Fin de siecle

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I love my job. No I mean I really really LOVE my job…I love what I do, I love being a lawyer, I love the area of work I deal with and I really love the fact I never know what the day will hold.  It also helps that I have fabulous colleagues and my internal clients are wonderful too…it really makes a difference to know that most of us believe that what we do is making a difference – ok the outside world might not share our view, but mostly we do it because in one way or another we believe we can help.

I’m lucky. I know I am. I have had 10 years doing something that makes me happy…and I suspect I would fail to count more than 6 people that I know who are in this same position.

BUT…it’s unlikely that things will continue in this manner, because I’m a public servant and life as I know it will change and even if I still have a job this time next year it is unlikely to be the one I know and love as even if I stay with the same organisation it is likely that we will have been restructured…so tonight I am raising a glass of champagne to the life I’ve had and tomorrow I will face change with hope for what is to come, hope that I can make something positive out of it.

Tonight there is cake. Fin de Siecle cake – also known in this house as Leftover Chocolate Cake as the recipe changes depending on what chocolate and nuts there are left in the house  – this one is made with chili chocolate, coffee and walnuts…and it’s fabulous, and if they are lucky then my fabulous colleagues might get to share what is left tomorrow because I think we all need a bit of cheering up this week.

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Birthdaysaurus

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Apologies for the lack of posts here of late. I lost interest in food, food in general including cake.  Cooking was happening here, mainly by Husband but I did my fair share (I don’t think its fair in a relationship for it to always be one partner who ends up having to do a particular thing – although we do both agree that it’s pointless asking me to map read !) but I just had no desire to write about it, because my heart wasn’t in it.

I did make an effort for special occasions such as Spider’s 5th birthday, but there were so many other things going on that I forgot to take a picture – fortunately my Mum turned up complete with camera and managed to capture the gigantic beast in the kitchen, shortly after having his neck stuck back on (with water !) and some time before it was consumed by a hoard of hungry party goers…

I still have no interest in food – but that may be about to change. We have spent most of today reclaiming our back garden and filling a skip with builders waste (old wood, broken doors and windows etc) – We kept some wood for making raised beds and I have a big box full of seeds, Nigel Slater’s “Tender v1” (which incidently is currently half  price at Amazon) and a sneaking feeling that if I want to shift his next stone of weight I probably should major on the vegetables this summer as well as the exercise (4 mile walk last night and 5 hours of shifting builders rubbish today).

Tonight though I’m feeling too tired to do anything but collapse…

Appetite for Noise

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Kitchen still in a state of chaos. Cooking has been happening but we’ve mostly been using up leftovers and trying to use up things in the fridge before they go off. We have been eating well this week as a result and most meals have been planned (although not yet got around to writing a menu plan, just announce at the beginning of the week what we are happening…hi light of the week was Husband’s lasagna and an unseasonal cream tea on thursday… Anyway here’s something we did much much earlier (november 2008 I think)

2am and more…

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I went to bed before Spider. It’s amazing how tiring putting 3 coats of paint on the kitchen ceiling is – guess I’m out of practice (spent a large part of my 30’s doing DIY) but was up again by 11pm…and then of course couldn’t sleep… and then slept fitfully waking at 2am…

Not sad enough to fire the laptop up at 2am tho’ so had a cup of tea and vaguely planned the garden. When Spider woke me at 7.45 I was unfortunately grumpy – I suspect if I could get this sleep thing under control I would be a much nicer Mummy to him.

Today not looking good though, ceiling still needs a final coat and I have to repaint the walls…after a dash to Wickes when it opens at 10am…the general opinion  of yesterdays efforts is that we bought the wrong blue…it’s the blue equivalent of Barbie Pink.

Chaos will rule for a bit longer in this house as it’s unlikley we will have finished before work starts again tomorrow – have to sand the worktops down and clean the floor before we can put things back where they will live – guess its pizza for tea then…

New years resolutions…can wait

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Happy New Year. Happy New Decade.Pinch punch first of the month and all that jazz.

I have spent today “away with the fairies”. We babysat last night for the neighbours who were doing event photography down in Cheltenham and didn’t get home until gone 2am. So despite having a lovely long lie in (thank you Mum for offering a sleepover to Spider  – that was a genius idea) I have spent the day not capable of sensible thought or the usual planning and organisation.

