Friday, 27 July 2012

Apparently I'm Pregnant...


It will come as little surprise to hear that I’ve been largely ignoring the fact that I’m pregnant;  I’m not ignoring it completely – an impossibility, given the girth - I’ve simply parked it until we get back to London in September. I also think that it’s probably inevitable that the Grubette, once she appears, will also be largely ignored – not deliberately, but she’s very unlikely to get anything near the attention her siblings got.  This will no doubt lead to years of therapy and recriminations, but also, I suspect, a nicer child. 

She, however, seems to have gotten wind of her fate, and has decided to remind me that SHE IS IN THERE. 

First off, I’ve got my pregnancy cough – a hacking, smoker’s cough, which doubles me over several times an hour.  The past two times this made an appearance towards the end of the third trimesters, so having it descend on me in week 25 is a bit of a bummer. It wasn’t so bad the first time around, when all my muscles and various body parts were intact, and in the right place;  not so great the second time, when I would often cough and splutter my way across the Common with wee dribbling down my leg (seriously); really pretty rotten now, when I have to stagger outside several times an hour to dislodge whatever it is which is lodged in my lungs (a foot maybe?), while simultaneously saving the wooden floor-boards / rugs from a splattering. (Who said being pregnant wasn’t sexy?)

And then there’s the wonder that is Melasma – aka, “Pregnancy mask” – when the pigment in the skin on your face goes into overdrive, but – hurrah! – only in random dark-brown splotches. There’s no treatment for this except time (usually it fades “sometime after the pregnancy ends”), prayers (usually it fades...), and avoiding sunlight completely (it’s triggered by any exposure to ultra-violet light).  The Grubette cares not that her carrier is in Florida, where avoiding sunlight is pretty much impossible, and so I am sweltering in a large, deeply unattractive, floppy hat, and yet STILL look like I’ve been splashing about in the mud.

To complete her pregnancy-reminding hat trick, my teeth have started to fall out.  Oh alright, that’s a slight exaggeration;  more accurate to say that they’ve started to SNAP OFF.   I swear.  Which is just what you need at the start of a 2 month stay in a country where children are sold to pay for health-care.  (Now there’s a thought...)   

Of course this happened on a Saturday morning, when no dentists’ surgeries were open, and so I had 48 hours of liquidized food (which, coupled with the out-size sun-hat, and my advanced years made me feel like a native Floridian) - which is how I came to remember that I make a mean gazpacho.  Well, you know what they say – every broken tooth has a shining enamel lining...

Gazpacho
You don’t actually need to be toothless or dentally deformed to either make or enjoy this, but if you are, it will certainly help.  


You need (for 4 bowls.  Or for one old crone for lunch and dinner):
  • Two tins plum tomatoes / one large US can.  You can of course use fresh tomatoes, but you’ll need to skin and deseed them, and they’ll also need to be really ripe.  And anyway, can you be bovvered? I thought not.)
  • One large US cucumber / ½ European one, peeled and roughly chopped
  • One red pepper, core and seeds removed
  • One clove of garlic
  • A couple of slices of white bread (optional)
  • Fresh Basil (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Sherry / Wine / Cider vinegar
  • Salt & pepper

Bung the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, garlic and a few basil leaves (if using) into a blender / food processor and whizz the heck out of it.

Add several  glugs of olive oil, and one of the vinegar.  Blend again.

If using bread – and I think it gives a nice thick texture (as well as providing much-needed calories and sustenance to those unable to chew)  - break it into chunks and add to the mix.  Leave to sit for a short while, until completely soggy, then blend again.

Taste to see if you want it more vinegary (I like it really sharp so tend to use the same amount of vinegar as I do olive oil), and add more as necessary.

Season with salt and pepper, then either leave to cool in the fridge for a few hours, or chuck some ice-cubes in it and serve. 

Enjoy with a glass of rose, and a nice, liquidised, side-salad. 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

In a State of Sunshine


We are in Florida.  And, I have to say, it is fairly delightful.  Hot as a witch’s tit, and humid as her inner thighs.  As I type this (wearing only my bikini – now there’s an image to be stuck with for the day) the Boy is splashing about, fishlike (if fish wore armbands), in the pool, the Man is floating about on an inflatable raft thing beside him, the Girl is examining her front-bottom in a Little Mermaid splash pool, and a lone alligator is regarding us, from the lake beyond the house, with a mixture of disdain and greed.

