Saturday, March 30, 2013

Well, that was a bust.

Hi Susie!
The run, you ask? Going NOWHERE. My friend dropped out, then my daughter dropped out, and then I'm afraid my MOJO dropped out.

I'm going to carry on with the training, but due to all the waiting around for schedules to mesh, I am nowhere near ready to run 10K on pavement, and we're only four weeks from the race. I'll just have to give it my best shot and try again next year.

It's Easter Sunday tomorrow. My parents are coming over for dinner, so I have some cleaning to do. I hate cooking a big feasty meal in a messy house.

Last Wednesday my youngest daughter turned 9 years old. What?!?! Sigh. Tomorrow afternoon sometime I should be about eighty, and wondering what the heck happened.

Here's the cake I made her:

I've never worked with fondant before - it was surprisingly simple, and the finished product is disproportionately impressive. Win!

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Everybody knows I love Nigella Lawson. I have her new book, Nigellissima, her tribute to Italian food. It's a great book - lots of flexible options and "inspired by"-type dishes.

I haven't read it quite cover to cover, but nearly. I sat on the sofa the other night with a huge glass of Shiraz, flipping through the recipes, and wishing I could make her macaroni and cheese without having to get up and walk into the kitchen. The book, like all her other ones, makes me feel languid and decadent.

Nigella's books are usually hefty, filled to the brim with delicious recipes and chatty notes. Nigellissima, however, is uncharacteristically slender and understated. Much like Nigella herself, if the internet is to be believed. I'm hoping she doesn't go whittling herself even further - she looks great, of course, but I don't trust thin cooks. The thing I've always loved about her was her sublime unconcern with her weight, and her perfect - neither defiant nor apologetic - acceptance of her luscious figure. "Bosomy and bottomy", to use her words. If her next book is a volume of slenderizing recipes involving things like flax and steamed skinless chicken breasts, she will get a strongly-worded letter from me.

I've made two dinners from this book so far. One was a finger-licking, chin-dribbling feast of "chicken under a brick" - or 'bricken', as I'm calling it. This was unbelievably, smoothly, voluptuously delicious (my fingers just typed "volumptuously" twice, and I liked it both times). It's a whole chicken, spatchchocked (cut through the backbone and laid flat on a baking sheet), marinated in various spices and unguents (I have a small jar of preserved, salted lemons that really came into its own here), and then roasted hot and fast under a foil-wrapped brick. Shockingly good: the only thing I had to complain about is that the damn brick put paid to the Bakelite handle on my saute pan, which I unthinkingly used to lift the whole shebang out of the oven. It was just a few pounds too much, I guess, although my husband pointed out that now, at least, the pan fits into the dishwasher a lot better.

The second meal was a true feast. It was a whole leg of lamb, deboned, butterflied, and dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, slivered garlic, sea salt, bay and rosemary (my addition). It, too, had a hot, fast roast (425 for about a half hour) and a fair bit of resting time. The only problem with THIS meal was that I didn't have enough people around my table to do justice to a whole leg of lamb. Mmm, delicious.

My favourite thing about the book is the way Nigella does NOT use a bunch of chi chi Italian names for the dishes. She uses good old English, which keeps the confusion to a minimum.

The low-down:
- LOTS of meat dishes in this book.
- And a LOT of seafood. Yerch. I am allergic to shellfish and I will end up cruising right on by huge sections
- Delicious-looking desserts
- Nigella's comfy, confidential food-writing turns up in spades and makes the whole thing worthwhile. 

My score - 4 out of 5. And to be fair I'm only deducting a star because a) there is way too much shellfish, which is less Nigella's problem than Italy's problem; and b) Nigella has gone a bit diet-ey.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Disrespectful and Juvenile

Seen the new Playtex ads?

Clever? Yes. Amusing? Sure.

Harmless? No.