Well that’s not quite true I have vaguely cleaned the house (bought a new vacuum cleaner in the sales, so much more enjoyable (!) when you are not constantly stopping to rebuild your cleaning equipment) and Husband has been busy putting various bits of IKEA (swedish for “you will spend”) furniture together in our traditional yearly attempt to keep the clutter under control by finding different ways of storing it.

Tomorrow the kitchen is closed. Again part of trying to bring some order to the house. Husband and Spider are off to Homebase or some such place to buy paint and tiles to finish the kitchen off. We’ve spent 2 years trying to agree on tiles for the kitchen and finally decided the easiest way would be to paint over the red with something that gives us more options on tiles. My job is to go through the cupboards and decide what gets tipped or car booted, in between watching paint dry (because the plaster wasn’t quite dry when we moved back in, we never actually got around to painting the ceiling)…when the kitchen reopens it will mostly likely be making soup rather than cake as a) we have lots of leftovers to use up and b) we bought a new pair of bathroom scales when we went to IKEA. Cake is off the menu until February…if not longer !

Right I am off to bed. Hope the new year brings you all you all you dream it will….I love new starts…

Sweet Memories

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My boys are ill. Husband and Spider are curled up in the living room on separate sofas under duvets, coughing sniffing and generally feeling very sorry for themselves and watching a lot of Wallace and Gromit. Me ? Well I just left them to it. I’ve been sympathetic, of course I have, but only in between cooking…

I have left the “food as presents” side of things as long as I could, claiming it’s necessary so that it’s fresh for christmas. But the truth is I have been avoiding tackling my Mum’s present. I can talk about it here as she knows what she’s getting. She asked for sweets, homemade old fashioned style sweets.

Sweets ? Easy. We’ve all done sweets as kids right ? Yes, it’s just as a kid I didn’t actually have a good record of succesful sweet making. My brother and I had a free hand in the kitchen. Our parents encouraged us to cook and as long as we cleaned up afterwards and told them if we’d used anything up, we could cook anything.  One thing we made a lot of , although it is really just sugar, was cinder toffee ( take some sugar, heat it up in a pan and then at some point add bicarbonate of soda)… we made it because we liked watching the sugar bubble up like a volcano, the toffee didn’t taste very nice as we overdid the bicarb trying to get it to really fizz up.

Then there was the time I made fudge….but was too scared of burning it to let it boil enough so the resulting mixture didn’t set and had to be poured over ice cream as a sauce  instead of cutting with a knife…in contrast there was the bonfire toffee which was overcooked and shattered like glass…

or the time I assisted a class of 8 year olds to make peppermint creams and the hours spent afterwards cleaning the mixture off taps and surfaces, door handles, tables, toilets, the floor, the teacher…

No, me and sweets do not have a good track record…

Then after you have made them, all the books talk about packaging them in an attractive, imaginative way with ribbons, paper, pretty boxes and such…I stick my head in the sand and pretend that the Christmas fairies will wave a magic wand and transport my wonky efforts into pieces of art…

But now the days cooking is over, it doesn’t seem so bad, and I might even manage to crack the packaging dilemma if I throw myself on the mercies of Flapjack Queen and her bottomless store of make and do goodies

Bethlehem’s Buzzin’ : A tale of slipped halos (a review)

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“Bethlehem Buzzin’ is a heart warming story of a scabby-kneed male angel amongst a host of female angels  (a “wise”man at work advises me that angels are actually sexless) and his one boy attempt to make a difference to the lives of poor struggling wood working folk, Mary and Joseph at the birth of their child. It is a tale of his fight against failures of costume, how he carried on despite the collapse of 2 sets of wings and halos and how he triumphed in order to stand on stage and wave his halo at the audience, disco dance in quiet moments and above all give his Mummy the thumbs up whenever he though there was no one amongst the 100 strong audience watching. A “stunning performance” was the verdict from his number one fan.”

What do you mean there were other children involved ?  I didn’t see anyone else, there was only one boy on the stage…

Auto pilot

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I make sandwiches most days for Spider, usually in the morning having forgotten the night before. I don’t usually remember to make them for me. Today I remembered.

