Posted in Cooking, Lost in Thought

Song Ghosts and Baked Potatoes

I haven’t written in my private diary for a few months. Was wondering if I might kickstart it again by writing descriptions of my surroundings rather than keeping a record of what’s going on. That’s something better done during the day: an attempt at written snapshots instead of photographic! Right now there’s nothing I feel like describing.

Well OK, just a short paragraph…

The only light comes from a single spotlight bulb. The lamp is a white twin spotlight, so I could have both, but that seems wasteful! It’s nicer with both on… I’m trying it out. The second bulb is shining straight at the goblin print, which makes me nervous, because too much light on pictures isn’t good for them. Goblins don’t like sunlight, I’ve heard, though I don’t know what they make of too-bright artificial lighting.

Considerately switching back to one bulb now. It was giving me a headache, so goblin blood must run in my veins.

Enola Gay (OMD) has been in my head for a few days, though I’ve not listened to music since my mother returned from the hospital. I found this old Daily Mail piece about earworms here.

Someone in the comments section prefers the term ‘song wedgie’, claiming ‘earworm’ is too unpleasant. I don’t like ‘earworm’ either, but ‘song wedgie’ is worse! I don’t know if earworms affect my mood or result from something already affecting my mood… sometimes one; sometimes the other? At any rate, I feel earworms deserve a better label; something more dignified. They can be quite haunting… would ‘ghost tune’ do? Or ‘song ghost’?

On to food…

The other day I was trying to eat raw celery and it was bitter, so I left it till supper time and roasted it using the mixture described here: Maple Dijon Roasted Winter Vegetables.

I liked it. It would have been better if I’d added onions and carrots rather than use the celery on its own. Still, it slipped down more easily than when I was trying to eat it raw. 🙂 A friend said she mixed celery with carrots in a soup, and found the celery gave it an extra kick… I might try that some time.

A few days back I wrote a recipe for a baked potato filling. Tonight we had baked potatoes again, but this time I opted for plain butter, cheese, steamed vegetables and a dab of mayonnaise.

Usually we microwave our baked potatoes but I always felt uneasy about it. I liked a tip I read recently, and have done our potatoes that way twice:

Wash the spuds well. Prick with a fork so they do not burst when cooking. Microwave for about five minutes. Put on a baking tray, lightly drizzle with oil and season with salt / pepper, and bake in the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes. Foil not needed, though a bit of greaseproof paper under mine kept the baking tray clean.

The texture of the potato is better this way… mine positively melted in the mouth. I grated a small amount of cheddar cheese using the fine bit of the grater… it comes out like a light fluffy cloud.

Hope I’m not setting a bunch of blogging tummies rumbling! 😈

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Posted in Cooking, Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Observations

Today I’ll Create Something Beautiful

I was scrolling through my WordPress feed and glimpsed the following blog post: Today Isn’t Just Another Day — Today I’ll Create Something Beautiful.

Fleetingly I had a moment of regret, thinking, “but I can’t!” To me, to create would be to take the day off and paint a digital picture, create fractal art, put some effort into photography (strangely exhausting, which is why mostly I just take snapshots). Or I might take time to come up with a haiku I’m proud of, or write a long and thoughtful blog post.

Today I don’t have time to do any of these, so today I can’t create anything… and probably not tomorrow either, or the day after, or any day for a long while.

Then I realized, “but I did create something nice… I made potato and leek soup.”

There’s a small story behind that. I was trying to use up our vegetables, so they were bubbling away in the soupmaker. A rare bird came into the kitchen… my mother, wobbling slightly. She paused just inside the doorway and stared at the soup with popping eyes.

“What is it?” I said, worried I had damaged the soupmaker and hadn’t realized it yet.

“Nothing,” she said, snapping out of her rictus. “I would just have put an extra potato in… that’s all.”

“Oh. I meant to, but forgot. I guess if the leek is too strong, you can always add milk.”

Fortunately it wasn’t too leeky. When we were having it for lunch, my mother made a point of saying sincerely, “It’s very nice!”

That’s not all I created today. Two different soups, scrambled egg and steamed vegetables… that’s what I made of today! The other soup is carrot and sweet potato, and that’s to go in the freezer for a day when I’m too tired to cook.