The one good thing I can say (besides "nice nature photography") is that they at least deal out the body shame fairly between the genders. But men don't have a long complicated history of their genitals being labelled unclean, disgusting, smelly, and a turn-off. As far as being bombarded by media images designed to make a person feel that they are physically undesirable in their natural state, men are new to the game.

These print ads are in magazines, such as Glamour, that target young women. These young women deserve better than this hurtful propaganda.

If you want to give feedback to Playtex on this subject, the easiest way is to leave a comment on their Facebook promo page. It may be more effective, though, to complain to the magazines carrying the ads (probably many, but I only know of 3 - Glamour, Shape, and Sports Illustrated). If a magazine gets enough negative feedback on an ad, they don't run it anymore, and they don't pay for it. Maybe Playtex pulls the campaign.

Given the state of the culture we live in, I don't expect much; but I am hoping, nonetheless.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Argh! You self-involved BIGOT!

I've just seen "The Help". It was all right - kind of racially simplistic but I like stories about women, so I liked it fine.

BUT: watching the extra features is where the whole thing gets ugly. The author of the book refers to her inspiration, which apparently struck her in the year 2001 - actually on September 11, when in her shock and horror over the World Trade Centre attack, she really wanted to go home to -- get this -- the arms of her maid. [!!!!] She says something like "For 35 years I never saw Demitri [her family's maid] out of her uniform until she was in her casket. Then I started wondering 'what was she thinking all those years?'"


You never thought about what she was thinking all those years? It never occurred to you that she had a life other than serving YOU?? We are talking about RECENT HISTORY here, folks! Recent. Look at how she says those two sentences. "I never saw her out of her uniform" and then "I started wondering what she was thinking." Then -- THEN -- this woman goes on to write a smug, tearjerking glurge novel about what she thinks it might have been like for these black women in Mississippi, totally immersing herself in this greased-lens 1963 South, wherein black people are all 'Lawdy, lawdy, I done made y'all some crispy friiied chicken, Miss Ceee-lya." And when they get sassy to their bitchy Junior League employers we're all meant to nod self-righteously and clap, and admire their quaint accents, and think smugly to ourselves about how times have changed and isn't it so nice, aren't black people so funny and boy, those Southern folks sure used to be racist and ignorant.

The producer, a guy about 40 years old, at the most, has just said "I didn't grow up then [the '60s] but the social structure [when I was growing up] was largely the same." Are you telling me in that in the South white people STILL have black maids which they keep in their service for a lifetime, who are entrusted with raising their employers' children, and whose thoughts nobody even bothers to wonder about? Guess so.

What have the last 40 years been about, anyhow?!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Well, since I'm sure you're all dying to hear my opinion of Robert Louis Stevenson, "Kidnapped" was better than "Treasure Island".

And now, on to cooking!

Guess what I made myself for brunch today? (Not just myself - my Mum came over.) Eggs Benedict! It's one of my go-to, out-for-breakfast meals, but I have always been too intimidated to try the homemade Hollandaise. Turns out, that's ridiculous - it's easy. Just labour-intensive (my right arm was bright red and aching from twenty minutes of whisking), and you have to pay attention to what you're doing.

Anyway, it was completely divine. A tad salty, but that's because I had no unsalted butter (bad, bad). Sourdough English muffins, cornmeal-rolled back bacon, soft-poached eggies, and my delicious buttery, eggy, lemony Hollandaise.



Sunday, March 10, 2013

GREAT read!

I have just finished "Kidnapped", by Robert Louis Stevenson. What a great book! I'm surprised I've never read it, but I guess that just means I get to enjoy it NOW, instead of THEN.

The volume I bought also contains "Treasure Island", which I read, abridged, as a child. I don't even know if I finished it, so I'm pleased that I've got some more pleasant surprises in store!

Cooking from Nigella Lawson's new book 'Nigellissima" tonight. It's Mr HSB's birthday tomorrow and since he has to work tomorrow evening, I'm making him "butterflied leg of lamb with balsamic vinegar" tonight. I made some lovely roasted vegetables, and am just waiting on the last few minutes of scorching oven time for the meat...I can smell the little lamby-kins already! Heaven.

Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law Ames, for whom I would cook all manner of legs of lamb, if only she were here. Mwah! Mwah! Love you.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

My stomach hurts. It HURTS.

You know what I hate? When you've got a friend who is making a huge, colossal, enormous, life-changing mistake. You put it off for two years, but eventually the day comes when you've got to talk to her about it, in love not judgment, but you know she is going to hate every second of it, and you will hate every second of it, and in all likelihood you'll have one less friend by the end of the conversation, but you've STILL GOT TO GO AND SAY IT.

Here is some of my chocolate covered ginger for you to look at while you think about how grateful you are that you are not me right now.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Feel Better Slow

Well, Susie pointed out the other day that if I am feeling better, it is now time to lace up the ol' running shoes again.

I'm a big believer in convalescence. Our culture hasn't really respected it for a long time - in the old days, you'd have been sent to the seaside for six weeks after the flu, and if all you had was a cold you'd at least have been well wrapped up and taken on gentle airings until all danger of relapse was past.

Fast forward to the past fifty or so years. It seems that, for decades, people have been taking just a day or two off, and coughing and sniffling their way through the surrounding weeks of work. They spend those weeks broadcasting their viruses to the rest of the people in the office, or the kids at the school, or whatever. Ads used to focus on drugs you could use to deal with your symptoms so you'd be able to go to work. (Anybody else horrified by that commercial? Imagining yourself on that very same plane, unknowingly breathing in all of her recycled air?)

I think modern medicine is starting to get back on board, though, judging from the number of times in the past few years that I've heard medical professionals talking about the "postviral state". The aforementioned ads, too, have begun to change. Some now suggest that you take the drugs for symptom relief so you can get a better, more healing, sleep. An improvement.

Anyhow, it has been four mornings now that I have woken up without a sore throat or a headache, so I think I'm going to follow Susie's direction and start up the 10K training again. I'm three weeks behind schedule, so I don't know whether I'll be able to finish the entire program - I am in week 4 of 14, but there are only 8 weeks left until the race. My daughter is also recovering from the cold, so she will be out of action for at least a few more days.

Unsurprisingly, I have already gotten out of the habit, and going for a run tonight seems like a total drag.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Cleaning My Woollens

I have been slowly eliminating synthetics from my wardrobe for the past few years, while at the same time developing an even keener appreciation for wool, magical fibre of wondrousness.

A lot of people think of wool clothing as difficult to launder, but this isn't true. Wool, being originally created to cover an animal, is also constructed to naturally shed dirt. So, a lot can be done just with a natural-bristle brush and maybe the odd mist of water from a spray bottle. If you've been sweating in it, a little cool water and an hour or so hung in a breezy spot will take any unpleasantness right out.

My favourite way to clean my woollens is to hang them outside - dry - on a windy day. This time of year is perfect - damp air and constant breeze make every day a laundry day. And if it should come on to rain while your stuff is hanging outside, all the better. Just make sure it's dry before you fold it and put it away, and you'll be golden.

The camera did some weird things on this shot.

Another great thing about this method is that it really discourages moth activity in your house. Moths like to be left alone in a dark, undisturbed corner to sleep in their little flossy cocoons, and then to emerge hungry and munch on your wool. The more you can get your wool outside and moving around - and here I'm referring to yardage, too, if you're a knitter or a sewist - the less appealing it will be to moths.

I left my four sweaters, three skirts, and my husband's suit jacket out for around three hours in a cracking wind. By the time I brought them back in, my arms were full of clean, cold, and almost unbearably fresh-smelling wool. No chemicals, no washing machines, no detergents, no dry-cleaning bill. The next time I see a good windstorm brewing, I'm going to run four wool blankets and two duvets out on the line.


Thanks, sheep!