A Trifle

So, this week was characterised by my youngest son getting a year older. (Well done there little guy!) So he is 4. Going on 45 I think. In the way of modern times, he had several parties to mark the occasion. Other Half made a cake for his actual birthday on Tuesday. Another was taken in for his toddler group which meets on a Thursday and his grandparents brought another over on the weekend. We were up to the fucking eyeballs in sodding cake in various states of being eaten. Am not even that fond of sponge cake.

What was I to do? Let all the piles of leftover cake go to waste? Over my festering corpse. I was raised on a farm in deepest darkest wales. There was no central heating. The fresh water tank would run dry in the summer and there was no TV as the mountains would not let us get a signal. There were also 14 people in the house and it was 6 miles to the nearest shop that sold food. It took me an hour to get to school.

Thus, I do not waste food. I recycle it. I decided to create something I had not made since my teens. A trifle. An old fashioned UK original from the era of bread and butter pudding and cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks. Or so I thought. Wikipedia disagrees.

The earliest use of the name trifle was in a recipe for a thick cream flavoured with sugar, ginger and rosewater, in Thomas Dawson‘s 1585 book of English cookery The Good Huswifes Jewell.[1] Trifle evolved from a similar dessert known as a fool, and originally the two names were used interchangeably.[2]

So it’s old, like most brit food I suppose. Anyway, I hit the shop and brought the goodies home. My mother used to bake for a living, in the days when a farm kitchen was fine for preparing cakes, scones and bread. Modern Health and safety would have fainted. Like her, I opted to go on instinct.

Cooking by my ‘gut’ is not always successful but it has led to some wonderful discoveries over the years. And the ‘stale birthday cake trifle’ was created. For those interested, here is a rough approximation at a recipe.

  1. Take stale cake and break it up into bits in a wok- it was the biggest thing I had.
  2. Open a couple of tins of summer fruit and pour off the syrup into the wok. Add a little strawberry syrup or whatever sweet ya might have hanging about in the kitchen. Honey would do, so would a few tbsp of sugar. Anyway, the cake soaks it all up. Get your hands in there to make a cake mulch, or get passing 7 year old to do this for you, as I did.
  3. Child now licking fingers, get a couple of big ass bowls and shove handfuls of cake mulch into them so the bottom is covered. Lick your own fingers.
  4. Pour in drained fruit. Shuffle the bowl a little so it sits right. Then raid the freezer for some frozen blueberry punnets that have been in there 6 months. Chuck in too, not bothering to defrost.
  5. Could not be arsed to fanny about with jelly- straight onto the custard. Dump on top of fruit.
  6. Whip up some cream to soft peak. Use an electric whisk. Yes, I know this can over whip it, but fuck it. I got eyes, will watch it. 7 year old runs away from the noise.
  7. Add a bit of sugar to the cream and no, I don’t over whip it IN YOUR FACE PERFECT BAKERS.
  8. Dump cream on top of custard. Give it a shuggle (Scottish- shake) to settle it all down.
  9. Sprinkle with- something. I had some chocolate curls in the cupboard. I would advise against using chilli flakes, as returning 7 year old insisted would taste amazing.
  10. Put in fridge. Don’t eat for 24 hours so the flavours can permeate through the- Nah, it lasted till dinner time…
  11. Eat
  12. Eat more
  13. Warn children and Other Half they will feel sick if they eat it all.
  14. Be ignored.
  15. Be smug that you made two for under £7

   

         

No doubt there will be those that will look on in horror at my less than pristine offering. Created with much giggles from eldest child and with a passing nod to hygiene. To those, I say- actually what’s the point? You either get what this is about or you don’t.

Till next week, goodbye friends and strangers.

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February 16th Writing Prompt

“When have you experienced Euphoria and how would you describe it?”

2009- Summer.

Rotten eggs. Another wave of the sulphurous fumes hit me and I gasped, putting a hand to my rounded stomach. Nausea rolled through me and I cursed the twenty five week old fetus that caused it. I had gone through hell for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Unable to eat anything but crackers and marmite. Nausea had been constant. I had lost weight even as my stomach grew. Things were better after that but my stomach was still delicate.

The child was already big for his age and it felt like he was sapping every ounce of energy from me. Was I at home? Feet up? Sipping ginger tea?  

No- I was climbing an active volcano in Iceland.

I had not intended to be pregnant. I had been told I was unlikely to have children and had been unable to conceive after two years of trying. Finding out I was pregnant had been a shock and my life had needed some considerable reorganisation. However, I was determined not to waste £600 of my own money and I went ahead with my planned field trip to Iceland.

The pace was grueling. Had I really let myself become this unfit? The cinder volcano was steep… composed of loose pumice and ash, burnt ochre in colour and fiendishly sharp. Material shifted under my boots and I was obliged to use my hands… crawling.

Maternity trousers bit into my hips. My stomach flopped.

