certificate in data science, and I have been well apprised on that subject, too. (As an introvert, sometimes I am a sponge while everyone talks at me!)


My only discretionary purchase of the month was a book by one of the above poets. Of course, as I read the book, I hear the poems being read aloud in the author’s voice!

Not Buying

A work colleague took pity on me and gave me her old Fitbit when she upgraded this month! It is the same model (and same age) as my dead one, but still going strong. I have to say I find it very motivating.


Last month I said I was trying to figure out how to be an activist while respecting my own need to be more reflective. I started off by taking the time to be well-informed and able to explain news stories to others in a balanced way. This month I attended two public consultations on community issues. Our local schools have low enrollment and the school board needs to redraw boundaries and combine 18 public schools into 13. I don’t question their need to close schools in light of demographic trends. It’s a matter of which ones. At the other meeting, our nearest “traffic artery” street is slated to get a face lift with new pedestrian and cycling lanes; the city was seeking public input. I think civic engagement is a good “foot in the door” for me and will give me practice at becoming involved.


In a surprise move, I was asked to return to my old workplace for 2-3 weeks to cover for a staff absence. I am midway through and I can’t believe how much I am enjoying it. What a nice change of pace!

I have a work-related question for you. Have you ever given, or been given, a bad reference? I am often asked to be a reference for current and past employees. With current employees applying for internal jobs, I tell them our work policy – supervisors can be called whether they are listed as references or not, and we are expected to give honest feedback rather than a positive spin. With ex-employees, if we did not part on good terms, I tell them I will verify their employment and describe their duties only. This week I was called to provide a reference for an ex-employee who had not asked me in advance. Their work was unsatisfactory in many ways. They were seeking a higher classification in our library system, so I followed policy and gave an honest assessment. As a result, the employee did not get the job. They emailed me and asked for feedback, so I was diplomatic but honest. I was pleasantly surprised that they thanked me for the comments.


Two concerts in March, and Rom and I booked a day off work together “just because”!

How was February for you?


  1. I’ve had people tell me, after the fact, that they put my name down as a reference. While I appreciate the heads up, I much prefer being *asked* to be a reference. That allows for open communication regarding not only what the reference is for (scholarship application, professional services referral, immigration interview, etc – there are a myriad of reasons for and types of references, not just work-related), but also gives me an opportunity to establish a framework and set boundaries.

    I like your “foot in the door” approach to civic involvement. It’s good food for thought.

    • I think being asked for a reference is just plain courtesy, so you don’t get caught off-guard. I can often find examples of former staffers’ excellent work when I have advance notice. And if I would prefer not to give a reference, I can tell them why and offer to verify their employment.

  2. Oh I’m one to call a spade a spade, and have mastered (perhasps) a tone and way with words which sound ‘nice enough’ but mean so much more. Interestingly, two staff got references lately, for an internal thing, and it ACTUALLY impacted the outcomes! But not enough to save one…

    I saw Hidden Figures too – great – so positive to see so many marginalised parts of society/education etc!

    • Yes, I have done the “nice enough” thing in the past. When it’s an internal job opening, I try not to pass a bad employee from one department to another. I recognize an employee might not have been a good fit and could excel elsewhere, but I won’t lie about bad work habits, attitudes or absenteeism.

  3. Reference writing in the U.S. is tricky, and it’s become more about what you leave out than what you put in. You have to “damn with faint praise” if you want to give a negative reference. That’s because each state has very strict rules/laws about what you can say in a reference, and in most places you can be sued for anything derogatory. Most employers will only confirm dates of employment and salary.

    • Our internal references are very different from external ones. Even then, an employee could ask for a copy of their reference as part of a grievance. So I always make sure I’ve verified my facts before I say anything negative. For example, I would not say someone was absent “more than average” because that is subjective, but I might say an employee missed a key deadline and did not ask for support or an extension. Luckily Canada does not have a litigious culture!

  4. I think your approach to this reference was just right, and what I would have done (and have done) myself. Full marks for honesty and integrity.
    BTW, I’ve been inspired in part by you to buy myself a Fitbit and start using it. I am in love! Turns out I’m quite competitive (but only with myself), and it’s helping me lose the stone I’ve been trying and failing to lose over the past 8 years.

  5. Loving the idea of your recipe book, what a great idea. Sounds like you have had a good month.

  6. References in Germany are similar to the “damning with faint praise” mentioned above. There are entire books devoted to decoding the various way people say things. For example, one standard sentence is something like “got along well with managers, peers, and clients”. You’d think “got along well with peers, clients, and managers” says the same thing, wouldn’t you? But no, this is an indication that you actually had serious problems with management (and probably authority in general). It’s a minefield.
    In Ireland most of my written references tended towards the period worked and tasks fulfilled type but it’s more normal to follow up by phone there. One of the things I learned in school, and it was reiterated often in various situations after that, was to always ask permission before offering someone as a referee. If you don’t have their permission, you cannot use them. I find it astonishing that people don’t know or respect this. And then I decide I must be just getting old. LOL

    • I agree – it still surprises/shocks me when people don’t ask! I will never forget when I asked a professor to write me a letter of recommendation to graduate school. He emphasized that I had good attendance and was punctual. I was horrified – and lucky I did get into the program after that faint praise!

  7. Fiona

    5 hours of snow shovelling! That almost sounds appealing in a quirky way, given the heat here. I miss the snow and winter in Europe!

    I’m very excited to hear of the cookbook progress and love the first pic! Looks very appetising!

    We have a school group going to Hidden Figures so I’m hoping to go then.

    Intrigued by the venture into Opera! I went to a 3.5 hour one a few years ago. It was too much but there were some incredible, spine-tingling sections!

    Looking forward to hearing which concerts you are seeing next!

    • Pix of the snow are on Facebook; it is 90% melted by now, though. I wonder what your students will think of the movie, and whether they will be shocked by the sexism and racism – things like the Black female scientists having to use the “coloured rest rooms” and being expected to make coffee for the male staff. I still don’t know if I could manage a whole opera except for The Magic Flute! This month we have tickets for one classical and one rock show.

  8. jbistheinitial

    I’m really looking forward to seeing Hidden Figures later this week – and am also hoping that Moonlight will come back to my local independent cinema after its Oscar win.

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