Apologies… haven’t been on much at all… blame it on Lockdown Lethargy, depression… whatever. But I was chatting with my lovely friend Jean from http://The Canadian Cats and she reminded me that it was time for the monthly post “In Purrsuit Of Flavours” that they co-host with Phenny and Nelly at http://Easy Blog.
So I thought I would share one of our favourite recipes… because Life is better with cake, right?
We used the BBC Good Food recipe for Swiss roll, but briefly, the ingredients are:
2 large eggs
50g self raising flour
50g caster sugar
100g strawberry jam (although any flavour can be used)
butter to grease tin and extra caster sugar for dusting
Heat your oven to 180C – we found 175C is perfect for our fan assisted oven – and grease and line a16cm x 28cm rectangular cake tin, the shallow sort, with greaseproof paper.
Beat the eggs and sugar together, you’re aiming for a thick, pale consistency that leaves a ‘ribbon’ mark in the bowl, then carefully fold in your flour.
Pour the mix into your tin and bake in the centre of your oven for roughly ten minutes, till pale golden and springy to the touch. Do watch your timing as if the sponge is over baked it will crack when you try to roll it.
Turn the baked sponge out onto a piece of sugared greaseproof paper and warm the jam – it makes it easier to spread.
We are divided in opinion about the quantity of jam to use, so I’ll leave it to your discretion. Personally, I think more is more….
Then, using the paper the sponge is sitting on, tuck its end in and begin to roll, rolling from the short edge.
You see the idea…you can trim the edges off if you want to be neat, but this is a lovely recipe that can be adapted to use fresh fruit and cream… buttercream…chocolate. Or jam. (I made the jam too.)
This month’s offering for Blog Battle, the prompt word was “exotic”… do read on…
Come and walk with me, along these darkened streets and through these narrow alleys. Let me take you somewhere different, more – ah yes, it’s getting cold now, beginning to rain too, but wipe the freezing sleet from your eyes and face. I don’t want you to miss a single sight as we walk, here, take my arm –
Why! You’re trembling! I can feel it even through the thickness of your jacket as you lean a little closer – is it fear that makes you shiver so? Or something a little darker? See, let’s turn here and stroll along this cobbled pavement – watch your step, it seems a little greasy here, is it the reflection from the lights burning red, I wonder, or something more –
Look! See the girl there, seated in that window! She sees us too, you can tell by the way she flexes her arms above her head and gathers her long black hair in a silky rope about her wrist, before drawing it across her face like a veil. I can feel you breathe a little faster as you watch her – she looks young, lithe, her white flesh ripples as she leans back across her chair, the harsh light casting shadows that dance across the hollows of her throat.
Don’t you wish you could touch her, draw a finger – just the one across her soft white shoulders and make her quiver at your touch, lift her hair from where it caresses her arms and wind it in your fist, perhaps pull it a little to see how she reacts –
Now she’s standing – look at her thighs, how they stretch tautly beneath their covering of fine black mesh as she raises herself on tiptoe so you can admire the fine shape of her body and ignore the weary look in her eyes –
What? Not exotic enough for you? Wait a little, there should be more –
Ah! There, now she has him – do you think she is afraid as she pulls him from his resting place? Imagine how that feels, those warm coils, so muscular and pulsing in her hands as she drapes him carefully around her shoulders. See how his tongue flickers from between those great, curved jaws, scenting the air, tasting – her.
Watch how she sits, so carefully, tenderly supporting the great python, all gold and brown against her black and white, letting him glide across her chest and down to coil around her ankles, before lifting his head to slide tenderly between –
Ha! I see you lick your lips and I feel your heart racing. Don’t turn away, look at me my dear –
Afraid? Oh no, don’t be, I won’t bite – unless you want me to…
This month’s entry for the Blog Battle… the prompt word given was “conceal” and the title is drawn from the Greek, meaning roughly “hidden knowledge…”
The woman laughed aloud in eagerness and delight as she seated herself at her dressing table. She wanted to look her best – her very best – as she was going to meet her beloved and she could hardly wait.
