Monday, 31 December 2007

It's a wrap

Finally. 2007 didn't turn out how I had expected or hoped. I am either still twiddling my procrastinating thumbs or else things that should have happened haven't, not for want of trying. It is another year of emotional ups and downs but also feels like just another detour on the train of life and that the detour having been made, and more issues sorted, it is time to move on. Well, that's me being optimistic, but it does feel different.

Some stunningly good things have started this year, seeds planted and the fruit of which will be borne in years to come. So it hasn't all been stationary. My immediate family dynamics have changed with eldest moving out, which we all seem to have survived.

Our house selling hasn't happened yet, but it must in due course. I'm half tempted to unpack our library of books and other items so that we are not in such a state of limbo living out of boxes until it happens. It seems like a retrograde step to unpack but equally, I don't mind unpacking to have a sudden sale sprung upon us and having to re-pack. Meanwhile, we can get a sense of civility back to our lives.

The Holidailies "post a day during December" project has come to an end and thank goodness for that. What a curious experience it has been! I didn't know I had quite that many words inside me, though I reckon I prefer posting less often and with more passion, or more silliness.

2008 is upon us. May it be a happy and joyous and loving and prosperous year. May the tides change bringing even better to those who already have it good; and better to those who have had it rough. And may I not be here this time next year writing the same stuff!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Green faced

Three young people; an in-between aged person and two older people all sitting green and pale. A chocolate fountain whirrs away bubbling up gorgeous brown liquor with treats and fruits to dip all around. Quite frankly one piece dipped was enough. Whilst youngest tucks into an impressive third mouthful before anyone else was seated, and continued to demolish marshmallows to banana to orange segments. Leaving fresh pear, apple and best of all: fresh pineapple; to the rest of us.

The chocolate fondue mixture was lovely. Having done lots of internet research I was really unhappy about adding the quantities of vegetable oil to the melted chocolate as it just didn't seem right. In the end, I probably did add the quantity of vegetable oil as I could see the 1 kg chocolate (Cadburys Dairy Milk whizzed in small batches in the ice crusher of a blender until crumbly) with the three x 284 ml pots of double cream (heated first) was going a tad lumpy. After heating the cream, the melting/mixing process took maybe ten minutes maximum using our induction hob at the lowest heat, which is like a warmer. And then into the ready heated chocolate fountain.

After filling the reservoir and then switching on the motor it seems half the mixture went straight up the funnel. I then poured more of the chocolate mixture into the reservoir. I suppose if I had switched off after this point it would just over flow the whole container!

Luckily plenty was eaten, even though it was very rich. It was delish but just too much. The picture of the fountain above shows air bubbles and not lumps in the chocolate mixture. The picture below is of the chocolate in the saucepan before mixing into the hot cream.

It is surprising, but not as much chocolate is wasted as I thought. I don't like waste so with the judicious use of a rubber spatula and pouring back into the warmed saucepan with the remainder of the warm chocolate mixture and then into plastic food bag lined mugs means it is ready to be frozen and re-used another time. Like a bit later on as we are expecting visitors .... who gave us this apparatus. I'd like to subject them to it and realise that this an object that should be given to party animals. Not people who are downsizing and are hoping to move.

Proving that bah humbug is not confined to Christmas.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Kissing the brakes

"Kissing the brakes" is such a lovely phrase to me, conjuring up ability, forward planning and being in charge. Then there is the word "kissing" and it is gentle and well meant.

For the last couple of years I play a game when I am driving and that is to use my brakes as little as possible. So as I drive down the motorway or dual carriageways and I see cars ahead slamming on their brakes in a domino fashion I don't and instead ease my foot off the gas and allow the car to coast. By then the blockage has either cleared and I can speed up again or else we are all travelling at the same slow speed. But that all only works if you are paying attention to what is way up front as well as everything else.

Yesterday I did one of my regular car trips to pick up my niece and nephew. I adore them and they are staying with us for nine days until school starts. Even though I am a mother I love being an aunt. It is such a different responsibility to being a parent, although I'd lay my life down for them, I don't feel the emotional aches and pains as with my own children. Yesterday I got to doing a lot of kissing of the brakes and then kissing of niece and nephew ... which they pretend to hate!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Chocolate Fountain Recipes?