A French tourist had already commented on me, saying I should “Lay off the cake” before I could not walk. I had responded with the most English of accents and a derisory snort.

“I’m 25 weeks pregnant, I have an excuse for being fat, what is yours for being so rude to a complete stranger?”  Oh the glorious backtracking, stammered congratulations and an inquiry as to why I was not at home. I walked off without answering. I was pregnant, not dying!

I struggled onwards, remembered outrage fueling my efforts. I was at the back of the group as usual and it was annoying me. My stomach scraped against sharp pumice. It was everywhere… in boots, socks, bra… I would later even find orange ash in my knickers.

The day was hot, the sky acid blue and as sharp as the material under my feet. Long days of sun. Not what you would expect this close to the arctic circle. I would later find myself sunburnt.

Another sulphur filled breeze pushed the hair out my face. It was a mess, tied with a headscarf and left limp and frizzy. I was too exhausted in the mornings to get up and style it. I rolled out of bed only with enough time to wash, dress and leave.

Foot slipped again and I dug my hands in, cursing as the pumice cut my palms. Why was I doing this to myself?

Why not. How many people could say they have climbed an active volcano? How many got the opportunity to see such a thing? I was not going to miss this. I would make it to the top.

And I did, one step at a time, legs and lungs burning.

I remember reaching the top, crawling over the edge. Arms and shoulders quivering with the effort it took. I straightened, gasping. Then I looked down.

What I saw will remain with me for the rest of my life. Alien orange rock, open vents steaming hot gasses into the blue sky. The air shimmering with heat. Below… black, twisted sharp pinnacles from a previous lava flow, ripples frozen and cooled. Then the sea, the blue an undecided colour as opposed to the stark blue sky.

Waves crashed against black rock, vents hissed. I felt like I was alone on the top of the world.

Elation washed over me. I had made it! So many people had been worried I would not cope, that I was making a mistake. Yet there I was. Standing, on a volcano.

I wanted to bounce on my toes, cry, punch the air and shout all at once. I understood suddenly why people climbed mountains. The rush of adrenaline, the sense of achievement and pride in myself was something I was not prepared for.

I’m British. I let the emotions wash over me yet acted on none, save to smile.

There must have been something in that smile. A member of my group asked to take my photo. I agreed even though I hate having pictures taken.

In that moment, on that volcano, I was gloriously and unapologetically me. That photo is one of the few of myself I like and every time I see it, I smile.

 

Writing prompt- February 15th

Norman Mailer claimed that- “Insomnia is the minds revenge for all the thoughts we forgot to have in the day.” What do you think about when you can’t sleep?

Money… not notes or pound coins but numbers on a screen, representing what I owe and what I need to pay.

Has the direct debit for my phone come off yet? Am I paying off enough on my computer? Has the mortgage been paid yet? I went out for a meal a few weeks ago… that money could have paid extra off on the credit card.

What of the repairs? £10,000 towards fixing the roof. The zeros parade across my mind. Will I ever pay that off? Oh I know I earn enough to make ends meet but with a pay cut looming in the summer my heart sinks. No holiday again this year.

Then children. Are they happy? They seem so… am I too strict with them? I got angry at the 7yo for jumping on his bed… should I have talked to him instead of yelling? He’s already broken a bed he’s just so big… he does not realise he’s not five anymore.

3yo is smarter than I am. Frighteningly so. People will think we are hothousing him. Nothing could be further from the truth. He just picks it up, loves numbers, is already trying to read. Fuck people. Hate most people anyway. Am I stimulating him enough though? Is he bored?

Are they happy? Am I a bad mother?

Husband. Ever shifted to third on the list after the money and the children. Guilt for that… lots of it. Squirming in my chest. It used to be just us. He was always my first consideration. Can’t remember when that changed. Is he healthy? I worry about him through the day and it all piles up and is concentrated as I hear him breathing beside me. His eyes were bad today. Must make sure to lie still so he sleeps properly. His back, he will wake in pain. Must make sure I get him a coffee in the morning to take his meds with.

Is he happy? Is he still happy to be with me? Does he regret moving here? Our way of life? What can I do to make sure he is okay?

Work harder, smile more. 7yo asked if we were poor a few days ago. A 7yo should not ask things like that. Need to devote self to career, even though it eats my time and presses thick black worry down on my mind.

Sometimes I love it, best job. Sometimes I hate it. Blame self for things I can’t control. Make mistakes because my head does not work like others do. Should I get a new job? Would I feel any better? How much money would it cost to move? Can we afford that?

I feel so trapped sometimes… just want my mind to shut down. Computer helps. I don’t have to think of anything else when writing or destroying pixels on a screen. Even in that I don’t have the hand to eye coordination to perform well. Dyslexia makes words come out backwards, clumsy fingers mash keys…

No… I need to sleep

Mind continues to plan for the worst case and dreams are haunted with hungry children and the roof of my flat collapsing.