She bent forward slightly to examine her complexion in the mirror and was quietly pleased with what she saw. Her skin bloomed clear and flawless, a delicate flush staining her high cheekbones and she reached for her eyeliner, a subtle golden brown, and drew careful lines around her eyes to emphasise their sparkling green, no need for any other disguise or enhancement.
She pulled a brush through her hair, enjoying the silky texture full of life as it crackled beneath the bristles before gathering the golden mass into a simple ponytail at the nape of her neck. She leaned across to the window to check the weather and confirm her hope that it was going to be a fine day and was pleased. The early autumn day was warm and bright, the mellow sunlight casting a golden glow over the little street where she lived.
Leaving her dressing table she crossed to her wardrobe, searching for a pair of her favourite leggings in a soft grey jersey knit, warm and comfortable, yet still flattering as they showed off the curves of her shapely legs. Over the thin silk t-shirt she was already wearing – she loved silk for the way it slipped so smoothly against her skin – she pulled a soft cashmere sweater, rich and luxurious in a shade of russet that went well with her blonde hair and was cut so elegantly as to cling in all the right places and drape at the front to cleverly conceal the roundness of her stomach.
She flicked her hair back into place, and after a final inspection of her image left her little flat for the street outside, pulling on a pair of well worn leather boots, faded in the creases around her ankles but still stylish. She locked her door and dropping her keys into her bag set off at a brisk walk to the cafe where she was to meet her beloved.
She walked with confidence, drawing a few admiring glances from men and women alike but totally oblivious she walked quickly on, wanting only to see him, feel his arms around her and watch the smile grow on his face as she told him her news.
Pausing by the old tree that stood near the cafe she reached in her bag for her compact, wanting to make one last check of her appearance. She clicked it shut and with a sudden glad leap of her heart she saw him, his back to her but unmistakeable in his shape and height. She started forwards joyfully but stopped abruptly as some hidden instinct warned her to stay in the shelter of the old tree’s friendly shadow.
And as she watched, a puppyish brunette bounced up to her man, all bouncing breasts and shining hair, and slid her arms around his waist. He turned to face her then and kissed her with such passion, such feeling – the woman watching caught her breath with needle sharp pain in her lungs and chest.
But even as her hope died, the new little life obscured within her fluttered, reminding her of its presence. Quietly, she turned and slipped away, while the sun still shone and the air was crisp, scented with bonfires and promises.
I am the first to admit that I am not the slightest bit tech-savvy. I have no idea how to use the downstairs television which Mr.CC has wired up to various devices that seem to require an inordinate amount of remote controls, and a combination of buttons to press that resemble the invocation of an ancient Egyptian entity… so I don’t touch it.
I have a love/hate relationship with my laptop ever since it deleted/ate 37,000 words of a novel I was writing… everyone’s a critic… I never managed to retrieve that and I didn’t back it up either, but thanks to my fondness for written plans and an exceptionally good memory I managed to repeat and complete the lost novel for NaNoWriMo…
Now, of course I back everything up everywhere, even emailing copies to myself – thank you Marje for that wonderful little tip – including burying handwritten copies at the bottom of the garden by the light of the full moon… Well, maybe not the last bit.
Since my laptop has updated, though, it seems to have undergone a personality change and is now behaving in a much kinder and more reasonable way. Perhaps it just realised it was dealing with a thickie as it now explains things – most of the time – in words of one syllable and it asks me frequently if I want to “SAVE”. (“Save? Save what? The world? Of course! Oh… my work… right… )
I am a lot more at home using my mobile phone – I have a Huawei and although I know they are not viewed particularly favourably at the moment, 5G, spying and so on and so forth I bought my phone before all that kicked off and I view its tendency to anticipate my wants as rather endearing… “Here! Look! Let me show you this!”