For some reason the carrot soup frightened me more than the leek soup. It’s a ‘heavy’ soup (probably because of the iron-hard sweet potato) and would barely move inside the soupmaker jug when I hit the ‘stir’ button. Even when I blended it at the end, it swirled round reluctantly as though a great weight was bearing down on the blades. When I stopped pulsing it, would stop, then spit out a ‘glop!’ as though pretending to be volcanic mud.

The leek soup behaved beautifully all the way through, but the carrot soup wanted to hurl itself out of the jug, despite the fact that it had just the right amount of fluid and no more. Last year I had an accident with this same soupmaker… I put a little too much fluid in, and it boiled over. The hot soup gushed over the electric controls and I leapt forward and turned it off at the mains!

That experience really scared me. The carrot soup seemed to be doing its damnedest to do the same thing today, and I couldn’t go away and rest for even two minutes… I didn’t trust it.

Anyway, the carrot soup won’t be able to do much to anyone when I put it in the freezer tomorrow.

Of course, the blog post that inspired these ruminations isn’t about anything material at all. When talking about creating something beautiful, it doesn’t refer to art, cooking, sewing, flower displays or even a neat home. It’s more abstract than that — it’s about doing something kind for someone or taking time to consider your life and be grateful… it’s about making the day itself beautiful.

Maybe it’s working, because here I am thinking about my day and what I made of it. Coffee, tea, two soups, scrambled egg, steamed vegetables, and now a blog post. I’m happy because I feel I made a good job of the food. My mother could have eaten more, I felt, but she was alert, talkative and in a good mood.

I don’t blog unless I feel inspired, and it’s odd that I felt inspired when all I had to talk about was that one fleeting moment when I thought “but I can’t create anything any more.”

This is what I like about writing though… in the murky soup of our lives, things swirl round sluggishly or rise to the top with an enormous, sullen ‘glop!’ Writing about a fleeting moment or thought, a dream, a funny sight, or a short conversation might seem like nothing at the time… but what you have done is save one moment in a million. When you read it later, you will say “I don’t remember that!”… but that’s the point. All those other funny moments and silly dreams will have gone forever, because you did not write about them… but you did write about this.

We can’t save everything; we can’t write about every single moment of our lives, though I swear there are times I’ve really tried! It’s hard to say why you might save one thing but not another… that makes it better, somehow; the sheer randomness of it.

If today is to be as beautiful as I can make it, what else in it was worth the saving?

It was a bright and sunny day, but we got very cold in the afternoon and thought the heating had gone off yet again, and that we were in for another icy night. Fortunately it did come on eventually. I was grateful to be cosy again, and remembered how the chill crept up on us so stealthily that I was surprised to find all of a sudden that the skin on my arms was cold to the touch, and even my nose was cold! I must have been getting steadily chillier but hadn’t been paying attention.

Before the heat really kicked in, I made tea and brought a mug to my mother, and she immediately put her hands on it and held it without drinking. A little bit of warmth in an icy house… that was another good thing I made today.

Posted in Cooking, Injury and Mishap, Life and Family

A Few Changes

Yesterday when my sister came for coffee, my mother made a few suggestions for change.

The soda bread (all the way from Ireland) isn’t right. The only one that will do is the big round one from the cheese shop in town. More urgently, Fairy washing powder simply won’t do. I washed her clothes with it, and she leapt up in the middle of the night to change. She couldn’t stand the airy aroma, so my sister must bring the washing powder she prefers.

I will carry on with Fairy myself, as I like the fresh scent, but must redo my mother’s washing. Meant to wash her bed sheets yesterday but am absolutely not allowed to touch them till the Persil arrives.

Well, I washed the bath mat instead. A single day can’t be allowed to go by without washing something, otherwise you feel you’re falling behind. I decided Fairy would be OK for bath mat, as it’s nowhere near your nose unless you slip and fall… and bath mats are good at stopping you from doing that.

It’s good, though, to be told off and asked for things — food especially. The worst is when she’s so tired or ill that she just doesn’t care.

I’m beginning to feel my life revolves around supper… “When should I start making tonight’s? What are we having tomorrow? Do we have all the ingredients we need? Is there anything I need to defrost? Are there enough clean bowls for the soup, or do I need to put the dishwasher on now?”