I have just reached in my bag and found a small clingfilmed wrapped plastic which I remember from the foggy haze that grips me during my early morning tea making trips to the kitchen. The sandwiches inside are peanut butter, delicately sliced into quarters with their crusts cut off…exactly the same as I make for Spider !

(note I tend to cut mine into halves – and I promise you i have not picked up the wrong lunch by mistake, he doesn’t eat crunchy peanut butter)

Favourite Cake ?

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I started making a christmas cake at the start of the week. I wasn’t going to, as the “traditional” christmas cake doesn’t play very well in this house, or at my parents. However the sainsbury’s magazine had a yule log on the front and a “mulled wine fruit cake” which apparently freezes well, and I quite liked the idea of having a fruit cake in the freezer ready to go if needed….

It was too early in the month to do the yule log, that’s a “cooking with children” activity for when the school holidays start, but since we had a jar of mincemeat in the cupboard not used last year, and some wine left over from the night before (plus some port lurking in the kitchen somewhere) the mulled wine cake was calling out to be done. BUT, this week has been one of trips to London and illness and being just too damned tired…so after getting as far as melting the butter, adding sugar, warming the alcohol and adding sultanas, I stopped, and stayed stopped.

The cake in fact has been in the fridge for a week now waiting for me to finish it off, and although I will (because not too would be a waste) my heart really isn’t in it – if you are to make cake then I think it has to be something you want to make… and this isn’t.

So the yule log is yet to come. I’ve also promised French Frank I would do him a fruit cake (if he remembers to send me his current address) but I’m open to suggestions as to what cake to do for Christmas that doesn’t involve icing, marzipan and alcohol soaked fruits…preferably something that is not going to still be there in February waiting to be eaten.

Boiled Baby’s Head

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From time to time Husband will come back from the local Co op with a packet of short dated meat saying “I thought we might have such and such this week”. The packet will then sit there getting closer to the use by date until one of us finds the time, energy and enthusiasm to do something with it.

It is not, I must point out, always me. My Husband can cook,( in fact our relationship can be dated back to a lasagna in august 2002) but claims that he is limited in the kitchen. He says that his Mum made sure that both he and his brother had the very basics, the stuff that you need to survive on your own, because she knew she was not going to be around for long, but that she passed away before teaching him the other stuff, that its useful to know but you don’t really need, such as putting a sunday roast on the table.

I have complained here before about the unadventurous nature of my family’s palate, but here is the strange thing. Husband is not afraid to experiment in the kitchen… I have no way of telling whether he’s always been this way or whether 7 years of watching me being not afraid to mess things up in the kitchen, has led to him from time to time picking up one of my recipe books, but yes occasionally he will get an idea in his head and will follow it to see whether it works.

So then, at the end of last week Husband came home with a packet of meat and said “I thought we could have a snake and pygmy”. The meat sat there until monday when it fell to me to get a bit worried about the closeness of the use by date, so whilst making dinner I browned off the meat, fried some onions and bunged the mixture with the remains of an old bottle of port into the slow cooker. To tone down the sweetness of the port and because we had no Worcestershire sauce I bunged in some fish sauce and a load of soy sauce.

Next day I was in the process of heating it up and about to break it to Husband that today was the day he learned how to make short crust pastry when he turns round to me and says “no, I was thinking of doing it as a pudding not a pie. I want to do it like my Mum did, in a bain marie in the oven” At which point we decided to have something else for tea as I pointed out we wouldn’t be eating until long after 9pm as it would take so long to cook.

On Wednesday night however, having earlier put in a plea for iron rich food I find that Husband and Spider have together been making suet pastry and there was a Steak and Kidney pudding in the oven in a bain marie and a recipe book covered with floury handprints (after an hour we took it out and started steaming it on the stove as the oven method wasn’t working) – and you know what, it was stunning !

You should never be afraid of trying something new. You should never be afraid of failure. You are never too old to try…and if someone makes an effort for you because they want to make you smile, you should tell them how much you appreciate it.

Next week we celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary…it’s amazing where some pasta and a tomato based sauce can take you.n

Boiled Baby’s Head is a colloquial term, possibly from the west midlands for Steak and Kidney Pudding.