It has a lovely built in camera that allows me to point, click and hope, sufficient memory to maintain a reasonable social media presence and of course it holds my music collection. Generally I have no complaints at all – apart from one thing. The predictive text option.
I don’t know how to turn it off. I thought I’d managed it once but it reappeared like a persistent and annoying rash… I saw on one social media site a meme that likened predictive text to having a small, permanently drunk pixie living in your phone and I thought this description was very apt.
The Predictive Text Pixie – hereafter known as the PTP – that lives in my phone seems to have either a very salacious sense of humour… or a particularly low opinion of me. I can’t decide. It seems to think I spend most of my life waiting in suspenders and when I wanted to text my elderly uncle and congratulate him on his magnificent display of nasturtiums, well, the alternative the PTP offered me was positively obscene…
The PTP likes to make amusing substitutions too when I am trying to text people, much to their confusion – “Don’t be stupid Samantha! Of course I didn’t want fourteen tins of dog meat!”
I suppose it keeps Life interesting though – and me on my toes… I have absolutely no idea where the briefcase full of used notes in small denominations came from…
Now. I’ve never been particularly into makeup, foundation, blusher, lipstick and all the other doohickeys that go along with wanting to present a well-groomed and beautiful face to the world. Skincare for me was limited to the “cleanse, tone and moisturise” regime for a while till even that went by the by and my routine was to wash my face in cold water (“Much better for the complexion dear” – I can hear my grandmother’s voice now…) and then slap on some moisturiser, usually the supermarket’s own brand, on my face and hands and then I’m pretty much good to go.
However… as I’ve got older a couple of issues have come into play. As I’ve said I’ve never bothered with makeup other than the absolute essentials because I simply don’t know how. I can plant up a border for all year colour and whip up a batch of sourdough naan breads but ask me to tell the difference between a highlighter and a contour brush then I’m stuffed…
Alex, on the other hand, or rather his super-glamorous alter-ego Lady Dioxide, is a dab hand with all sorts of beauty related items to the extent where the sight of a pair of eyelash curlers induce a vague sense of panic in me. Matters came to a head for me when I noticed I was starting to look a little, um, weather beaten. Naturally, I asked Alex for advice and on our next foray into town we stopped at a well-known chemists and purveyor of beauty products where a very helpful lady sorted me out with something for the mature skin, plucked seemingly at random from the countless array of …stuff… on the shelves behind her.
“Here!” she chirped merrily. “Try this!”
So I did and I must say that I did actually notice a difference. When I ran out of it and had to go without for a week I went storming back in to buy more and endorsed their product by declaring; “I’ve run out! I need more! Look at me! Just look at me..!”
But since then, I have managed to balance my desire to be less wrinkly with a wish to use cruelty free and vegan products with a range from a well known health food shop and the occasional application of a luxury item from the chemist…The advertisements for some of these products though – they sound like something I would either use to clean the patio or patch up a wall… “Re-surfacing”… “dermabrasion…” and I am highly suspicious of putting anything that contains the word “acid” on my face, hyaluronic or otherwise.
Mr.CC said something to me once in the early stages of our relationship, along the lines of how he liked the fact that I wore little or no makeup since he knew what he would be waking up with… I was in the garden the other day when he reiterated this opinion of my – ahem – usual appearance, as I glared up at him, kneeling between the miscanthus and the gaura, clutching a handful of dead nasturtiums, hair stuck muddily to my brow with sweat, dirt on my face and weeds in my pockets.
“Yeah…” he said thoughtfully, “natural beauty.”
So, the supermodels can keep their hi-def eyebrows and resurfacing chemicals… I’ll just keep applying the dead leaves and mud dug up from under the apple tree and mixed with pond water…
I have mixed feelings about glasses – the optical variety, not the drinking vessels, they’re generally quite useful, although they have their own separate issues… like somebody very kindly left me a dead moth once in a glass of water I was drinking, and I have to be careful at my mother’s since Rocky, her dog, will cheerfully sample anything you leave within reach.