Guess what we got for Christmas? Not high on our list of must-haves and we're chocolate lovers! I even like a bit of melted chocolate but I don't think we can eat a whole fountain's worth of chocolate. And to add to it all, I can not eat dark chocolate as it gives me migraines. I don't want to sound ungrateful and a miserable old codger about it but that is just how I feel.

There is next to no recipe/instruction booklet and I have spent an hour or so googling all manner of options. If there are any alternative suggestions that people have actually tried .... for instance, could I make a cheese sauce - as if for cauliflower cheese - and dip in raw veggies?

How can I make the chocolate more edible, or less rich? Any thoughts/enthusiasm/encouragement appreciated.




Counting blessings of lovely children, husband and friends.

Nuff said.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Ho ho ho

'Tis the day before Christmas ..... wishing a lovely, peaceful, happy and loving Christmas to one and all.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christmas with old friends

This Christmas seems to be the one I have pulled my finger out and made contact with at least two old friends from decades ago. I won't see them for ages, nor have much, if any, contact for a while but I did make the effort - and so did they. It feels good.

Despite the internal dark times of the last few years, there has been a golden thread throughout that has enabled me to hold on and get through. A thread, that is my darling Mr Doris, who has been my anchor and my life buoy. A magic person, a geek God, who slipped into my life and just stuck. As much as I am magnetised to him he seems to be to me.

And then there are the friends I have in my life. Friends who are related and those who are not. All have been incredibly special to me, and even more so these last couple of years. No matter how bleak, I have not been alone.

Thank goodness for wonderful friends.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Two colour napkin folding

Utterly anal ..... or should I say phallic?! Having washed and ironed the linen for the Christmas table I turned my eye to Youtube and napkin folding. I found this great vid for folding a napkin candle and then adapted it by adding a small red paper napkin. Doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out where.

Should make an interesting talking point on the Christmas table, especially with the teenagers and Grandparents. The latter who will, no doubt, make the lewdest jokes about them.

They even stand up, so I'm thinking about adding some tinsel round the bottom ..... plus a couple of Christmas baubles would be too much of a temptation :-D

Slide puzzle shoppers

Christmas food shopping early yesterday morning was much busier than expected. It was Sainsburys and thankfully, all very civilised. For every move made, one had to wait for three other trolleys to move first. So a lot of the time was spent stationary; amused glances across trolleys; a wry smile; partners holding trolleys looking mildly stunned whilst spouses fetched and carried; long shopping lists being ticked off; and then the occasional smart moves which allowed one to get from aisle five to aisle nine via aisle twenty-three in under three minutes. Oh yes, shopping was a game of strategy and as long as one kept some humour, it was actually quite fun.

PS. I did this "festive" Santa slide puzzle in first 113 clicks and then 82 clicks! Uh-oh computer off time me-thinks.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Christmas Shopping Day

More Christmas food shopping today. Yesterday was Lidl and Asda, whilst today is Sainsbury for the small bits that remain. A local friend, who doesn't have a car and has been ill, will be joining me again. Early start today as she needs to fit in hospital appointments in the middle of the day and then pick her up again to take her to go buy her real Christmas tree. I don't need to do that trip as our re-usable tree in a box is already up. But you just can't beat that gorgeous smell of pine which will at least fill our car!

Son is home early today. Earlier than expected and unfortunately I shan't be here ..... unless I re-organise the Christmas tree purchase. Which I might just do.

Yesterday, I found that the turkey takes longer than I relalised to cook on Christmas day, in order to make an early lunch, which means a bit of alarm setting might be in order.

This year my parents are having Christmas with us. Not because I am kind and generous as a loving daughter but more as a loving sister. My sister and her family have put up with our parents for many years now and I feel she needs a rest. And anyway, being selfish, if I do it this year then I get it over and done with. I've worked out that the last time I had Christmas with my parents was 15 years ago .... the Christmas I last lived with my parents and knew I was going to land them with a bombshell afterwards which then turned my life upside down and thankfully cut the umbilical cord to my mother. I suppose I should be thankful that this time Christmas is on my terms.

