Monday, 28 October 2013

Mr Manley's Wish List

We all know how difficult it can be to choose gifts for grown ups, but at least our Wish Lists make it a bit easier!

Walnut Whip
Posh coffee (shiny)
New hoody
Steam cleaner
Glow in the dark toothpaste

* * * * *

Exciting, don't you think?  The shiny in relation to the coffee is a description of the packaging, not the coffee itself, in case you were trying to work that one out!  Clothes, fine.  Chocolate, fine.  Coffee, fine.  Steam cleaner?  Useful I guess . . . as for glow in the dark toothpaste, can you even get that?  I suppose I should be glad every other item isn't a monkey, like it was last year . . .

* * * * * 

{  If you're reading this, Mr Manley, you need to stop.  Now  }

how is it nearly November already?

Did I blink and miss September and October or something?  It's the 25th of October, which means it is time to do The Lists.  The Abstract Wish Lists.  Oh yes, those lists.  

Friday, 25 October 2013

sticks and stones may break my bones . . .

. . . but names can never hurt me.

Sounds logical, sensible, matter-of-fact.

But you know what?  It's rubbish.  Complete rubbish.

As the parent of a child with special needs I've heard a lot of language associated with disability over the years : different words; politically correct phrases; insults; things that are meant one way but sound another; and I know very well how much a simple word can cause immense emotional pain.

The way we hear certain words being used through our childhood and teenage years can have a significant influence on how we interpret those words later on in our lives.  By way of example, I was told Smiler was likely to be profoundly mentally retarded.  I'm thirty three, and one of the worst insults that was (frequently) hurled around during my teenage years was retard, as in you're such a retard, or what are you, retarded or something?  Because of that, I initially struggled with Smiler's 'mentally retarded' label, but it fell out of use by professionals anyway, principally because it had been seized upon by society and associated with such negativity.  Conversely, I have kind of taken it back - I will use it, as a slice of medical terminology, if I am (for whatever reason!) listing Smiler's various diagnoses, partly, to be honest, because of the shock value.  I think if it gets heard in its proper context people might then be less inclined to use it as an insult.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

how to Slouch

Having knitted a jumper for Mr Manley, and sleeveless pullovers for Smiler, Noah, and Petal, I decided I wanted to make something for *whispers* myself (shock).  Rather than a cardigan (I have plenty) or a jumper (don't wear them), I thought I'd go for something I'll get plenty of use out of . . . a hat!  After searching through Ravelry I found the Star Crossed Slouchy Beret, and snuggled down on the sofa surrounded by wool and needles and scissors.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

silent sunday : 20th October 2013

afternoon tea : 20th October 2013

Yes, that is my mug.  Yes, it is as big as it looks - it holds a pint!  
On the afternoon tea menu today were sponge fingers, cooked independently by Petal.  You know those sponge fingers you get in packets, called 'boudoir biscuits'?  I remember them from trifles, in case that helps!  Well, these were exactly that texture - yum. 

In trying to make some room in the freezer a couple of days ago Mr Manley had got out some puff pastry out, so some of this was used for custard and almond pastries, and some for blackberry jam and custard pastries - even more yum.  Mr Manley took the lead on these, making the custard extra thick so it didn't all flow out of the pastry!  There are three left on the side out in the kitchen, calling to me, but so far I've resisted.  If there were two left it would be different, but when there is enough left over for Smiler, Noah and Petal to have one each, it seems like they should have them instead - some kind of sugar addict parent martyr thing.  On the other hand *whispers* Mr Manley and I might share then out once the kids have gone to bed . . . shhhhh . . .

And last, but certainly not least, chocolate ├ęclairs!  These were made in the week, but then put together today, with real cream and real chocolate on the top.  I think Mr Manley has been inspired by the good old Great British Bake Off - fine by me!  

Do you think GBBO has encouraged people to give baking a go?  Have you seen something one of them has made and then gone and given it a go yourself? 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

kitchen kindness : time to share

Confession time : I have a tendency to fall in love with people who cook.  No gender preferences, no age issues, and black, white, lemon or lime as Semisonic would say.  A culinary crush, if you will.

Friday, 11 October 2013

poetry post : i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) I am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                i fear
no fate(for you are my fate my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever the moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

E E Cummings

Sourced here

This was one of the pieces of poetry I studied for my English Literature A-level - yep, you're right, that was a while ago now, but I found after spending so long analysing the choice of every word and the positioning of every element of punctuation; the emphasis and the implications, things could have gone one way or the other by the time the exam was over - I was either going to love it, or completely the opposite.  This piece was in the first category, which is why I wanted to share it - poetry tends to be looked at as pretentious, elitist, dry - something forced on you in school.  Not something of beauty, words that rise and fall, images full of grace.  And now I sound pretentious.

I love it - it's that simple.  It's the final stanza - ' of the sky of a tree called life...' and '...this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart...'


Do you have a favourite poem?  Or a line from a book, or from a film that resonates deeply within you?  I'd love it if you'd share in the comments - pretty please!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

afternoon tea : 6th October 2013

It was a freezer afternoon tea this weekend - I emptied out the freezer during the week (cleaning binge) and found that in our little freezer an entire drawer was afternoon tea items - since the freezer is only two and a half drawers big I thought I should use some of it up . . . poor us!