But anyway. Glasses. Spectacles. Face furniture. Nowadays they seem to be quite a chic fashion accessory, with various high-end labels available, and they also serve other purposes than to enhance or correct faulty vision, like filtering out blue light. Whatever…
I wear glasses for one reason and one reason only. I am incredibly short sighted. To the extent where I have bent down to pick up a piece of fluff only to have it sprout legs and reveal itself as a surprise spider. I have greeted people seen from a distance as good friends only to approach closer and find out that I have absolutely no idea who they are. Conversely, I have blanked people I have known for years until they are up close and personal… social distancing notwithstanding.
Shortsightedness coupled with absent mindedness can be entertaining – I have taken my glasses off to put face cream on, wandered off, distracted and forgotten where I’ve put them and been too short sighted to find them… I solved that problem by having tactical emergency glasses placed around the house at strategic key points, rather like fire extinguishers, so I can go to one of these points, collect a spare pair of glasses then return to search and locate my original pair…
My shortsightedness was first discovered at the tender age of four – I couldn’t see what the teacher was writing on the blackboard from my desk, so conveniently placed at the back of the classroom, so I had to get up, walk to where I could see the blackboard, memorise the chunk of writing, return to my seat and copy it down. Did wonders for training my memory but understandably irritated everyone else to the point where my my teacher told my parents. I have no idea why they hadn’t noticed, but anyway, off I went to the optician’s and my world was restored to clear and wonderful focus. I could see! Every blade of grass, every whisker on my cat’s face.
And then it began… “Specky four eyes!” and other imaginative insults since I was the only kid in the class who wore glasses. However, I persevered, as being able to see kind of outweighed the stigma, but it was interesting to see how the insults changed as I got older. “Men never make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Really? I’ve had my share in the past…
But I reached the age of 18 and made my first foray into the world of contact lenses. Again, fabulous to be able to see, although you do feel as though your eyes are very wide open… But I discovered too that contact lenses could present their own problems. Ever tried taking a contact lens out when you’ve been drinking? After clawing desperately at your eyeball for half an hour you give up and fall asleep only to wake up in the morning with it immovably shrivelled onto your corneal surface…
Back to glasses then. I have very specific design requirements when it comes to my glasses – I don’t like heavy frames, the colour has to be right, likewise the shape to hold the specially thinned lenses, and they have to withstand other outside forces too. My optician once asked me, appalled: “Are these teeth marks on the arms?!”
“Um, yes… the cat got hold of them while I was asleep…”
But my current optician is a lovely, kind and endlessly patient man, and my present pair of glasses had been recognised by him as the perfect pair for me. He put them carefully aside until it was time for my next appointment, whereupon he produced them with an air of quiet satisfaction:
This is the first time I’ve tried the BlogBattle…but with a prompt word like “tea” how could I resist…
The woman stood at her kitchen sink, gazing out thoughtfully over the back garden. It was mid-morning and the sun still hung low in the sky, shining with a gentle warmth that heralded a pleasant day.
She turned from the view of her neat little garden and moved to the counter to switch her kettle on. While it hummed into heat she reached up into a cupboard and pulled out a thick china mug, its solid weight a comfort in her hands. She turned it in her grip, feeling the heft of it, then set it on the side as the kettle reached its purring crescendo and clicked companionably off.
The woman deftly flicked a teabag from a cannister into her mug, carefully filling it with the gently steaming water till it rested a perfect inch below the thick china rim. Shimmering whorls of translucent brown rose from the teabag and into the hot water which gradually took on the warm even hue.
The woman bent her head over the mug and inhaled as the fragrant warmth rose up into her nostrils; she breathed in the scent of delicately dried and blended leaves, the rich warming perfume filling her mouth with anticipatory saliva. When the tea had infused sufficiently, she reached over for a teaspoon and fished out the teabag, giving it a slight squeeze against the side of her mug.