I also spend a lot of time worrying what the food contains. There were three or four different cartons of breadcrumbs in the supermarket, and I picked the one with the lowest amount of salt — criteria I wouldn’t have employed just six weeks ago. Did you know commercial breadcrumbs only last about six to nine months? The carton I bought the other day is stamped ‘Best Before Sept 2018’. I checked the others on the shelf and they said the same. That’s a lot of dipping we must do!

In the supermarket a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a tiny tub of dessert (previously a favourite of my mother’s). Checked the salt content and thought, “You’re kidding!” Only realized I’d said it out loud when someone standing near me swung round and looked over.

Anyhow we’re no longer buying that particular product, and, just to be on the safe side, I threw away the old crumbs to replace with new.

Crumbs? Trivia, I know…

Over a year ago there was another change, small but significant. I grew up using a straight potato peeler and never thought anything of it. Around Christmas 2016 our old one broke, so I was using a strange black one a lot over one period of a few days. I realized it was cutting into my skin because of its poor design. There was too long a gap between the sharp bit and the handle, so I was gripping the metal above the handle and below the blade… sort of…

I hate plasters on my fingers, so decided I had to buy a new peeler. As I couldn’t leave the house, I was ordering food from Tesco, to be brought by home delivery, so added a straight peeler to the order. I marked a lot of food ‘don’t swap’, but it didn’t cross my mind to do the same with the utensil. When the goodies arrived, I was surprised to be presented with a Y peeler!

Hrmm.

I’d never used this Y peeler design before, and was both intimidated and intrigued. My mother would probably have sent it straight back, but after reading up on it on the internet, I wanted to give it a go. Typically I handle it gingerly, as though it might bite (which it definitely could), but I love it. It’s particularly good on long, thin vegetables like carrots, parsnips and cucumbers. I just set the vegetable on end and spin it round, then flip it to do the other end.

Like with my sea-salt grinder, I’m possessive… in theory it’s there for everyone to use, but I think of it as mine. I wash it by hand, then carefully dry the blade by pushing the dishtowel into the corners. I never stroke the towel along the blade… just press gently. I’ve had no accidents with it since I bought it… fingers crossed that’s how it will stay!

I never used to baby the old peelers that way.

There have been a lot of changes lately, both big and small. The above-mentioned are only a few, with some corrections back to baseline by Mum — but only some! 😈

Posted in Cooking

Baked Potato with Cheese and Sweetcorn

We all have our own favourite fillings for baked potatoes. Ultimately we go for what’s most convenient and familiar, even if it’s just baked beans or butter and salt.

If you are looking for ideas, however, this is what I came up with tonight:

Serves one.

Ingredients for baked potato filling:

  • One shallot, peeled and chopped
  • One clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • Tinned sweetcorn
  • Tinned garden peas
  • Butter
  • Mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • Coconut oil or fat

Gently heat the coconut oil in a small saucepan. Cook the shallot and garlic. Add as much sweetcorn as you think you will eat (I used four dessertspoonfuls). Heat the mixture through.

Heat garden peas in a separate pan.

When potato is baked and split, put butter in to melt, then add grated cheese. Heap corn mixture on top. Serve with garden peas at the side.

I grated sea salt on mine, and my mother had hers with a prawn filling (she doesn’t like sweetcorn). They were tasty enough for us to want to do the same again tomorrow.

Have you a favourite filling for jacket potatoes?

BBC Good Food has more tips here. I’m going along to see what they said about coleslaw…

Posted in Life and Family

Some Fish to Fry

Meant to write this at the end of the night when I got some rest, but have run out of energy. Oh boy! Trying to write it anyway.

It is hard finding foods my mother will eat. She is more likely to shake her head and say she doesn’t like something than she is to accept it. It’s almost a reflex reaction.

A week ago I was telling her about stripy ‘Pink Tiger’ lemons I saw in Marks & Spencers. I’d never seen them before, so it was just a matter of curiosity. I didn’t buy them, but when I was describing them, all she said, very clearly, was, “I don’t like lemons.”

Well, I know! These were awfy pretty, though. Can you buy lemons just because they’re pretty?

Decided to fry some fish for supper tonight. I absolutely hate asking over the counter for anything, and could have asked my sister to do it instead, but I decided it was time I screwed my courage to the sticking place and did some things for myself. So I ended up at the supermarket fish counter just as someone else was leaving. Previously I’d had a surreptitious look at the fishmonger and decided he would probably be quite kind… and so it proved!