Except that, I had really, really wanted to be in Australia with my long-lost cousins this Christmas. But alas, finances do not permit this year.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Christmas stockings

Note to self: gorgeous new, black, hold-up stockings kept in a drawer for special occasions need to be handled with care. Smooth any rough nail edges before putting on as an early Christmas gift for Mr Doris. Just a tiny nick, and a thread pulled, means that they are no longer perfect for public wear. Oh well!

We have the Jack Vettriano picture to the right, "Back where you belong", framed on the wall in our bedroom. (According to Feng Shui it is in our relationship corner.) I love the way the man has his hand right round the woman's waist; the way she, too, is so delighted to see him again, she has jumped up and flung her arms around his neck; the way, in that moment in time, he is supporting her weight; the way both her feet are up in the air; the way he has a sweet bunch of flowers in his hand ready to give her; the way their lips and pelvis's are locked together. I love everything about this picture.

And yes, there is a smile on my face and a rosy glow in my cheeks.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Dotty Doris

Doris hasn't quite worked out puppy training

Luckily, this is one of my pre-written posts. Committing to the Holidailies (and me being me, I usually have to fulfill my obligations [unless I can give a justifiable reason why I won't!]), I drafted a number of small posts this month which I was able to hit "Publish" when I chose - even during extreme mood swings! I am home now until the New Year .... but have a number of things yet to do for Christmas so will still be a bit busy. So, thank goodness for this pre-prepared post, such as it is! Later :-)

I live with depression

It's as simple as that: I live with depression.

One moment I can be getting on doing things and then it creeps up and throws its dark cloak over me. Out of the blue ..... well, maybe there might be some stress factors which occur before hand, but nothing terribly serious beforehand. And it just swallows me up.

Sometimes it goes on and on for days, weeks or months and other times I can snap out within hours. At the point of writing (which has nothing to do with the date stamp on this post) I am close to tears. There is not anything that I want or know that will help. I guess I need to let the tears release me and just get on. Either be busy, or take time out in my own shell doing something inane and distracting.

And then it is back to business as usual. That happy shiny person who is always lovely and helpful. Oh sh*t and now I am crying. Does anyone really know, but I don't want them to know. I am like the "man from Mars" and need to be able to retreat into my shell. Leave me alone, some nice consideration (which I do get from Mr Doris), and I'll be OK soon enough.

Luverly jubly.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Raging, Roaring, Rampaging.

Moi? Indeed. The worst dose of anything I have ever had. Based in depression of no specific cause, as opposed to anger, these last few days have been disastrous.

Not good either when I am a guest in my sister's house and am demonstrating the bizarest lack of control ever known. The brunt has been son, who is doing his own hormonal thing, and between us all my sister has been chief negotiator. Normally that is my speciality but I think my Kofi Annan hat is on holiday.

At times like this I retreat into my shell, so very few people actually experience me like this. On top, I had a foul headache today culminating in being sick. That was at my parent's this morning when I had gone to fix computer hardware. My mother has found a lost set of photos from my childhood. I like to see the photos but what I do find hard is her interpretation of our wonderful life back then. I manage to hold it together but not surprising the migraine/being sick took hold instead. Like something out of the Exorcist maybe (not that I have ever watched it!) and the bad wanting to come out.

I've slept this arvo and feel a whole lot better. Just fragile now.

Monday, 17 December 2007

British Inefficiency

Argos enables one to look through a catalogue and chose, then buy through a credit card machine and then line up to collect said purchase. Not a personable arrangement but efficient in theory.

Unless you have a youth flaffing around looking like he wasn't the sharpest pin in the box. Items are banked up on the conveyor belt - so the storeroom are being more efficient than usual - whilst he walks back and forth not quite doing one thing or another.

From the right ambles over the managerial-looking mature woman who serves one person and then walks off.