Quickly, she added a spoonful of sugar, just enough to taste, and she watched carefully as the tiny white crystals mounded on the sugar spoon and then tumbled merrily off the edge and into the liquid below where they dissolved instantly. The woman crossed to her fridge and pulled the door gently open, taking out the plastic bottle of milk and tilting it so a tiny stream fell into her mug.
She stopped as the milk spun through the hot tea in an opalescent spiral, then picked up the teaspoon and lifting her mug delicately in both hands she walked to her kitchen table and sat down, with her tea in front of her.
Then, quite gently, still gazing thoughtfully into the distance, she began to stir.
Anticlockwise, widdershins, the old way, she moved the teaspoon around the mug, and the tea followed the curve of the spoon obediently, gathering pace.
Some miles away, out at sea, a spiral of thickening cloud began to form and a chill wind made its spiteful way ashore to tug at the tousled blonde curls of a girl as she clutched at the arm of the man beside her. He glanced up nervously at the sky as the clouds began to pile up in pillowy heaps of grey, bruising the previously cheerful blue sky.
At her kitchen table, the woman steadily stirred her tea, a tiny crease forming between her eyebrows as she frowned slightly in concentration.
“Hurry up!” the man ordered brusquely, nervously, tugging the girl anxiously by the hand after him onto the little boat.
The storm clouds slid silently over the harbour and the sea rose up to meet them, frothy curls of whipped white. Thunder muttered menacingly and the little boat began to buck like a skittish horse. The girl gave a tiny squeal of fright as the deck shifted beneath her feet and the man sought to comfort her.
“Sir,” the anxious sailor said, “sir, I really wouldn’t put out in this -”
“Rubbish, are you afraid of a little rough weather!” the man said derisively but in his heart he was afraid.
Miles away, in her sunny, bright kitchen the woman stirred her tea – smoothly, continuously, as the heavy swollen clouds hung over the harbour and released their burden into the sea, vicious rain that thrashed the sea into frenzied waves that took the little boat and shook it like a terrier with a rat.
The man reached desperately for the hand of the girl as miles away his wife abruptly stopped stirring her tea, dropped the spoon onto the tiled surface of her kitchen table and lifted her mug to her lips.
The little boat and its passengers were lost.
The woman stood up and moved to the sink where she rinsed her mug and left it neatly inverted on the side to drain.
Now. I know flies are an irritation and a nuisance and not the most hygienic of creatures either – but they are, if you look at them, little marvels of Mother Nature’s engineering…
The true flies derive their name from the Greek, “Diptera” meaning “two winged” and have compound eyes, which roughly means that their vision of Life appears to them in mosaic form … fascinating… yet also despite having compound eyes, flies are actually short-sighted. I feel a certain kinship with them in that respect.
Our winged friends make themselves particularly noticed during the summer months. To try and deter their presence in her house, my mother bought one of those fly curtains which are basically coloured strips of plastic hanging from a rod you fix above your door frame thus hindering the access of flies and other unwelcome visitors.
I was only too happy to assist my mother with fitting it to her door frame, and then we stood back and admired it. I agreed she was indeed fortunate to find one in black and white which matched the colour scheme of her kitchen. Then, as we stood and watched, a fly flew in through the hanging strips of plastic with the absolute precision of a computer aided jet fighter pilot, made a swift circuit of the kitchen and exited again with deadly accuracy through the millimetres-wide gap in the hanging plastic strips of the fly deterrent curtain. I looked at my mother.
On another occasion, my home was fly-free, or so I thought, and I was quite happily pottering about upstairs tidying when –
I was joined by a large and cheerful housefly. It buzzed in self-importantly:“Hi! And how are we today?” – smacked its head against the mirror, then commenced that infuriating desperate scramble up and down the window that they do…
I don’t like killing things mindlessly, so seizing my opportunity I opened the window and used the blinds to waft the fly outside to freedom … I resumed my cleaning…
“zzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!! Hi! And how are we today?”