I’m extremely softly spoken, so, even as I spoke, I instinctively reached over to show him my shopping list, which was quite long! But near the top it said ‘2 small fillets haddock’.

He smiled, showed me the small fillets, then wrapped them up with the price sticker on, and handed them over, still smiling.

Sometimes there’s absolutely no reason to be nervous! I still felt slightly on edge, out of habit, and while he was wrapping the fillets, passed the time by studying the other fish and similar squirmy things on display. Right in front of me were a couple of octopuses.

Ooooh…

That makes me sad. Of all the things we fish out of the sea, octopuses seem more like personalities… though perhaps fish, crabs and limpets are personalities too. I sympathized with the lady I saw on TV the other day who said it always upsets her to see rays in the fish barrels. She said in the water they seem to smile, but in the market they all have downturned mouths.

It upset me too when she said that.

At home I told my mother about the two octopuses just in front of me. She frowned.

“Don’t think I would eat those,” she said.

As to the haddock… they tasted very good. My mother normally cooks them herself, whereas I’m weird about fish, so this is the first time in my life I’ve ever fried any. Don’t tell her I said so, but mine tasted better than hers. 🙂 I tried harder to get good coverage with the breadcrumbs, and they tasted absolutely perfect with chips and mushy peas.

I have one of those ‘grinding’ sea-salt cellars, which I bought in Aldi’s ages ago. I thought it would have to be disposed of after the salt was used up, but to my surprise, I was able to unscrew the top and refill it. I’m quite possessive about it, and when it was empty, wouldn’t let anybody dispose of it on my behalf. I’m sure I filled it up with salt again purely to stop people throwing it out anyway. Which they would have done eventually. So.

I put salt on my plate of food in the kitchen so my mother doesn’t have to watch me having something I can have but she can’t. Meanwhile I feel sure she reaches for a little cat-shaped salt cellar that sits smirking nearby… never when I’m looking, of course! We have become a shifty-eyed household who only salts food when nobody’s looking. Don’t tell anybody.

I don’t know why the song ‘Never on a Sunday’ (by Nana Mouskouri) has been in my head all day.

It was a lovely sunny day and quite mild, but my sister said the weather is forecast to become very cold again in a day or two.

“Ice, and that sort of thing, you mean?”

“Yep.”

Oh boy. According to the TV, we have Canada to blame. All of their frosty weather and chilliness is billowing ominously in this direction, if not already here. The sky was a funny colour tonight.

There was a short, quiet period after lunch when my mother was having a nap, and I felt sure somebody had come into the house. A door opened softly, and a shadow crossed the pool of sunlight at the back of the house. I didn’t move… just watched quietly, but the shadows seemed formless and flickering. What where they… the leaves of trees facing the street?

Then I noticed Samson (one of my cats) staring fixedly out towards the front door.

I got up and went softly out into the hall… if someone was lurking outside the house, I didn’t know if I wanted to draw their attention. Somehow I didn’t suspect a burglar, though there are reports of a sneak thief in the locality, and we are all supposed to keep our doors locked.

There was a bouquet of yellow roses which hadn’t been there before… also a carton of fresh Cullen Skink soup.

The roses were obviously for my mother, who frightened all her friends with her illness, but I didn’t know who had brought them. For no particular reason, I searched online to find out what yellow roses mean… they stand for joy, happiness, and true friendship.

When she got up at teatime, I showed her the carton of Cullen Skink soup… and waited.

A cloud crossed her face. “I don’t like Cullen Skink soup.”

“Not my thing, either,” I said.

I’m weird about fish, remember. My sister is vegetarian, so as a family we’re a bit stuck about what to do with it. Don’t get me wrong… it was a nice surprise, and kind. There is no good reason why any of us should be funny about fish soup… it’s sheer bad luck.

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family

Nearly Time for Tea

Your mother on a low sodium diet:

“I do need a little salt on things, otherwise I won’t eat them.”

“I don’t like Greek Philadelphia… too sharp for me. Prefer the usual Philadelphia.”

(When sister was waving a bag of dried banana chips): “I’m *tired* of things that are good for me.”