I'm dutifully lined up at 'B' counter as resquested behind three others and am sure I can see my item at the bottom of the pile. Some chap walks up next to the line and gets the youth's immediate attention. Am I in the wrong line? I peer at my receipt and indeed I am doing as instructed. The youth proceeds to unload the items from the conveyor one item at a time. We are talking very small items here. He walks round in circles, looks at our line again and then continues one item at a time.

The managerial-looking mature woman ambles back again. Walks around in a circle and then also begins to shift the last few items from the conveyor. She picks up my item - by now I have deduced it is mine - and proceeds to put it on the shelf. At which point I can't wait anymore and dive over to her and tell her that I think that is my item and can I have it. She stamped my receipt so slowly. No I don't want a plastic bag to put the plastic coated item into, I just want to escape.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Wings of Hope

The Christmas tree is now up, the decorations adorn it and the paper chains sweep across the parlour walls. The fire has been lit (actually the gas has been opened and ignited!), the presents have been wrapped and the carpet is plush underfoot. It seems fitting to begin spreading the Christmas joy.

We were supposed to be moving this year and so, many of our goods have been carefully wrapped and boxed. But we are still here and I have had to locate boxes and retrieve some items, such as the few Christmas decorations we had kept. Expecting a new start I had let go many things including the old decorations which had no sentimental value. Of the few we have, is the word "Hope" in painted wood and with an angel stood behind it. The bubble wrapping had disturbed her wings which I didn't realise could move. So this year, I have raised the wings of Hope and they now stand proud and, well, hopeful.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

An ear for bluetooth?

Mr Doris treated me to a cute new pink bluetooth device for my new pink mobile phone. This device enables me to be hands free on the mobile when driving. And to listen to the music player on my phone too, as long as I don't mind it mono into one ear.

The trouble is, my shell-like is of princess proportions. Not deformed, in fact perfectly formed, but tiny. So tiny that the bluetooth device has trouble staying on my ear. With nothing big and flappy to hold it in place, and even adjusted to its "tightest" fitting it is a feat to keep it on. I have to walk with an affected demeanor as if holding a pile of books on my head; and in the car if I should turn my head suddenly, it can go flying off.

Most of all, I am concerned about Cybus Industries and the possible cybermen. [Spoof Cybus site here] What if that episode of Dr Who comes true and the bluetooth devices are being taken over and our minds are being controlled. But I suppose, I'd be OK as my device rarely stays put. I'm even considering using the glasses clip to clip the device to my ear!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Wahey, tis done-ish

I can't believe it .... 5 hours traipsing the local shopping centre with beloved Mr Doris and it seems we have done the deed. Christmas has been shopped for. Just small presents all round but loads of thoughts and backwards and forwards for just the right selection we both agreed upon.

Now it is a matter of wrapping beautifully and it seems Christmas might just be on its way.

Something to be said for "it is better to give than to receive"!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Delicious Christmas Turkey Recipe

UPDATE: Seems I have not allowed enough time for turkey cooking as we have a midday deadline for lunch, and have a larger turkey than I anticipated. Helpful Turkey cooking calculator - 21 Dec 2007

Having made this recipe last Christmas I am going to perfect it this Christmas. Last year, our oven was still new to us and I managed to burn part of the turkey during the initial hot blast ... so I will be more mindful this year. I don't like the gamey-ness of turkey but the spiced, flavourful brine/bath completely transformed the turkey into a succulent and moresome meat, that I was sorry when it finally finished.

I used a free-range turkey which does cost more than a regular one, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I will buy the turkey on Friday 21 December and put it straight into the brine the same day. I use an eski (thermos insulated plastic picnic bucket with fitted lid) and keep it outside in the shed. The turkey is completely immersed and I just have to be careful not to get a bird that is too big to fit into the eski!

As we are having an early lunch on Christmas day, I have to start early - which I don't mind in the least. For a midday dinner I shall get the turkey in and take it out of the brine about 7am Christmas morning and leave it draining and coming up to room temperature for about an hour. Just wash my hands and make the basting glaze which is butter melted with maple syrup.