The bloody thing had flown straight out of the window, gone downstairs and round to the back of the house, found the back door open and flown right on in again…
Despite my annoyance, I did find it quite funny and to be fair, these little creatures oft-maligned still have their place in the Universe as one of the tiny cogs that deal with the various aspects of decomposition. Mother Nature’s solid waste technicians if you will.
And they are the source of a joke that I originally heard as a child and still find (shamefully) funny now…
There seemed to be a thing here for making sourdough bread in the wake of the pandemic as yeast took on the scarcity of unicorn tears. I was footling about on the internet and I saw someone say how you could harness natural yeast, feed it with flour and water and lo and behold you have your very own thriving, bubbling yeast colony, ready to add to a multitude of wonderful recipes. If the first bit works…
The jar on the right (George) is ready to use, you can tell from his bubbles, and when you open the jar, there is a pleasant, yeasty smell.
Now. Generally I am fairly easily discouraged when it come to my baking ability, but I persevered with this because the whole idea of making something out of nothing appealed to me…
I followed a basic recipe where you use 400g flour – so far I have only used bread flour, to roughly 7 and a half fluid ounces of water, with 12 – 14 g of starter.
A useful hint is to “autolyse” the flour and water – basically just stir them together and let it sit in a warm place for an hour or so…this lets the gluten in the flour absorb the water and do its stretchy thing.
Then you can mix in your starter, cover it up and leave in a warm place to prove. You don’t get as much rise as you would with traditional yeast, that’s why it’s left longer. Some people leave theirs up to three days, I find overnight is generally good.
Now you can start playing…through trial and error I discovered bun tins work best for me, also, grease and flour your tins before use, that way it comes out easier.
This was one of my earlier attempts. Not long enough in the oven…
Sourdough bread is more close textured than usual bread, something to do with the gas given off by the yeast and expanding..
I should also mention it’s a wetter dough too but don’t worry about it, just flour your hands and pull it about to shape, or scoop into tins – whatever. You’re aiming for a stretchy dough that is almost translucent. I had to enlist the service of Mr.CC as I have pulled a muscle weeding..
And there you go. I have discovered you can add stuff before you bake like poppy seeds…I must also say sourdough has a unique chewy crust, so to get this, put a little dish of water in your oven to make a steam effect.
These are poppy seed and cranberry…Don’t forget, a wetter dough means a slightly longer cooking time. I seem to be averaging 35 minutes with these little buns. Test by tapping on the bottom – if it sounds hollow it’s generally done. I tip mine out and let them have two minutes extra just to make sure they are cooked inside.
Then enjoy! They freeze well too and I promise you will feel positively prehistoric in your baking triumph!
Isn’t it funny how standards just gradually slide… away…. I say this because I have spent the last four days in my gardening trousers and dressing gown. I did get some funny looks when I ventured out, but..strange times.
We have been lucky with the weather so I have been out in the garden. I love renewing my acquaintance with the flowers of every season as they come through and at the moment it’s tulip time.
I will spare you my rendition of “Tulips From Amsterdam” by the immortal Max Bygraves, but my grandad used to sing this song to me when I was a little girl, and it’s one of my earliest memories, walking round the gaden with him and admiring the silky petals and vibrant colours of these popular flowers.
Grandad had a fondness for the red tulips, I always thought the black stamens resembled spiders’ legs, but when I grew up and got my own garden I planted some tulips bulbs of my very own as a matter of course.
Now. Although tulips are generally associated with Holland they actually originated from the Ottoman Empire – modern Turkey – where they were cultivated from a native wild flower for the pleasure of one particular sultan in the 16th century.
The word ‘tulip’ comes from the word for ‘turban’ or ‘material’, I think, but the shape of the petals and their silky texture always remind me of harem pants…the bulbs were imported from Turkey to Holland where they became so popular and sought after they created their own economic bubble.
They were even used as currency at one point, although I am pleased to say I buy my bulbs at a much more reasonable price, but you can see why they were – and still are – just so popular! Look…