Only Earl Grey will do… Lady Grey is ‘too orangey’. Well, my sister’s not fond of it either, and I’ve never gone for any of these spicy teas, so that’s understandable. I would be peeved if I wanted PG Tips, Typhoo, Assam, Darjeeling or ‘Breakfast Tea’, only for somebody to bring me Earl Grey instead. To be fair, nobody turned up with Lady Grey tea; it was already in the cupboard and I asked why she was ignoring that and asking for a new box of Earl Grey.

We aren’t eating salad dressings, but I’ve never liked sharply flavoured dressings on salads, whereas I’m more likely than the others to take something with sharp lemon or lime in it, so long as it’s recognizably lemon or lime. As for Greek yoghurt… love it! Mum doesn’t like yoghurt at all.

We’ve had a run of bad luck over the past three days. I won’t recount everything that’s gone wrong, but my parsnip soup wasn’t good (the leek soup much better); a glass broke in the dishwasher before it had even done a wash; everybody seemed to be coming to the house on the same day and I was running from room to room tidying just when I thought I could sit down with a coffee.

I wrote to a friend, saying I hoped she was OK, as she had been quiet for a week. She said she never even got my last email! She was wondering why I wasn’t answering her, while I wondered why she wasn’t answering me. My last email to her had disappeared en route.

Then last night the central heating conked out, and we had a really sharp frost. I was shocked how cold it was when I got up at 7 this morning… brr! Jumped straight into nearest sweater (pretty snowflake-patterned one from Norway).

Thankfully the heating’s fixed now. We had an explanation about the pressure in the boiler having dropped away to nothing, and they poured more water in. I wondered if that was something we could do ourselves, but my mother said no, she hasn’t a clue about boilers. I wasn’t planning to send her to the back of the cubby-hole to repressurize it for us…

However, I’m uneasy at the thought of central heating that gets knocked out just because the pressure ‘drops off’… like it’s something that could happen repeatedly, just on the coldest night of the year.

At least the sun is shining today, and my thoughts are turning to spring. Fingers crossed things will be good from now on! There’s a chicken to roast and tea to drink… both PG Tips and Earl Grey.

Posted in Observations

Coconut

Well, we read a few how-tos and watched a couple of videos, and they made it look so easy… a few gentle taps, and it falls open.

I tapped it, smashed it, and weevilled at it with a corkscrew. Nothing. Mum finally got it open after launching herself at it with a heavy hammer and a wild scream. At least we can eat it now…

Posted in Books

Moomin Fever

I wanted to protect my Moomin comic books while reading them, so I covered them with clear book film (non-sticky, of course). I’m hoping there will be more books along to join my collection. 🙂 That smaller one is a Moomin cookery book. It has recipes for things like brewing tea, Fillyjonk’s Leftover Pie, Grandpa Grumble’s Raisin Ice Cream, Meringue Moominesque, Honey Sandwiches, Cinnamon Buns, and Moomintroll’s Delicious Chocolate Cake. I haven’t tried any yet, though I suppose I already brew tea…

My Moomin comic strip books covered in clear book film.

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family

Diddums the Cruel

I went back downstairs last night to where Mum was coughing and sneezing from her latest wicked cold.
“I was socializing with my blogger friends,” I said, feeling I should explain my disappearance.
“And you left your poor old mother downstairs to die,” grumbled Mum, sniffing dejectedly.

Hmf. A few weeks ago she went off to play Bridge when I thought my cough was going to turn me blue with lack of oxygen. That day, I watched my ‘Tears of the Sun’ Bruce Willis DVD, and cried more than I meant to… it made me feel better, as though it had popped the balloon of my cold. After that, I was on the mend. But it’s not a DVD I can let Mum watch… not with all that violence and stuff. It might give her nightmares, and then I’ll be up with her all night. 😉

I made Pork Paprika for supper — it was rather good. There was no cream, yoghurt or stock; seemed surprisingly low calorie. Just pork tenderloin, onion, garlic, mixed peppers, tinned chopped tomatoes… oh, and 3 teaspoons of paprika! Fried together and then simmered slowly for 45 minutes (water added, to give it something to simmer with). Eaten with rice… the meat was very tender. We had my favourite ice cream for afters (Mackie’s), with tinned figs in syrup. I wanted to try fresh figs in a coffee and vanilla sauce, but the supermarket had none. Mum said the local greengrocers has them… will look out for them next time!