At about 7.45am I'll put on the oven to warm up and at 8am I'll have the turkey in its baking pan and basted with the glaze. Into a hot oven - should be 220 C but I did that last year and it burned so I'll do it at 210 C - for about half an hour and then turn down to 180 C for about 3 hours. When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for half an hour cosseted in foil to keep the heat whilst allowing the juices to go back into the meat. In the last hour, I'll have prepared and roasted winter vegetables and other trimmings.

Then about midday, just plate up and glory in the triumph. Pudding will be a self-serve selection of ice-creams with smalls bowls of sweets for toppings. Drink will be the annual Schloer and some wine. I don't mind that schedule as it leaves me free to enjoy the rest of the day... my feet are then well and truly up when yummy leftovers are on the menu.

Note: it can be difficult to get some of the spices so it is worth getting them in advance and, from ethnic shops as the price is so much better than the supermarkets. I also add more of this or that and am imprecise. For example a couple of oranges; or more cinnamon stick. I put all the brine ingredients into the eski and mix well before adding the turkey. This is based on a Nigella Lawson recipe.


6kg turkey
6 or so litres water
125g table salt
3 tbsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp caraway seeds
4 cloves
2 tbsp allspice berries
4 star anise
2 tbsp white mustard seeds
200g caster sugar
2 onions, quartered
1 x 6cm piece of ginger, cut into 6 slices
1 orange, quartered
4 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp clear honey

Basting glaze
100g butter
4 tablespoons maple syrup

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Monopoly, Scrabble, or Balderdash?

As a kid, I was definitely a Monopoly girl. Could never find enough people prepared to play it with me and loved it so much.

As an adult I can't really be doing with it. Maybe I am such a sore loser?

Scrabble has always been good, but love it to bits now and don't mind losing especially when there are some good words to lose against. Best of all is that our kids really enjoy it too and have always played some excellent words. Our average combined game score is between 550 to 700.

However, if there are more than four of us playing then Balderdash is brilliant fun. With an emphasis on both brilliant and fun. Each person has to make up fictitious meanings for words to try and catch others out with them. We have such a laugh and I am constantly amazed at some of the sophisticated balderdash son comes out with and has done so since he was about ten.

This is my current rating:

Monopoly 2/10
Scrabble 10/10
Balderdash 9/10 (as you need 4 or more people to make it work)

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Descending December

Delightful Doris decided December descended dutiful dramas.
December dreams delight delicate dudes.
Darling December.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Christmas Meme

It occurred to me that perhaps part of the purpose of these Holidailies posts was to have some festive subjects. Maybe a Christmas meme even and as I haven't yet seen any on my regular reads I did a websearch and found a few. But urgh! I have been overtaken with Scrooge and find myself not being able to get up enough of the festive spirit. Sometimes I like egg nog and sometimes it is hot chocolate. Whether I choose wrapping paper or a festive bag for wrapping presents is a rather moot point because up until this year, under the tutelage of beloved Mr Doris, we have specialised in kitchen foil as wrap!

As to which is my favourite Christmas carol - I don't know. There are a lot of them. Favourite childhood Christmas memories is stepping on sore ground and so forth. Which is my favourite Christmas gift, or worst, favourite Christmas desert and what goes on top of the tree are all moveable feasts. Ask me tomorrow and I might be very enthusiastic. Or not.

Bah Humbug!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

How nerdy are you?

If ever there were any doubts I am an 82 High-Nerd! Mr Doris however, is a 96 Supreme Nerd God! Good job we didn't have any biological kids - they wouldn't have stood a chance!

So then I tried Nerd test #2 but really I should have saved my time as there are some no option questions and as a happily married nerd woman I don't need to rely on the internet for nakedness! Anyway, seems I am a Uber Cool High Nerd:

I don't know how I got that high sci fi/comic score?!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Darwin Theory

Quite what Mr John and Mrs Anne Darwin have been up to, I reckon we should be thanking the Darwins for some entertaining news this December. Each time the news comes on and the latest developments are revealed it makes me chuckle.

Why did he walk into a police station looking all dis-shevelled and offer himself up saying he had lost his memory? How does a "dead" man travel around in this world? Why were the couple so foolish as to allow their photo to be taken together a year ago, and then, presumably, allow it to be printed on a website with their real names?