It is not entirely idyllic however;  as of several seconds ago, the Boy has just bitten the Man’s toe and been rewarded with an unintentional (I assume) kick in the face, the Girl has just pissed on her hand and is HORRIFIED, and the ‘gator has, worryingly, disappeared from view.

There are a few other minor clouds on the horizon. 

Firstly, we are staying in a beautiful, large, brand-new house.   It has everything you could possibly want for a luxurious stay: Pool?  Check. Fancy wheels?  Check. Assortments of technological entertainment?  Check.  Golf courses and club-houses? Check.  Into this pure clear ointment, add the flies that are my children.  There is little less relaxing than staying in a house (did I mention it was brand new? Or that my in-laws had only lived here for a few weeks before abandoning it for the rain and ticks of Sweden for the summer?) which is filled with beautiful things, gleaming clean, and whispers to your children to come and put your filthy little paws all over me...  On the plus side, I am perfecting my screeching, and am now a mistress of making up House Rules off the top of my head. 

Said children are, it has to be said, being an almighty pain in my pregnant behind.  While my non-stop screeching, wiping and running after them with a j-cloth cannot be helping matters, I suspect it might actually have something to do with my having abandoned them for 5 days last week (although it’s not as if I left them rotting in a cellar somewhere; from what I can gather, they got all-access passes to sugar-tv-and-adoration-land).  Whatever the reason, they both now spend large portions of their day trying to crawl back into me – at least that’s what it feels like.  On top of this, the whinging is quite monumental (theirs and mine), and the non-stop bickering, swiping and tale-telling has me longing for late October, when I can happily drink myself into parenting oblivion at 7pm every day.

And then there are the groceries. I love you America, however, your produce SUCKS EGGS.  Now I understand why Amercian tourists go so bananas for the food in Europe – it actually tastes of something, without costing an arm and a leg.  (By “Europe”, obviously I mean continental Europe;  the tourists in London – the ones who aren’t lost trying to find their way to the Olympics – are instead wandering the aisles in Sainsbury’s, wondering why we only have 6 types of breakfast cereal).  Food here, generally speaking, is at best, bland, and at worst – well, it’s pretty offensive.  And expensive.  An apple really shouldn’t cost over a dollar, and if it does, I’d like it to be the best apple I have ever tasted.  Cream – plain old whipping cream – doesn’t need stabilisers and preservatives, and honestly, it doesn’t need to be ultra-pasteurised.  Also, it should whip in less than 10 minutes, and once whipped really should taste of... cream.  Not froth. And what the fuck is with your butter and cheese?  You may make fun of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys French, but faced with this shit they would down tools and spend the day insouciantly blowing toxic Gauloise smoke in its face. 

Since we arrived – 6 days ago – I’ve spent, shockingly, over $300 on groceries – and really, the only things which haven’t tasted of nothing at all have been: a packet of Doritos (does this count as produce? It has a shelf-life of several thousand years, so I’m not really sure.  Tastes darn good tho’); a loaf of bread (at $4.99 I should bloody well hope so), a packet of Irish butter (I can’t even bring myself to list the price, and will only say that I assume the gold packaging was in fact real leaf gold); some ears of corn (actually, they were fantastic, although the half pound of Irish butter may have helped) and a tub of “No High Fructose Corn Syrup!” peanut butter (which is covered in reminders that THE OIL IS NATURAL).  

Total duds have been:  the aforementioned cream;  a packet of American butter (oh my goodness people, hard, oily snow-white butter - really? You accept this as a food stuff?); green-skinned avocados (bought purely because they were more expensive than the Hass ones, and thus, I assumed, better), which were cunningly black-fleshed; luminous pink strawberry yoghurt (my own fault really;  I ignored the obvious warning given by the word “flavoured” on the packaging); luminous white natural yoghurt (boasting it was “whole milk”;  in fact it just tasted of... fat); and “English Breakfast Tea” (which, unless the English breakfast on swill – and arguably they do - is a slight misadvertisement).  In between were about $230 worth of blah products, which altogether have yielded about 3 days’ worth of meals.