Holiday- Argyll Forest

So, no writing of late as I was on holiday, for the first time in two years! I might be a professional but if you work in the public sector the pay is not great, enough to keep my family though. We are a bit unusual as I work full time and my Husband is a stay at home Dad. Well, unusual on our little island anyway. Hubbie has had to face a bit of  gender discrimination but has handled it well (i.e. venting at me and twitter rather than the idiots who make thoughtless comments.)

Have been caught up in gaming too. Area X (indi title) and Guild Wars 2. Will review them both next week 😉

Also, Korean drama has once again sucked me in. Damn why is there nothing like this on Brit TV? Anyway Faith was one of the BEST things I have seen for a while. As long as you approach this stuff as a live action anime it’s all good. Again, will get round to a review on that one.

So, we went on holiday two hours up the road on the mainland, so still in Scotland.

Home for a week would be a static caravan on an Estate in the middle of the Argyll forest.

Husband was dubious. Being 6’7” he was sure he would have to spend all his time indoors hunching. I reassured him that he would fit.

So we got to the Estate and were greeted with this.

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IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! We live on the coast so a beach holiday would have been a bit like being at home. Mountains and forests however are a bit different and much more like where I grew up. The place was also exceptionally family orientated, which is what we needed.

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Play parks and open spaces everywhere.

The caravan I knew would be fine, but exceeded my expectations.

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Note very tall man could lie down on the sofa. The kitchen had a fan gas oven and was better than the kitchen at home!

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The estate was vast. Many a walk was taken with son 1 to burn his energy off. Everyone was friendly and total strangers stopped to chat to us.

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It was nice just to let our 3 year old run his legs off. He could not wait to go out every morning. Even the lure of the massive TV in the caravan could not compete. He gets plenty of outdoor time at home but we don’t have a garden and everything is, well, smaller… being an island and all.

The weather was dry mostly, but I had THE YELLOW COAT OF DOOM! I bought a proper breathable raincoat last month. My old one fell apart a few years ago and I’ve been making do with cheap shower proof things that just can’t stand up to the Scottish weather. My YELLOW COAT OF DOOM is obnoxious yellow, rainproof, windproof and warm but breathable so I can wear it in the summer and not sweat to death. Husband hates it, he thinks it’s ugly. It’s not meant to be bloody fashionable! Anyway I love it so I wear it.

Upshot of this is 3 yo and I went out all weathers.

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The landscape can be dark and brooding in bad weather but it’s still beautiful. I think and worth braving the rain for. Besides we had some good days, enough to have a BBQ!

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Sirloin steak on the BBQ. NOM! As long as it is not over cooked it’s lovely.

Ventured out of the estate mid-week when the weather really was miserable. Went by the ‘rest and be thankful’ that is a tiny square of land that is flat next to one of the most treacherous roads in Scotland. It’s always closing due to the landslides when it’s wet… yes I did know this before I set off. There is no way round this road if you wanted to head towards the central belt (mid Scotland). Well not entirely true, you could do an extra 150 miles and go north of it then back south again.

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3yo did not like the weather.

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So all this effort was to get to the Loch Lomond sealife centre. We thought 3yo would love it, as it turns out he loved it for 20 minutes then wanted ice-cream. Fickle wee thing!

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Guitar sharks are creepy (top pic) and Asian otters are tiny and cute!

Being on holiday with a new-born is an odd experience. No restful nights. He still needed his 3 overnight feeds and at times did not want to sleep at night. 3yo wants to be on the go all day and were are on holiday and don’t want to waste time indoors. It’s not easy to handle all this away from home but we managed. We needed a day to catch up on sleep mid-week and Husbands epilepsy played up due to the lack of sleep. This did sour things a bit as I was worried about him and he was worried her was ruining the holiday. 3yo set us straight and said he was having ‘good days.’

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Managed to take 3yo for longer and longer walks during the week. Our record was nearly 4km. Many a puddle was splashed in and we saw sheep! Real sheep! Much excitement from 3yo, but not from Mummy.

Mummy grew up on a hill farm. Mountain sheep with lambs and an excited 3yo are not a good combo. However, I managed to explain to him how to behave and if he listened to me we might even get close enough to have a peep at the babies.

It was odd how the old farming instincts kicked back in and how just through changing our body language the sheep went from startled and aggressive to passive and calm. 3yo was enchanted and wanted to take one home. Mummy said the day she could have a mini pig he could have a lamb….

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So a lovely week despite the trials. Will probably be going back for another visit. In fact Hubbie and I were eyeing up holiday home prices before we left. Can’t afford one but you never know when you might win the lottery or something… I live in hope. My maternity leave is going to put me 3 grand in debt as it is! Such is the joy of having children. They better pick me a bloody palatial nursing home when I go demented!

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