So we had triple chocolate brownies (perennial favourite); a chocolate chunk mega scone (Noah named it - basically ordinary scone mixture, break in chocolate, stir, form into a single pudgy scone shape, serve in slices, as if it is cake.  Yum); fruit scones; and rhubarb and vanilla bakewell tart - step by step recipe coming soon!

kitchen kindness : chilli tips

Nigella Lawson seems to have gone a bit Cher (no, not the x factor one (or whichever programme that was), I mean the real Cher, who dropped her last name anticipating the tabloid press would find it easier to write about her if they only had one name to remember (meow!) which seems to have worked) and discontinued use of her surname, so will henceforth be referred to as Nigella™.  Anyway, she is one of my platonic food crushes, and one of my favourite recipes is this Chilli Jam , though I should add that instead of the jam* sugar (which has pectin in to help things set) I use ordinary granulated sugar.  This means that I end up with a kind of sweet chilli sauce instead of jam that you can spread, but we all like it added to a stir fry, or noodles, or as a dip.  Having said that, I use lots of techniques that are included in the jam jar etiquette lessons : I prepare the jars in the same way as if it was jam; store them in the dark until needed; store in the fridge once open; use up within a couple of months to be on the safe side, or longer if you fancy living dangerously!

{ * my autocorrect just tried to change jam to man.  Man sugar.  Hmmm. }

* * * * *

So, chillies.  I have no kitchen strength - I sob when I cut onions (I've been known to nab someone's swimming goggles - don't bother, didn't help), and I'm terrified of chillies - I don't think they're going to come and get me or anything like that (because they probably wouldn't be able to get out of the fridge without help), but I worry I'm going to rub my eyes.  Yep, I'm a wimp.  But I've found a way to get around the rub my eyes / deal with children without blinding myself (or them) with my spicy fingers - take a look :

But Lucas (you may ask) how will I be able to get the seeds (oh the hot hot seeds!) and weird white-ish bits from the middle and the top bits I've cut off safely into the bin without using my completely non-chilli-fied fingers?  
Don't worry (I reply, in my tough superhero voice), just use the plastic bag that was over your hand when you were cutting those suckers up!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

step by step : blackberry custard cake

I apologise in advance for the lack of photos today - it was an experimental bake, so I concentrated on getting it done rather than getting shots of each step, but it's really very straightforward, I promise!  I'll get pictures the next time I make it, but for the moment you'll have to use your imagination, okay folks?

I made this with a couple of handfuls of blackberries that we had left over, but it would be good with any berries (or combination of berries), apple, pear, or gently stewed (and then drained) rhubarb.  Ooo, or tinned peaches... that would be great too!  You want 80g-ish, and if you're using something out of a tin try to add as little of the juice/liquid as possible, otherwise you'll end up with very soggy sponge.


four eggs
equal weight of marg
equal weight of sugar
equal weight of plain flour
one tbsp baking powder (stir this into the flour)
two tsp vanilla extract
a couple of handfuls of blackberries (very approximately 80g)
a pint of custard (this needs to be pretty thick so best not use instant as it would be too thin.  I use a bit more custard powder than it says, so it'll end up thicker)

In September . . .

 We made lots of cakes, sold lots of cakes, and ate lots of cakes

* * * * * 

We all celebrated Smiler's 12th birthday

Saturday, 5 October 2013

To the woman by the school gates (bad language alert!)

My house
My street
My city
Saturday 5th October, 2013

To the woman I spoke with by the school gates yesterday afternoon,

I thought it wise to follow up our conversation in order to clarify any points which were unclear.  Let us begin at the beginning.  The reason I was on that particular section of pavement at that moment was to meet Noah, my son.  He had been on the same school trip as your child, and Petal and I were looking forward to welcoming him home.  With us was Eli, our sweet friendly dog, who seemed to know there was something going on, although not exactly what that was!

I am aware you were very glad to see your child, demonstrated by unintentionally raising your voice as you lovingly greeted him with you're fuckin' filthy - shud'up an' ged 'ere.  The other parents, many of whom were accompanied by younger family members, are probably glad of this wonderful opportunity to expand their vocabulary.  Certainly it was refreshing to hear your son's equally emotional response - fuck off always brings a tear to my eye when spoken with such genuine affection.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

It's all abut me (obviously)!

Straight to business - I've been tagged by the lovely Orli from Just Breathe for this meme (don't know what it is, but hopefully I have the right vague idea, or else this post will look kinda odd - (I think) it originated here) so here goes:

Tell us your name and what you do... I'm Lucas, and what do I do...I'm officially retired, believe it or not, despite being the grand old age of 33 - medical retirement after neuro issues including seizures.  Before that I worked for the Bristol version of Social Services, before that I was a student. 

I live at home with... My gorgeous husband Mr Manley and equally gorgeous three children - Smiler, who turned twelve last week; Noah, who is ten and a half; and Petal, who is nine.  We have one dog - Eli; two and a half cats - Porridge, Meg and Bob; and one extremely elderly and doddery guinea pig, Sam.

My favourite thing to do is... This is a hard one - it changes often, though there are few I always cycle back to - I love to read, I love (not purposefully copying you Orli, I promise!) to bake, I love to knit, and I love to chat.  I also love to wrap myself up in a soft (preferable me-made) blanket, snuggle into the corner of the sofa, and watch slightly embarrassing American TV - CSI, NCIS, True Blood, Warehouse 13 - you get the idea!

My favourite thing to eat is... This changes every day too!  Risotto is appealing this week, and so are sweet potato wedges - yum...  Also hot chocolate with marshmallows - there's never a bad time for hot chocolate and marshmallows!

When I get cross I... Get mean - really mean.  Least said the better I think!

Sometimes I worry because... I don't feel like a good mum.  I worry that Petal, Noah and Smiler (although not the same with Smiler of course) will grow up and look back and see all the things I do wrong and hate me.

My favourite book is books are.. Going to have to go plural here, sorry if that's against the rules - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; Pay It Forward; Sundays At Tiffany's; Second Glance.  That do?