I guess I just need to get into the American spirit of things and commit myself, seriously, to processed food.  Other than Doritos (and baked Lays – yum) I’m a bit lost, so if anyone has any recommendations, let me have ‘em.  In fact I’m so lost – and so in a spin by the sheer quantity of products in the supermarkets (how do you choose? I spent TWO HOURS in Publix on Friday, and still left without anything vaguely fun) – that today, following a desperate plea by the Man for something – anything – sweet (my suggestion of Bran Flakes fell short of the mark), I made these cookies.  They’re piss easy, and I like to think quite American.  Despite the lack of high fructose corn sryup.

PB&J Biscuits

Note:  these are definitely NOT cookies.  For a starter, they’re small – two bites at the most.  And relatively wholesome.  And free from chocolate chips.  Although feel free to rectify that last part as needed.

I pinched the recipe from Paul Rankin, and then realised that actually it’s just a simple short-crust pastry with peanut butter added.  To liven them up I added “jelly” (jam, to you and I), although they’d also be great with added nuts, dried fruit, or whatever else you remember to buy when you find yourself in a supermarket the size of Heathrow Airport.

You Need (for about a dozen;  they don’t keep particularly well – no more than 24 hours – and are quite rich, so I wouldn’t make any more at once)
  • 8 heaped tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 heaped tablespoons castor sugar
  • 3 heaped tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 heaped tablespoons peanut butter (crunchy, preferably)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Couple of teaspoons of cold water, to bind (if needed)
  • A few tablespoons of jam (any flavour).  

Preheat the oven to 180c / 350F / Gas 4.

Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the butter cubes, and rub with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, 

Add the sugar, mix, then stir in the egg yolk and the peanut butter. You might need to work it with your hands to bring the dough together;  if it’s still crumbly, add a few drops of water.  You want to finish with a firm ball of pastry dough.

Break walnut-sized lumps off the dough, pat them down gently onto a baking sheet and make an intent in the middle with your  finger.  Spoon about half a teaspoon of jam into each indent, then stick in the oven.  Mr Rankin says for 10 minutes, but mine – which were smaller than his – needed 20.  I think you should listen to me, not him.  Either way, take them out when the jam is bubbling and the dough has gone more golden brown than it was when you put it in.

Leave for at least 10 minutes to cool (unless you don’t care about the roof of your mouth, in which case tuck in immediately).  Hand out to your children and watch in amusement as they try to find all the icky stuff you normally get in cookies.  HAHAHA.  

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Remembrance of Things Past


July 7th, 2007  
Ibizan sunshine; pretty, flowing,  ruinously expensive dress encasing lithe gym-toned body; surrounded by friends and family (all hungover, mind you); champagne on tap; vows, laughter and good wishes for a very happy future.

July 7th, 2012
London rain; stained velour trackies and maternity t-shirt encasing body destroyed by ruinously expensive children;  surrounded by packing boxes and  acres of shite (which makes me wish I could takes steps towards a hangover), water and peanut butter on tap (everything else thrown away);  swears, snarls and conversations as follows:

“Don’t bother looking in there, it’s for the bin.”

“But but but...”

“I said it’s for the bin.  PLEASE JUST TURN AROUND AND GO AND PACK SOMETHING SOMEWHERE ELSE”

“Awwwwwwwww.... you can’t throw this away – it’s the t-shirt I was wearing when I’m pretty sure I saw Michael Douglas that time...  And this? Why are you throwing away this?  That’s my train receipt from the third day of my second inter-railing trip... And this stone?  You gave me this stone when I brought you away to Portugal for the weekend!”

“You never brought me to Portugal.”

“Oh. Em... Still, it’s a nice stone.  MY OLD TRAINERS??????”

It is day three of a bumper four-day packing weekend.  Every time I throw something out – about twice every five seconds – the Man slips out of the shadows and un-bins it.  So far we have done three car trips to the recycling bins, four to the charity shop, filled  (and partially emptied) 22 bin liners full of crap,  and packed up... the kids’ bathroom.  Which only leaves us with eight more rooms to plough through.  By Monday morning. 

On the plus side, the children are in Ireland, I haven’t had to cook a meal, catch some vomit in my bare hands or screech about the dangers of putting spoons in bottoms since Wednesday, and apparently I’m being brought to a fancy restaurant for dinner later.  (Unfortunately I think I may have inadvertently thrown out all the clothes which fit me, but not to worry – nothing says discreet wealth like saggy-arsed jogging pants).  The day is looking up. 

I can’t help wishing it was this time 5 years ago, however.