Whatever was the original story, those parents have deceived their children for a year, if not more. That's pretty bad. But then the grown up children petulantly announce (if the news reports are to be believed) that they believe they are the victims of a large scam and are alleged to have said they do not want anything to do with either of their parents now! What happened to standing by close relatives no matter what they have done. What if roles were reversed - the parents would be criticised for abandoning their kids.

What must be the cost of all this reporting and police efforts? Certainly much more than the £100k insurance claimed. I wouldn't be surprised if the script writers and film producers are out there now ready to snap up the story even as it unfolds.

In eight years time, after the court case and prison sentences* I expect we'll see Mr and Mrs Darwin on the couches of all the major chat shows of the world talking of their adventures. A couple of years later as a couple on "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here", or perhaps "Celebrity Big Brother" first.

Meanwhile, thanks for the entertainment.

* Fraud usually has a stiffer sentence than an habitually drunk driver killing someone.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Carving knives at dawn

Daughter is now 18 years old and lives with her boyfriend above a sex shop. Someone has to live there I suppose. Her boyfriend is a lovely guy, very sweet and loves daughter dearly. Who knows where it will go to as a relationship but for now it is good. I have not met boyfriend's family, only heard about the food parcels his mother brings my daughter! And the cold remedies she supplies.

Apparently mother-in-law-in-waiting is a mumsy mum. I am not sure where that leaves me and with the imagination I have, have written myself off as an awful mother who is rather lacking in all departments. After all, I don't bring food parcels or cold remedies. But we have financed daughter to find her feet and am often doing the emergency doctor run as daughter is the "I am dying" sort when she has aches and pains.

Mother-in-law-in-waiting is probably a darling and I'd like her but for some reason I feel in competition with her. No-one told me I should be afeared of her competing for my daughter's affections, nor that I have not been good enough. I can do all that self-destruction all by myself. I wonder if she feels in competition with me?

Christmas is a-coming and I have given daughter free reign to do as she pleases for Christmas making sure that she realises my saying that doesn't mean that I don't care, rather that I don't want her to feel under pressure. Daughter is being utterly diplomatic and wonderful. Her boyfriend can eat for England so they are coming to us first on Christmas day where they will both eat with us, and then go on to his mother where they will have Christmas dinner with her but daughter will only have a little as she doesn't eat much.

It is silly that I should feel in competition to make sure I have the nicest Christmas dinner. So superficial of me. But I am working on my menu now!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Prolifically Posting

Prolifically posting
Pertinent Princess.
Political pirate
Poaching propellant.
Partly prosaic
Probable perfection.
Possibly provocative
Potentially preposterous.
Plentiful prose
Proper painful!

[Thanks and apologies to Jo from the last comments!]

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Bah humbug

Every year I say this, I don't like seeing the Christmas products in the shops in September. By the end of November the shops start playing Christmas carols and bah humbug really kicks in as I make a mad dash for the exit.

I used to love Christmas. As an adult. I'd choose decorations and make an effort. These last couple of years have been tough.

Things might change again though. I have just started a new business, alongside what I already do, that involves Christmas cards and Christmas product alongside everyday cards. Methinks I had better lose my bah humbug in favour of delight once again. So maybe by August next year I shall be singing Christmas carols under my breath and the twinkle in my eyes will be baubles and tinsel. Scary!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Bankrupt Christmas

My happiest childhood Christmas was when I was about nine years old and my parents went bankrupt. We had salad (living in a hot country when it was considered poor food) for Xmas dinner, and a cheap plastic toy as a present from the supermarket. There wasn't all the stress of a hot cooked turkey of which I hated the taste, nor the drama of present buying. It was simple and my parents tried hard to make up for the lack of money. Something to be said for that.

Monday, 3 December 2007


If Minerva, with all that she has on her plate, can attempt Holidailies then I think I'd rather like the challenge too! This is the eighth annual Holidailies project and is a free community writing project. All Holidailies 2007 participants promise to update their personal web sites every day from 1 December to 1 January.

So there you are.

Over this month I plan to blog daily. Ooo-er .....